Yesterday, we drove to Chippenham and back - three of us in a five seat car. The three of us then drove to Atworth, and two drove back to Melksham. One returned to Atworth, and then three of us from Atworth to Potterne, two of us on into Devizes, and two back from Devizes.
Look at all that fresh air we carried around during the day ...
2 seats, Melksham to Chippenham
2 seats, Chippenham to Melksham
6 seats, Melksham to Atworth
3 seats, Atworth to Melksham
2 seats, Atworth to Potterne
3 seats, Potterne to Devizes
3 seats, Devizes to Melksham
And - believe it or not - we were being more efficient than many. For only one of these journeys was there just one person in the car. And two out of the five people who were in the vehicle during the day used some other form of public transport as part of their journeys - and that saved the need for more vehicle mileage for pickup runs.
Last Monday, I had to pick up something at a shop in the centre of Bath
- at short notice and they couldn't/wouldn't ship. So I thought I would go on the bus that leaves Melksham Market Place at ten past four, getting to Bath at four fifty, then getting my precious package and coming back on the train - to arrive at Melksham station at 19:11 - the same time that a customer was arriving, so I could give him a lift to the hotel
. So I parked, a couple of minutes after 4, at Melksham Station.
I walked up the station approach, crossed the road, and crossed the railway bridge heading for the nearest bus stop (the buses pass the station approach, but no-one has actually provided a bus stop there!!) ... and as I headed across the bridge, the bus I was going for went past me. I looked at my phone (clock synced to a satellite) and it confirmed that the bus was running early - it should only just have been pulling away from the town centre, several stops previous. Of course, I should have known better - some of our buses are notorious for running early [link]
. Anyway - I carried on to the bus stop to see when the next service was.
Well - there's a bus stop sign there. But there's no shelter. And there's certainly not one of those nice "next bus due" signs that you'll see in smaller but posher towns like Bradford-on-Avon. And, more critically, there isn't even a printed timetable. I'm trying to remember if the stop sign even had routes or destinations on it.
Always the optimist, I crossed the road to the bus stop where people get off if they're coming from Bath. It of course has a shelter. It also has a timetable board, which contains the current 271/272/273 time - but ONLY in the direction out of Bath. There's a nice area of blank space where it would be so easy for someone to have put a timetable for the other direction too. But no-one has actually done that.
Hmm ... I suppose I should simply take the car into Bath ...
But, no, there's a bus at half past each hour to Chippenham, and I can get the train into Bath from there with enough time to shop before the 6 p.m. shop closing, then get back for 19:11. So I walked over the station bridge, onto the next fork of the road (my goodness - no-one has provided a footpath along the side of this road from the station to the bus stop) and up to the stop outside Aldi. For route 234.
You'll probably guess ... no shelter (nice day, not worried), no electronic "next bus sign". (not suprised - after all, this is Melksham not B-o-A) and no printed timetable. Oh - never mind - I know they're at half past the hour or so.
16:30 comes. 16:40 comes. No bus. Plenty of cars with plenty of empty seats. A couple of private buses running empty, and lots of private coaches passing on this trunk route from Glastonbury to places north. But no service 234.
A horrid though, and a scramble to look up the bus times on my mobile phone (big struggle - I'm tempted to say that no-one has actually put bus running information into an easy app, but I may be being very unfair - it may be there, but not to my knowledge). And - guess what - there isn't actually a bus at 16:30. 13:30, 14:30, 15:30 ... yes - but as we get to the time of day that people are going home, there's a gap of an hour and a half in what's a "clock face" service through the day. I'm sure it makes sense to someone, but it sure as heck leaves a gap in provision at just the time that provision would be reaching its peak usefullness!)
Hmm ... I'll simply have to take the car into Bath ...
And I did. The sad thing is just how quick and easy it was. I know Bath a bit and where the traffic jams, so I went through the back of Bradford-on-Avon, up Brassknocker Hill and back down Widcombe Hill, and parked roadside in Widcombe. Free parking for an hour, spaces available at that time of day, and a pleasant walk over the river and under the railway. Package collected, back to the car and back home (down Claverton Hill to avoid the jams at that time on Brassknocker) ... and I was early enough to be home in time for an hour's break before goong back to the station to collect my visitor.
I'm told that - almost alone amongst British Counties - that the CO2 footprint of Wiltshire
, at the core of Wessex, got worse last year. And I'm told that one of the possible solutions being looked at is to try to reduce the amount of travelling that people have to do. I've been asked what my opinion is of that - bearing in mind that I'm pressing for an improved train service, and that removing people's need to travel could reduce the case for said service.
