Save the Melksham Train
Looking slightly wider

I've concentrated on Swindon to Westbury, with three intermediate stops - but there are other services / patterns outside the area that should be looked at / considered. Some are wild suggestions, others sensible. Some have major cost (Sponsorship ?) implications. Logged here ... to have all the cards on the table and NOT to dilute the specific campaign

Salisbury and Southampton

The present Swindon - Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge - Westbury service rus through - in theory - to Warminster, Salisbury, Romsey and Southampton. In 2001, most trains ran through. But in the last couple of years, more trains have stopped short, have had a layover of up to 30 minutes added at Westbury, or are running through but advertised as a connecting not a through service.

One of the trickier things that I'm considering at the moment is whether I should be looking to represent / save the whole through service, or have a more specific target of the Swindon to Westbury section. Onwards from there, there are other train services and the Swindon train fills in part of a pattern; I don't know loadings or the metrics of stations like Dean, Dunbridge and (closer to home) Dilton Marsh. Part of me says the whole service should be discussed / saved. And another part says that a good connection onwards at Westbury might be a good or better solution. I do have letters from Southampton and Salisbury councils offering at least a degree of support / concern into the train loss - all be it that the support is much more concerned with loss of local frequency there.

Southampton Airport

A daily service used to run direct to / from Southampton airport but that queitly slipped away. Good airport, useful link. Shame it went. A fully retained / revitalised Swindon to Southampton could "loop" Romsey - Eastleigh - Southampton Airport - Southampton - Romsey and would provide an excellent and useful through service from Salisbury, North and West Wilts and Swindon. But it would need to be most / every service not just the last train of the day!

The Bradford on Avon Curve

The North Curve at Bradford on Avon was taken out of use in about 1990. Prior to that point it allowed the line through Melksham to be an even more useful diversionary route if there were engineering works in Corsham / Box tunnel. Correspondents have suggested that the curve be re-instated and that it would give the opportunity for a through commuter (and more) service to Bath / Bristol / Abbey Wood without any need to change; these are all Melksham commuter flows.

A train every 2 hours

With a selfcontained service on the Swindon to Westbury section, reliability could be improved (dependent on connections being kept / allowed to miss / timing of them) and with a single train set service could increase to a train every two hours. A preliminary look suggests ex Westbury at 05:45, 07:45, 09:45, 12:45, 14:45, 16:45, 18:45 and 20:45, returning from Swindon at 06:45, 08:45, 10:45, 13:45, 15:45, 17:45, 19:45 and 21:45. Nice regular pattern, with a one hour break during the day for staff / servicing of the set, and the pattern fits the current services / user flows with minimal
major change.

Wootton Bassett and West Swindon Parkway

There have been suggestions of a West Swindon park and ride / commuter service and a re-opened station at Wootton Bassett. The Westbury service is the ONLY train along this line that isn't a 125 mph express and is the logical service to provide the extra stops. The former Bristol to Oxford service would have provided this service (and also a stop in Corsham where a new station was on the cards) until it was withdrawn.

(Footnote - why was it withdrawn. I think we were told that it was because the capacity wasn't there / tracks were overused. Rumour suggested that most Train Opperating Companies had to sacrifice a service or two due to capacity, even though in Great Western's case there really wasn't a track capacity problem ... it was done to look fair. What were traffic level like? I know I used the service and Melksham of Chippenham to Oxford has changed from a pleasure to a nightmare with poor connections at Didcot and even from Chippenham, sometimes the need to change twice)

Filton Abbey Wood

At present, several rush hour services from Filton Abbey Wood run direct (not via Bristol Temple Meads) to Keynsham, Bath, and the West Wilts line. I understand these direct trains may be under threat, with passengers required to change at Temple Meads ... slowing and adding misery to a commute. We have commuter(s) from Melksham who change onto this service at Trowbridge, And Filton / North Bristol is a major employment area. I have used the train to travel to both Abbey Wood and Bristol Parkway on business, and the changes mooted would have a seriously detrimental effect on journey times.

To be continued to ...

Lacock and Holt
Oxford to Westbury
Westbury to London
Westbury Westward
The night sleeper

Written 2005-09-09 06:34:29

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