Save the Melksham Train
Petition Response - detail, opinion, context

Overview:

1. Train services slashed last December
2. Petition for appropriate train service submitted on 7th February
3. Reply by Government last Friday evening blames First, uses old forecasts that have proven to be wrong, and misses the point that we're looking for an APPROPRIATE service and not a return to the previous one!
4. Further timetable changes planned for December 2007, but no big consultation this time
5. Ten 2-coach trains (arguably the best in the fleet) to be transferred away from service operated out of Bristol from this December?

Detail

Last Friday, the Prime Minister's office has replied to the petition for train service improvements submitted by Melksham businessman Graham Ellis. Graham started the petiton on the Prime Minister's web site in January after regional and local train services throughout the South West of England were cut by up to 80% last December, with remaining trains running unreliably and often overcrowded.

The petition asked the Prime Minister to:

"provide a reliable train service with adequate capacity at times that travellers wish to make journeys from Swindon to Westbury, Bristol to Severn Beach, Portsmouth and Weymouth to Cardiff, Taunton to Cheltenham, Swindon to Cheltenham. This includes all intermediate stations and journeys in both directions."

The petition was signed by over 1700 people, making it the top domestic public transport petition at the time it closed. It was signed by 8 MPs (including James Gray, Michael Ancram, Andrew Murrison, Don Foster and Robert Key from our mmediate area), five MEPs, and dozens of councillors including council leaders and mayors.

The reply - published last Friday evening - reads as follows:

Thank you for your petition concerning the provision of rail services in the South West of England.

Ministers have raised the issue of improving train performance, including cancellations and short formation of trains, directly with First Great Western, which operates the train services in the greater Bristol area. First great Western have given assurances that appropriate measures are being taken, including bringing in additional rolling stock, and have accepted responsibility for underestimating the capacity requirements of the new timetable introduced on 10 December. First Great Western have already taken steps to restore capacity in some areas and expect the position to improve further in the coming weeks.

The Department for Transport will, of course, continue to monitor the performance of the FGW franchise to ensure that commitments given to Ministers and the public are met and that a significantly improved service is provided to passengers in future. Performance issues not directly under the control of First great Western itself are the subject of action plans between the company and Network Rail, which are monitored regularly.

The petition calls for the number of services at Melksham and other stations to be brought back to the levels provided before the timetable change on 10 December 2006. In planning the new franchise, the former Strategic Rail Authority found that usage of most trains on this route was very low, and set a minimum specification in order to achieve best value for money. First Great Western is free to operate additional services over the route subject to capacity on the track being available.

Reaction

"It's sad to see that the Government is still quoting a franchise specification based on data from 2002/03 which assumed almost no growth" says Graham Ellis. "In practise, there was very strong growth in train usage over the past five years - growth rates as high as 35% per annum [ticket sales to/from Melksham] so we've been presented with - and look like we're stuck with - a totally inadequete service that's driving passengers off the trains and into their cars."

The government has walked away from a wonderful opportunity to provide an appropriate service in the region - it appears to have misread my request for an appropriate service (trains at times people need to travel, reliable, with adequate capacity) as a request for a return to the old timetable which it was not.

What Now?

We understand that there's to be a further timetable review in December 2007, and that First (who operate the train services) have put proposals to the government already. Included within these discussions are:

* A further reconsideration of the Services from West Wiltshire to Chippenham and Swindon, where the two remaining daily trains are poorly timed (06:19 and 18:42 from Swindon, 07:00 and 19:35 from Westbury) and have lost over 90% of the traffic overnight on what had become a busy service.

* A further major re-arrangement of services bewtween Westbury and Bristol

We also understand that there will be another major reduction in the number of trains available to First Great Western on their "West Fleet" that operates our local services - indications are that 10 x 2 coach trains (of class 158) will be moved to the North of England.

Written 2007-04-03 10:29:30

Available entries ...