For many people, time spend travelling is time wasted. If you're driving a car you are
allowed to listen to the radio, you can think (no law against that!) but you can't write / make notes. On a bus, writing and making notes is often impractical. So cutting people's needs to travel using these modes has big advantages over and above the CO2 advantage, and it makes big sense. I've always felt there's an irony at holiday times when lots of people from London go to Devon and Cornwall - places around Exeter and Plymouth, and people from Exeter and Plymouth go to London for a holiday; it's ironic but understandable as it broadens people in a way that staying at home would not. But less understandable / justified is the daily commute by of many miles and several hours. If the "several hours" average commute time can be reduced, if more could be done during that commute time, and if the CO2 of the journey can be reduced at the same time, that'll be excellent news. The actual mileage is, I think, pretty irellevant.
So how do we do it? Well - yes - we should plan and move towards jobs closer to home. That's not to say everyone should work from home; there get to be balance points. Communities too small and you don't get the benefit of size. Too large and your logisitical problems grow. The British Government spend twice as much per head of population subsidising pubic transport in and around London than in the rest of the country - that's partly because the unit cost per head of population is higher as journeys have to be longer, but also (I suspect) because the civil servants who advise on the decisions are mostly London based, and that their political masters are in London at least during the week.
But planning jobs closer to home is only a part of it. We can help reduce the travel time too, and we can help people who wish too make travel time more useful. Let's say I've got an appointment that neds my physical presence in Swindon. I could drive - 60 minutes. I could take the bus - 100 minutes. I should be able to take the train - 25 minutes and useful time too because the train is far more suitable to be a mobile office
. Just think about that last case - get on a train into London and see how many people are working at their laptops. And think how many would be using their laptops driving up the M4.
Rail use has grown - in spite of escalating prices - and that's a case of people putting their mouth with their money. Truely, a railway can suit current and future requirements. It's far better, CO2 wise, to run a train with 200 seats, even if 100 of them are empty, than it is to run 3 buses, or 50 cars. And that's 100 people making better use of their travel time, and furthermore that travel time is reduced.
In fact - rail growth has grown so much that in places the system is running at or near capacity, and that presents investment problems based on the need for extra infrastructure and the way the system is structured because of previous political decisions. But there are some places where you've got the line capacity, you've got parallel roads clogging up, and you've got people who are tearing their hair out on those roads wishing they could use a train that ... doesn't run at the time they need it.
The prime example here is, of course, the "TransWilts". Trains from Swindon to Salisbury at 06:16 and 18:45, and NOTHING in between. A return service that doesn't even start from Salisbury - the 06:04 from Salisbury gives you a 30 minute wait for a connection at Westbury, and the second train of the day drags into Swindon at 20:20.
The question I was asked was "should we reduce the amount of travelling people have to do?".
- especially if we interpret that to mean reduce the CO2, reduce the time taken, and especially reduce the time WASTED. How?
* Reduce numbers and needs for journeys.
* Provide proper INTEGRATED transport, with good information and running on time not early.
* Provide transport that provide a QUALITY of use for travel time.
There are some cheap but radical options here. In Utopia, rail and bus services run hourly, and connect with one another, with the bus service being used for the legs of jouneys too and from the stations. Information about the times that service run is easily to hand, and there's an system that keeps people informed of any disruptions, and advises on alternatives. Where a car journey is necessary (and sometimes they are!), drivers put a destination board and number of empty seats in their window, and other travellers can flag them down and get a lift. For short journeys, and short transfers to and from pubic transport hubs, a good network of footpaths, cycleways, and indeed cycles and mopeds are available for hire.
