|Does the new man want to play hard?
I wrote a letter of introduction to John Curley, who is the new "Route Director, West" at First Great Western. One of his major concerns is the South Wales to Portsmouth service - running at a level of some 20 carriages in daily use on the express services, plus many more on the more local trains, and I felt it was important that he's aware of the TransWilts - services up to Melksham, Chippenhm and Swindon in his early planning days.
I get several feelings from his answer. I get the feeling that he wants to position himself as the hard man in initial contacts. I get the feeling that we've got to again go through with him the case for the TransWilts. Both less than great bits of news. But on the positive side, I concur with his statement that kneejerk reactions aren't the best fixes as they can crreate more problems than they solve, and I welcome his suggestion of a meeting to go into the facts and figures behind the headlines which he described as "emotive". Hey - that's headlines for you!
Oh - and here is what I wrote ...
Congratulations on your appointment as "Route Director, West" with First Great Western. I understand that your roll will be to "Champion routes and to act as lightning conductors, anticipating and reacting to issues before they surface" and that you have a "kickoff" meeting on 19th October, in relation to services on the South Wales to South Coast axis. Do I have that right?
And can I ask if you remit extends a little further - to issues that have already surfaced, but which need that little extra attention to help the team that's alraedy been trying very hard to come up with solutions. One such is the "TransWilts" train service, which shares the Portsmouth to Cardiff line via Salisbury up to Trowbridge, then turns off and serves Melksham, Chippemham and Swindon.
At this time last year, your company ran five trains a day each way on this line - a limited but useful service that had shown dramatic growth in the previous five years - the O.R.R. quoted growth at 35% per annum, but those figures are skewed by local ticketing factors and the real growth was more like 10% (compound).
Even with 10% growth, it was a very strange decision (forced on you by the DfT we are told) to cut over half the services, and an even stranger decision to reschedule the remaining trains away from the peak into the very early morning an early evening. Consultation inputs during 2006 suggested that the remaining trains should have been run, as provided by the SLC, to provide a commuter service in and out from Swindon - but instead of implementin the suggestion, First Great Western pushed the one remaining morning train even earlier, and the one remaining evening train even later. Net result - 100,000+ journeys last year, but less that 10,000 (forecast) this.
Uniquely in the South West, there are half a dozen SSTCs (Strategically Significant Towns and Cities) along the 40 miles or so from Swindon to Salisbury, with huge growth forecast over the next 20 years. Listen to the experts from estate agents such as Drewett and Neate speak in West Wiltshire, and they'll talk about the area developing as a dormitary area for Swindon, Bath and Bristol - and they'll put Swindon first on their list.
First's decision to nearly double the service to Bradford-on-Avon to twice and hour from December is a good one. But Bradford is only half the size of Melksham, served ONLY from Swindon at 06:18 and 18:45, and from Westbury at 07:00 and 19:35. Melksham to Swindon by train - 25 minutes. By bus - 95 minutes. Perhaps you start to see some of the latent market there; well - not THAT latent; the area is desparate for an appropriate service.
In the proposals for December 2007, as revealed by the Freedom of Information, are plans for three extra round trips a day from Salisbury to Swindon using a train that otherwise will provide a duplication of a service from Salisbury to Southampton (I understand there are 2 trains in 12 minutes in each case!). Although it's the 59th minute of the 11th hour, can I ask you, PLEASE, to use that train on the Salisbury - Swindon run? Passenger on Salisbury - Southampton will use other services / they have a big improvement anyway, but prospective passengers on the Swindon run will be gained, giving you a whole renewed ridership.
For December 2008, an extra two "cycles" of the same train - giving a 17:50 and a 20:50 off Swindon - would complete the picture of a shoe-string but very much usable service, fit to grow faster than even at the histortically quoted ORR rate of 35% per annum.
John, I think you'll find at your meeting next Friday that the Wiltshire County Council representitive is very much "on side" for these changes. I've spoke at length with Peter West at the DfT and he's very much in support or an improvement, and I know that FGW are keen to make a positive step forward too. This is an excellent opportunity for a win-win-win-win for everyone - The County, the DfT, the passenger and First!
Graham Ellis (on behalf of "Save the Train")
background reading: http://www.savethetrain.org.uk
And here is the reply
Many thanks for your impassioned missive on the need to correct the wrongs inflicted upon the citizens of Wiltshire by our recent timetable changes.
