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The Worst train in the West

Posted by admin (Graham Ellis), 18 January 2007
Have you heard about the about all the train traveller's woes in the South West and Thames Valley?   Let me introduce the WORST TRAIN IN THE WEST.

The 07:00 commuter train from Westbury to Swindon, due there at 07:44, has been cancelled on 5 out of the last 10 weekdays ... and we understand it's not going to run again this week either.

Never mind ... wait for the next train?  Alas, First Great Western have withdrawn the trains that used to run at 07:30, 13:20 and 16:47 .. and the next train scheduled after the 07:00 is at 19:35. It's more reliable - it's only been cancelled 3 or 4 times in the last fortnight.

The Westbury to Swindon train service provides/provided a link for the people of Westbury, Trowbridge and Melksham into the county town of Swindon, and use of the service rose dramatically in the 5 years to last December. Ticket sales for journeys to or from Melksham, served only by this line, jumped from 3000 per annum to over 27000, and journey totals rose to 109,000 on the line as a whole. That's an average of over 30 people per train.

Reliability has always been a problem.   

The First group promised us when they took over the line that the service would be more reliable after a three month honeymood period, but it got worse - indeed, we were without trains for 10 days last summer and scarely a week went by without the morning or evening commuter train being cancelled.

"Never mind - we'll have more trains available when we reduce the service" they said "so it will be reliable after 11th December". Nope, it wasn't.

"We'll get it put right for the new year".

The latest assurance I have is that the service will be running reliably (that's defined as 99.5% of trains operating) by the end of the month at the latest. Frankly, I don't believe them.


This item has been written by Graham Ellis, who has been campaigning for an appropriate train service on the Swindon - Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge - Westbury - Salisbury route since the Department for Transport suggested a much reduced service in the new franchise.


Trains that were quiet in 2000 had become busy by 2005, with growth rates that were between 8% and 35% compound depending on what measures were used, and all predictions made locally forecast that the rate of increase would continue.  But we estimate that a service that carried 100,000 passengers last year - and could have carried 125,000 with year with a single train - will struggle to make 10,000.

The goverment's Jacobs Consultants report in 2004 suggested that a daytime service be retained. But the SRA and DfT felt they knew better and went against their own consultant's advise.

Graham can be reached via, or 0n 01225 708225.  He runs a business in Melksham, Wiltshire and many of his customers used to arrive by train. Now, nearly all of them drive.


Would you like to help?

1. Sign the online petition for an appropriate service on this and other lines in the Wessex area at:  ; this is a No. 10 Downing Street site - official - and you will get a reply after the petition closes.

2. Tell your famiiy and friends about the petition and get them to sign, and tell their friends.

3. Learn more at

4. Write to the First Group, to your MP, and to the Department for Transport explaining your view.   My view is at:
and the contact details are there.

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