Spring 2009 Campaign update
Preserved Railways - a look forward
Campaign update - news for December 08 / 09 / 10 / 11 ...
One long journey ends and another begins
Road - busy ... railway - no trains, so no users
Population growth, but congested roads
Loss of train - loss of job
Terminal 5 - a portent for the Olympics?
Senseless service - could become sensible
Not a Swiss clock railway this morning
The heart says "public transport", the head forces car
Meeting Season
Milk producers
An unusual journey for me - some observations
Want to comment? You're welcome on the forum
Where has our train gone?
Comparing a different part of the country
Fare Strike Day
On truthfully advertising the case
Another slap in the face from First Great Western
Asda - an opportunity that can be used or squandered
How have trains being doing in the last 48 hours?
Happy Christmas everyone!
Trains to and from Melksham - Timetable from Dec07 to May08
TransWilts trains ceased a year ago. Lets look forward
Santa Claus spotted at Swindon Station
A pile of 160 train tickets for tomorrow
First Great Western's Melksham service branded "a disgrace"
Cancellations, Changes and Crass Christmas
Rail user groups do NOT represent rail users?
Staffing-go-round - but the campaigners carry on
30 late, and a bus not a train ....
Campaigning Mantra - Philosophy behind the case
Commutes are longer, and in the west we may know why
Comparing a Wiltshire town with a Norfolk one
And the week ends with two more cancellations!
Does the new man want to play hard?
A First to Stagecoach comparison
Comment on December timetables
Front page update
Frustrated but not depairing
FSB - North and West Wilts Commitee - Federation of Small Businesses
How to fill platforms, and railway company coffers too!
The Ghost Train, Purton
A Comparison - travel in the USA by train
Weymouth, Poor Provisional, and Sunday
Radio - tomorrow morning?
We have another hill to climb
New faces - mayors and chairs.
Diary notes
News Roundup - a LOT is happening
Update being updated!
A roundup from a MELKSHAM perspective
The way forward - improved service and improved station
An update
Gordon Dodge, Rest in Peace
Helsinki and Heathrow to Melksham - Saturday
Asking for the political and part views
Government pressure to shut up. But let us look forward.
Reply to Petition
What is happening?
Report - Monday night's meeting - press brief
The traveller, not the train!
A fast-moving story?
Passengers or Customers?
IMPROVED PUBLIC TRANSPORT LINKS ACROSS WILTSHIRE?
Invite letter - 5th March 2007 meeting
Save the Train v More Train, Less Strain
End game?
Keeping the diary rolling
Key players
PLEASE LOBBY - First, Dft, County Council, your MP
Welcome to 2007
Christmas, 2006
"Told you so"
New service - first impressions
They're gone ... but ...
Fizzle
Last Week - Press Release
Coming to a course in Melksham
Fading away?
2 weeks to go
Current and future summary
End of term - don't care
Returning from their UK course
Is this fare?
Behind the new timetable
Passenger or lemmings
More cancellations
Taunton meeting
From Ystrad Mynach
Consultant's reports recommended a modest INCREASE
A difficult choice for voters
20% service cut = 40% traffic cut?
If its working well, change it so it doesnt.
Is this train used?
Bus connections to Melksham from Chippenham
A year on - an empty bank holiday
One year on
Has our publicity reached the right people?
Flowers for Melksham. Flowers at Melksham.
A desire for honesty
Open Access case strengthened
Press Release - Open Access operator negotiations
In praise of estate agents
Bad news coming?
Pivotal decison - to grow or to strangle?
Rail future - the First Alternative
Friday, 7th July - Melksham
Visit by Chris Grayling and Michael Ancram
Welcome for Michael Ancram and Chris Grayling
Important but not refreshing meeting
Letter from Derek Twigg
Selling off any possibility of improvement
Internet connection issues
How to catch the 18:48 from Chippenham - the DfT suggests
Political pressure - press release
... is part of a planned war
Our battle ....
Lies, damned lies and statistics
Put yourself in their shoes
Home soon.
Carrying fresh air around?
Bus service costs 25 pounds per passenger to run?
