Picture - passengers wait for the Swindon train at Melksham
Swindon and Chippenham
via Melksham and Trowbridge to
Westbury, Salisbury and
What is proposed in the draft timetable?
* Currently 5 trains each way Monday to Friday, 4 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday
* Proposed - withdrawal of through trains
Just 2 trains to run each way daily on Swindon to Westbury section
In detail, the proposed journeys are a round trip leaving Swindon at 06:20, and a second round trip leaving Swindon at 18:12. This means that the service for commuters will arrive in Swindon substantially earlier and leave substantially later - not an option attractive as users already complain about the long day the present service creates. And it leaves Melksham with no train service between 07:45 and 18:15 where it currently has SIX trains calling during that period.
When asked for traffic figures for the line, the Office of the Rail Regulator provided ticket sales figures for Melksham, which is served ONLY by trains on this service. It shows a rise from 3,267 journey tickets in 2000/2001 to 27,435 journey tickets in 2004/2005 - that's an EIGHT TIMES increase in five years.
What difference does this train service make?
After tonight's meeting, I can travel back from Trowbridge on the 21:24 to Swindon and get there at 22:01 - a journey of 37 minutes. If I miss this train, I can take the 21:46, change at Bath, and get to Swindon at 23:21 - a journey of 95 minutes.
If I want to travel from Chippenham to Salisbury next Monday, I can catch the 09:02 train and arrive in Salisbury 61 minutes later at 10:03. If I miss that train, my journey is extended by 20 minutes and I have an awkward change at Bath with a platform change involving two long flights of stairs. The connection is tight if I have luggage, if I'm taking a pushchair, if I have luggage or if the first train is running late. If I miss it, I'll have to wait 60 minutes at Bath for the next service, getting in to Salisbury at 11:30 - 140 minutes after leaving Chippenham.
A customer travelling to Melksham to attend a course with us can leave London at 07:45 and arrive in Melksham at 09:12 with the current service. With the new service, there are no connections into the morning trains to Melksham and he would have to leave London 14 hours earlier at 17:33 the previous night and change at Westbury, getting to Melksham at 19:28. That's a greatly extended journey time, and a need to stay in a hotel for an extra night. I anticipate that many of our customers who have previously travelled by train will now drive.
What do we propose as an alternative?
We propose that a single train (of class 153 or similar) provide a service
running every 2 hours from Westbury at 05:45, 07:45, 09:45 and 11:45,
then 14:45, 16:45, 18:45 and 20:45, returning an hour later from Swindon. An
alternative suggestion is to further extend the London to Bedwyn train,
not only to Westbury but on to Chippenham / Swindon. This would give an
regular through service from Melksham and Trowbridge to London. A further
alternative is to link the already-restored Southampton to Westbury service
into the two hourly train, restoring Southampton - Swindon completely.
This would RETAIN most of the existing traffic as the train times co-incide
with current requirements, and it would require no more stock than the
current service. There would be further GROWTH potential based on the
regular service and the filling of gaps.
Is this propsal cost effective?
Yes, it should be. See my draft costed report of this January, which Julian
Crow and others of First Great Western have acknowldeged as having "nothing
wrong". This report shows that a service of 8 trains each way daily
would attract good passenger levels and be a BETTER COMMERCIAL VENTURE than
the proposed minimal service which will lose traffic back to 2001 levels at
a time when train travel is on the rise.
- Graham Ellis, 21st April 2006