What is surprising, if you look around, is that you see some embronic shoots - some locally, some far away - towards Utopia. It isn't THAT radical - but it's a long way off at the moment. Yet now - with a squeeze on money and on CO2 - is the best time to take us there. (written 2010-07-04)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesZ402 - Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry 
A customer service company - (2006-05-11) 
Asda opening large new store in Melksham - (2007-06-08) 
Business speed networking - a place tonight! - (2007-06-28) 
Remembrance day - inside a church and inside the day - (2007-11-11) 
Wiltshire County Council - Budget Consultation - (2007-11-15) 
Shopping for Christmas and looking forward - (2007-12-17) 
Flooding by Asda-s proposed new supermarket - (2008-01-12) 
Comments on proposed Asda Superstore for Melksham - (2008-01-14) 
Changing a screen saver from a web page (PHP, Perl, OSX) - (2008-05-06) 
Summer! - (2008-05-15) 
Hotel room prices - Melksham, Wiltshire - (2008-08-11) 
All the pieces fall into place - hotel and courses - (2008-09-10) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce, or the FSB - (2008-11-12) 
Wiltshire Council says - part 1 - (2008-11-13) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry - (2008-11-17) 
Ruby, Perl, Linux, MySQL - some training notes - (2008-11-23) 
Lidl opens in Melksham - (2008-12-11) 
Looking forward, in Melksham, in 2009 - (2009-01-05) 
One Cheer for Local Democracy - Asda in Melksham - (2009-01-11) 
Confidence, Customer Service and Tourism in Melksham - (2009-02-15) 
Blue Ridge and Melksham Chambers of Commerce - (2009-03-21) 
Business Networking for Melksham - 23rd April - (2009-04-01) 
Make your business a DESTINATION business - (2009-04-05) 
You cannot please all of the people all of the time - (2009-05-14) 
Melksham Business Map - Chamber of Commerce, Tourist Information and Town Council - (2009-05-21) 
Melksham Traders - where do we go? - (2009-06-05) 
Important - the future of Melksham / Chamber of Commerce - (2009-06-28) 
Wiltshire Community Area Partnerships - (2009-07-15) 
pre-Inaugural briefing - Melksham Community Area Partnership - (2009-07-15) 
Melksham - no trains, no southbound buses through the town - (2009-08-08) 
Wiltshire Unitary News - Chamber of Commerce Intelligence - (2009-10-04) 
New Web Site for Melksham Chamber of Commerce - (2009-10-18) 
Melksham Town - asleep or awake? - (2009-10-21) 
Melksham Forum - (2009-11-01) 
Planning the future of Wiltshire - (2009-11-07) 
Community Area Partnership - inaugural AGM - (2009-11-20) 
The road show has been - where now? - (2009-11-27) 
Melksham Market - Tuesdays, 09:00 to 14:00 - (2009-12-01) 
Melksham - new Tuesday Market - (2009-12-09) 
Rock and hard place .. and the relaxing right one won - (2009-12-18) 
Vision for Wiltshire - (2009-12-20) 
How well do you know Melksham - a quiz for Christmas - (2009-12-21) 
Forums for your Melksham and open source discussions - (2010-01-09) 
Melksham Area - your community view is sought - (2010-01-23) 
How is your tax pound spent? - (2010-02-18) 
Random thoughts on Melksham Town Planning and development - (2010-03-08) 
Car Parking in Melksham - (2010-03-18) 
How do our tactics help us meet the strategy, for the greater good? - (2010-04-16) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - Presidents report to AGM - (2010-05-19) 
The history and future of Melksham Chamber of Commerce - (2010-05-25) 
Tell the Melksham Chamber or you only have yourself to blame - (2010-05-26) 
Melksham - a gem in Wiltshire - (2010-06-26) 
Lorry Parking in Melksham - (2010-06-29) 
Cycling in Melksham, and looking forward - (2010-07-11) 
Moved - Melksham Lorry Park - (2010-07-15) 
Melksham Oak - photos of the new community school - (2010-07-22) 
Wiltshire Council ask how they can help businesses - (2010-07-27) 
Getting into and out of Wiltshire towns .. a.k.a. Car Parking? - (2010-08-23) 
Welcome to Countrywides new Melksham store - (2010-09-15) 
A Melksham news roundup - (2010-09-18) 
Travel, Transport and Tourism - A vision for Melksham, 2026 - (2010-10-03) 
A river in Melksham is not just for boaters. - (2010-10-11) 
Melksham - two many councils? - (2010-12-16) 
Trowbridge and Melksham to Chippenham - more roadworks, even slower journey over the winter - (2010-12-30) 
Opportunities for Melksham - new businesses in the town - (2011-01-01) 
Wiltshire Rail services - a golden opportunity - (2011-01-21) 
Keep your business customer-friendly! - (2011-02-09) 
On consultations, car parking, and Melksham town centre - (2011-02-17) 
What is the Melksham Chamber of Commerce? - (2011-02-18) 
What proportion of the British Workforce still works a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, week? - (2011-03-01) 
Melksham Campus - what, why, questions, concerns and how you can input - (2011-03-04) 
Melksham Campus - any last minute inputs from Melksham businesses? - (2011-03-26) 
Vandalism and riot from the minority - the effect - (2011-03-28) 
Melksham - the way forward. 26th April, Well House Manor - (2011-04-13) 
Events - Spring and Early Summer 2011 in Melksham - (2011-04-17) 
