|First Group - First answer on Melksham
Yesterday, the Greater Western Franchise which includes the operation of trains on the TransWilts service (Swindon to Salisbury and Southampton) was awarded to the First Group. Although detailed press releases were issued by the Department for Transport and First Group, I could find no mention of Melksham, so I dropped them an email asking for clarification. The following is quoted from their response:
"First Great Western is committed to maintaining and improving the service we provide. We very much appreciate the support from our customer and we will be looking at the faculties provided at all station including Melksham. I hope that we will continue to provide the level of service you would expect ..."
Current services scheduled are 68 trains a week (5 each way Monday to Friday, 4 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday). Bidders for the franchise were asked to quote for a base service reduced to 20 trains a week, but also to submit enhanced plans. I remain unclear as to what level of service First Group are planning to provide and I hope to hear from them, and report, further.
Melksham is a growing town with a population of some 24000, and just under 1000 new homes approved or under construction. From a low base five years ago, rail ticket sales (the statistic quoted by the office of rail regulator) have increase at 35% per annum and what were near-empty trains are now much better loaded. The nearby town of Bradford-on-Avon, half the size of Melksham, has 10 time Melksham's ticket sales ... in no small measure due to the fact that the train calls there once an hour. People in Melksham tell me that they would use the train if it was more frequent and reliable, and I have no reason to doubt that an increase to an hourly service (even if it was a short working such as Chippenham to Westbury) would lead to a dramatic increase in traffic levels. I am glad to read that First Group is committed to maintain and improve the services they provide .... perhaps along these lines? I certainly hope so.
Written 2005-12-14 04:52:26
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