First the bad news.
There is absolutely no chance of making any changes for Dec 2007.
My first priority in the new role is to drive up the quality of our daily service delivery which has been poor for too long. One cause of this has been late and unstructured changes to the plan .The plan for this December has now been closed down.
More to the point I have not yet had time to form a balanced view of the competing aspirations from a wide range of stakeholders and interest groups for what is a very constrained pool of resources.
However I hold to brief to defend the status quo and would welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss your proposals and supporting arguments in detail as part of the process of consultation that will inform any changes for Dec 2008 .
If you would like to take me up on this please contact [details deleted] , I am spending much of my time out and about looking at our current services and would be happy to meet you wherever is convenient.
Route Director West
First Great Western
First Rail Holdings Ltd
Registered in England number 5154485
50 Eastbourne Terrace,Paddington,London.W2 6LX
Forum discussion - John Curley's full letter of reply
Written 2007-10-18 08:13:29
Available entries ...
Welcome to News and Views
Welcome to News and Views
The story so far
Looking slightly wider
Don't let this become history!
Meeting, 20th September - getting nervous
Encouraging traffic not just warm words
Official (Government) view ... and I agree
Don't believe everything you hear
Old pictures. Not to be repeated event
Great meeting but just a start.
35% Growth in one year - Melksham ticket statistics
Swindon to Trowbridge
Regularity, Reliability, Realistic connections
Didn't you read page 52 of web document?
An easy timetable - Melksham to Chippenham and Swindon
Would this government close a station completely?
Quotes from Government
Tuesday, 18th October - Kiss and Ride day
Six NEW factors why the TransWilts train that serves Melksham should be enhanced and not cut
And more train users ...
Try the train on 18th October
Tracking codes for TransWilts stations
New stats prove it - the service IS used
Bump from Glasgow
Ready for Tuesday
Kiss and Ride report
A case of the tail wagging the dog??
The system is overcomplex - no wonder some odd things happen
Warminster Bus Running Day, 2005
The storm's eye?
A disappointing letter
Some scenes at Melksham Station
Monday morning, Melksham Station
Busy train at Melksham
Forum Archives available
A THOUSAND visitors
What does it cost to run a train?
Timetable - Melksham to Reading and London
Plus a footnote - Melksham to London
A bustle before the 17:02
STILL worth writing. To MP, To Dft, to bidders.
Keeping the campaign tail up
Don't drink and drive - drink and train.
Driving customers away?
Latest official answer
At Temple Meads today
Melksham and TransWilts train service - closure by stealth?
From the rumour mill
Santa Claus at Melksham Station
Train service fading away too?
Greater Western Franchise awarded
First Group - First answer on Melksham
First specific Melksham rumour ...
Virtually no service - or excellent service. Request the latter.
Should badgers be culled?
Melksham rail traffic up 33% in 3 months
Every journey has a story
New fares from 2nd January 2006
No final decision yet
Even new stations don't always survive
A comparison across the world
Christmas service - unrequired, or just unprovided?
New year, 2006
Bustitution - buses for trains on Saturdays and Sundays
The Meeting Season
Reply from MD of First Great Western
Wilts County Council could save the Melksham / Transwilts train
What does First pay the government for Greater Western?
Railway statistics and Melksham comparisons - how do we stand?
Winners and losers in the Devizes constituency
First want to hear your aspirations
Repeat - PLEASE write in with your aspirations
Were they purchasing votes?
Current status ...
Keep watching - coming to the boil!
From my postbag ...
Timetable consultation coming up
Waiting, with baited breath
Meeting with a local MP
Today or tomorrow
Draft Timetable is here
Out with the old users, in with the new
On the 05:52 this morning
Background and opinion
Draft timetables (continued)
Three and a half answers out of 4
A week is a long time
Roger Jones answers 5 months later!
Safer current trains - the 06:56, 07:45 and 18:09
INPUTS NEEDED by 8th March
Meetings and Consultation Responses
A whole pile of responses
Ploughing back OUR money, not theirs.
New pages and information
On supporting other campaigns ...
Not just the TransWilts and Melksham ...
Service failure looses more customers
The Waiting Game
Real time train monitoring
Someone can't wait!
UPDATE - new timetables
An update - BAD, BAD news for Melksham ...