Melksham Car Parking - current charges and limits - (2011-05-01) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - grows to appoint new Press Officer. Welcome. Sam - (2011-05-02) 
Letter to The Editor - (2011-05-06) 
Presidents Report to Melksham Chamber of Commerce, 24.5.2011 - (2011-05-24) 
Melksham Community Radio launches - (2011-05-28) 
The Olympic Torch, and Melksham House - (2011-06-14) 
A lesson from the sporran market? - (2011-06-25) 
Summer Sunday Timetable - TransWilts Trains - (2011-06-30) 
Summer Sunday Train Service Starts - Swindon Chippenham and Melksham to Weymouth - (2011-07-03) 
Melksham Jelly - An Occasional Office for Home Workers - (2011-08-06) 
Are people who walk into Melksham being asked to subsidise parking? - (2011-08-09) 
Making best use of the new enthusiasm for Melksham - (2011-09-05) 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 12? - (2011-09-07) 
What is on the Melksham Agenda? - (2011-09-09) 
Melksham to become a part of Trowbridge? - (2011-09-13) 
Currently pictured in Melksham - (2011-10-09) 
Havant - Shop Frontages. - (2011-10-12) 
Some thoughts in answer to some Melksham Campus questions - (2011-10-14) 
Upcoming events in and about Melksham - more dates for your diary - (2011-10-22) 
Looking forward - Chamber of Commerce has 2012 and beyond on the agenda - (2011-10-26) 
Melksham - Business to Business Speed Networking - build ahead for 2012 - (2011-10-26) 
Melksham - changing times, an opportunity for the future - (2011-11-23) 
Melksham, Month by month through 2011 - (2011-12-23) 
Melksham Civic Awards - report and pictures - (2012-01-29) 
Meeting Report - Tuesday 21st Feb - to Melksham Chamber of Commerce from Shadow Community Operations Board - (2012-02-27) 
Changing shops and organisations - Melksham, the last and next five years - (2012-03-21) 
Melksham Train Service - please support the TransWilts case for regular trains - (2012-03-25) 
Some advise for guest speakers at meetings - (2012-03-31) 
Melksham Business Newsreel - (2012-04-03) 
Wiltshire Business Support Service - (2012-04-11) 
Melksham government and business organisations - (2012-04-14) 
Events in Melksham - read all about them, and tell us about yours - (2012-04-15) 
Why do people use chains rather than independent traders? - (2012-04-18) 
An exciting Chamber of Commerce AGM - sound like an Oxymoron? - (2012-04-25) 
Encouraging business in Melksham and its neighbourhood - keep business local?? - (2012-04-27) 
Just 12 winners? Or 371 or more? Town Centres. - (2012-04-30) 
Ten more visitors to your premises every day? - (2012-05-14) 
Go green - business seminar in Melksham - (2012-05-21) 
Not everyone has a computer - 9 more ways to learn about the Melksham Campus - (2012-06-03) 
Public transport for international arrivals into Melksham - (2012-06-04) 
Melksham Visitors Map - Bus routes and train lines to and from the town - (2012-06-04) 
How well do you know Melksham? - (2012-06-17) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - looking to our future shape. Pivotal meeting next Tuesday - (2012-06-19) 
Melksham Pride - the Chamber of Commerce, and the future - (2012-06-29) 
The Melksham News - July 2012 - Part 1, Campus and Chamber of Commerce - (2012-07-22) 
Making things happen - litter and ASB and lost dogs in Melksham - (2012-07-25) 
Bus times - Chippenham Station to Melksham, with London connections - (2012-08-25) 
The difficult interface between the business, council and voluntary sectors - (2012-09-19) 
Chamber of Commerce - looking forward in Melksham and in Wessex - (2012-10-04) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - whence in 2013 and beyond? - (2012-10-12) 
Quiet little town? Advanced Technology Centre? - (2012-12-08) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - join us in our future - (2013-01-21) 
Images of Melksham you havent seen before - (2013-02-13) 
Costa Coffee in Melksham - is it a good idea? - (2013-02-22) 
Report on the last year - Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Melksham Without Parish Council - (2013-03-11) 
Over a hundred welcoming businesses - Melksham Town Centre - (2013-03-17) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - Report for AGM, 21st May 2013 - (2013-05-21) 
Questions from children about Melksham Campus - (2013-05-26) 
Tell me a bit about Melksham - (2013-08-10) 
Melksham Market - every Tuesday - (2013-09-03) 
Herman Miller coming to Melksham - the Chamber of Commerce is briefed - (2013-09-10) 
Future Swindon - Westbury train services. At current level into the future? - (2014-05-25) 
The Campus in Melksham - name, logo, and livery choice - (2015-01-18) 
Annual review of Melksham Matters for Chamber of Commerce AGM - (2016-05-15) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - my final Presidents report - (2017-05-10)
Some other Articles
Park and Ride at Batheaston - will it solve Wiltshires Ills?Two sides of the coinTrain Services - Melksham to Bath and Bristol (and airport)Melksham Food and Drink Fair and Town Crier CompetitionTransport in Wessex - today and into the futureAtworth Village Fete - on the Melksham Community Area Partnership standFurther C++ material - view new or oldFresh Paint for course presentation - including C++What are C++ references? Why use them?C course - final course example puts it all together