Every so often, stop and look
It gets worse
Friday meeting - invite and details
First way to get rid of customers?
RailFuture meeting - some gems
RailFuture meeting today
Waverley
Diary Date - 12th May
First back down or buses too.
Parliamentary Debate, 25th April
Meeting, 21st - notes
What SWPTUF says
Friday's meeting
Meeting, tonight
Celebrating a closure
Meeting, Friday 21st
Friday, 21st, Trowbridge
Southampton to Westbury RESTORED
Constituency Changes
First - transforming travel
An update - BAD, BAD news for Melksham ...
UPDATE - new timetables
High emotion
Someone can't wait!
Real time train monitoring
The Waiting Game
Service failure looses more customers
Not just the TransWilts and Melksham ...
On supporting other campaigns ...
New pages and information
Ploughing back OUR money, not theirs.
A whole pile of responses
Meetings and Consultation Responses
INPUTS NEEDED by 8th March
Safer current trains - the 06:56, 07:45 and 18:09
Roger Jones answers 5 months later!
A week is a long time
Three and a half answers out of 4
Draft timetables (continued)
Background and opinion
On the 05:52 this morning
Out with the old users, in with the new
Draft Timetable is here
Today or tomorrow
Meeting with a local MP
Waiting, with baited breath
Timetable consultation coming up
From my postbag ...
Recent Correspondence
Keep watching - coming to the boil!
Further threats
Current status ...
Were they purchasing votes?
Repeat - PLEASE write in with your aspirations
First want to hear your aspirations
Winners and losers in the Devizes constituency
Railway statistics and Melksham comparisons - how do we stand?
What does First pay the government for Greater Western?
Wilts County Council could save the Melksham / Transwilts train
Reply from MD of First Great Western
The Meeting Season
New Sign
Bustitution - buses for trains on Saturdays and Sundays
New year, 2006
Update
Christmas service - unrequired, or just unprovided?
A comparison across the world
Even new stations don't always survive
No final decision yet
New fares from 2nd January 2006
Every journey has a story
Upside Down
Melksham rail traffic up 33% in 3 months
Should badgers be culled?
Virtually no service - or excellent service. Request the latter.
First specific Melksham rumour ...
First Group - First answer on Melksham
Greater Western Franchise awarded
Train service fading away too?
Santa Claus at Melksham Station
A Quandry
From the rumour mill
Melksham and TransWilts train service - closure by stealth?
At Temple Meads today
Latest official answer
Driving customers away?
Don't drink and drive - drink and train.
Keeping the campaign tail up
STILL worth writing. To MP, To Dft, to bidders.
A bustle before the 17:02
Plus a footnote - Melksham to London
Timetable - Melksham to Reading and London
What does it cost to run a train?
A THOUSAND visitors
Forum Archives available
Busy train at Melksham
Monday morning, Melksham Station
Some scenes at Melksham Station
A disappointing letter
The storm's eye?
Warminster Bus Running Day, 2005
The system is overcomplex - no wonder some odd things happen
A case of the tail wagging the dog??
Kiss and Ride report
Ready for Tuesday
Bump from Glasgow
New stats prove it - the service IS used
Tracking codes for TransWilts stations
Try the train on 18th October
And more train users ...
Six NEW factors why the TransWilts train that serves Melksham should be enhanced and not cut
Tuesday, 18th October - Kiss and Ride day
Quotes from Government
Would this government close a station completely?
An easy timetable - Melksham to Chippenham and Swindon
Didn't you read page 52 of web document?
Core meeting
Regularity, Reliability, Realistic connections
Swindon to Trowbridge
35% Growth in one year - Melksham ticket statistics
Great meeting but just a start.
Meeting!
Old pictures. Not to be repeated event
Don't believe everything you hear
Excursion!
Official (Government) view ... and I agree
Encouraging traffic not just warm words
Meeting, 20th September - getting nervous
Don't let this become history!
Looking slightly wider
The story so far
Welcome to News and Views
Welcome to News and Views

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