First - transforming travel
Southampton to Westbury RESTORED
Friday, 21st, Trowbridge
Meeting, Friday 21st
Celebrating a closure
What SWPTUF says
Meeting, 21st - notes
Parliamentary Debate, 25th April
First back down or buses too.
Diary Date - 12th May
RailFuture meeting today
RailFuture meeting - some gems
First way to get rid of customers?
Friday meeting - invite and details
It gets worse
Every so often, stop and look
Bus service costs 25 pounds per passenger to run?
Carrying fresh air around?
Put yourself in their shoes
Lies, damned lies and statistics
Our battle ....
... is part of a planned war
Political pressure - press release
How to catch the 18:48 from Chippenham - the DfT suggests
Internet connection issues
Selling off any possibility of improvement
Letter from Derek Twigg
Important but not refreshing meeting
Welcome for Michael Ancram and Chris Grayling
Visit by Chris Grayling and Michael Ancram
Friday, 7th July - Melksham
Rail future - the First Alternative
Pivotal decison - to grow or to strangle?
Bad news coming?
In praise of estate agents
Press Release - Open Access operator negotiations
Open Access case strengthened
A desire for honesty
Flowers for Melksham. Flowers at Melksham.
Has our publicity reached the right people?
One year on
A year on - an empty bank holiday
Bus connections to Melksham from Chippenham
Is this train used?
If its working well, change it so it doesnt.
20% service cut = 40% traffic cut?
A difficult choice for voters
Consultant's reports recommended a modest INCREASE
From Ystrad Mynach
Passenger or lemmings
Behind the new timetable
Is this fare?
Returning from their UK course
End of term - don't care
Current and future summary
2 weeks to go
Coming to a course in Melksham
Last Week - Press Release
They're gone ... but ...
New service - first impressions
"Told you so"
Welcome to 2007
PLEASE LOBBY - First, Dft, County Council, your MP
Keeping the diary rolling
Save the Train v More Train, Less Strain
Invite letter - 5th March 2007 meeting
IMPROVED PUBLIC TRANSPORT LINKS ACROSS WILTSHIRE?
Passengers or Customers?
A fast-moving story?
The traveller, not the train!
Report - Monday night's meeting - press brief
What is happening?
Reply to Petition
Petition Response - detail, opinion, context
Government pressure to shut up. But let us look forward.
Asking for the political and part views
Helsinki and Heathrow to Melksham - Saturday
Gordon Dodge, Rest in Peace
The way forward - improved service and improved station
A roundup from a MELKSHAM perspective
Update being updated!
News Roundup - a LOT is happening
New faces - mayors and chairs.
We have another hill to climb
Radio - tomorrow morning?
Weymouth, Poor Provisional, and Sunday
A Comparison - travel in the USA by train
The Ghost Train, Purton
How to fill platforms, and railway company coffers too!
FSB - North and West Wilts Commitee - Federation of Small Businesses
Frustrated but not depairing
Front page update
Comment on December timetables
A First to Stagecoach comparison
And the week ends with two more cancellations!
Comparing a Wiltshire town with a Norfolk one
Commutes are longer, and in the west we may know why
Campaigning Mantra - Philosophy behind the case
30 late, and a bus not a train ....
Staffing-go-round - but the campaigners carry on
Rail user groups do NOT represent rail users?
Cancellations, Changes and Crass Christmas
First Great Western's Melksham service branded "a disgrace"
A pile of 160 train tickets for tomorrow
Santa Claus spotted at Swindon Station
TransWilts trains ceased a year ago. Lets look forward
Trains to and from Melksham - Timetable from Dec07 to May08
Happy Christmas everyone!
How have trains being doing in the last 48 hours?
Asda - an opportunity that can be used or squandered
Another slap in the face from First Great Western
On truthfully advertising the case
Fare Strike Day
Comparing a different part of the country
Where has our train gone?
Want to comment? You're welcome on the forum
An unusual journey for me - some observations
The heart says "public transport", the head forces car
Not a Swiss clock railway this morning
Senseless service - could become sensible
Terminal 5 - a portent for the Olympics?
Loss of train - loss of job
Population growth, but congested roads
Road - busy ... railway - no trains, so no users
One long journey ends and another begins
Campaign update - news for December 08 / 09 / 10 / 11 ...
Preserved Railways - a look forward
Spring 2009 Campaign update
Letter to DfT
Save the train
About this site