TransWilts train service - over 100 journeys every week
Linking the five major population centres of Wiltshire

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Small scale improvement - big scale gain. And they CAN be done with local knowledge

Full credit to a politician who looks at the tactics as well as the strategy. The strategy is the longer term stuff, and where we're headed - and it comes with a relatively low initial cost in the ramp-up phase of some project, with what used to be called a high "green shield stamp" rating in votes at the next election. That's from the days when company reps used to drive their cars to fill up with petrol not at the lowest price for their company, but rather doing so where they got maximum reward point kickbacks.

Duncan Hames TweetI was brought up on "take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves" - perhaps I have Scots blood somewhere - but it seems so often to be the case that "we're so busy taking care of the pounds that we haven't got time to bother with the pennines". But it's incredible what can be bought for a few pence, and how those few pence moved around can make the most incredible difference, perhaps even paying themselves bavk many times over. So I'm truely heartened to see Duncan Hames, our MP, putting his words, and his influence, time and knowledge into some of these penny-projects as well as looking at (on the same rail side) such welcomed topics as main line electification in our area, and at topics such as HS2, which I don't know enough about to come down on one side of the fence or the other.

A decent service on the TransWilts - what would it need? A carriage or two running up and down the line, and staff to run it. But it's fallen rather between two stools of late - there's the "you already have a service so we won't look at it" approach that was taken in the ATOC report on where lines where services should start, and there's the "you can't join us" approach from ACoRP because they feel we don't have enough trains to call a service. How good to see that certain people (and I see it at the Conservative lead Wiltshire Council, as well as from our Liberal Democrat MP) are looking at the pennies - and looking for intelligent solutions.

There are two pieces of the jigsaw that need putting into place for a proper TransWilts service. Until a couple of months ago, that was three pieces - but we now have the industry standard studies and surveys that 'prove' the case. Those two pieces are:

a) We need those carriages - there isn't a stock of spare carriages waiting on the shelf for leasers purchasers, and it's something of a seller's market out there. Regrettably, this leads to competition between various good cases, and some of those who are lucky enough to have usable (and popular) trains already looking to consolidate their position by getting them lengthened ... and to (they feel) better their chances by making life difficult for others who are less fortunate in currently having a service so sporadic as to be effectively absent.

b) We need those pennies - "pennies" in government / train running terms are NOT the same as pennies to you, dear reader, and me as private individuals. And at times of financial constraint such as we're in, the pennines must be spent wisely and also be seen to be spent wisely.

Fortunately, I can see solutions to (a) and (b) and it's a question of putting the pieces in the jigsaw.

Carriages

Let's say that there are TWO extra carriages available to strengthen rush hour services from West Wiltshire, which are overcrowded into Bath and Bristol, to the extent that passengers are being left behind at Bradford-on-Avon and Freshford stations. There are two options:

Option 1. Add an extra carriage to each of the two busiest trains. Solution immediate. Congestion resolved. But at the price of an extra carriage that's only doing something useful for about 20 minutes in the morning and (on return later in the day) 20 minutes in the early evening, and is in the depot for the rest of the day.

Now - ask yourself WHY people are on those overcrowded trains. Well - it turns out that around 50,000 journeys per year are made on them by people who really don't want or need to be on that line / train at all. They're travelling between Warminster / Westbury / Trowbridge and Chippenham / Swindon - where there's a perfectly good railway line ... just no trains running up it after the one at 7 a.m. until the one at 7:30 p.m. And that leead you to ...

Option 2. Run the extra carriages as new trains from Warminster / Westbury / Trowbridge to Chippenham and Swindon. Solution on Bradford-on-Avon and Freshford overcrowding almost immediate as people switch from "dogleg" to direct services. What else does option 2 bring:

a) Shorter journeys across from West Wilts to Chippenham and Swindon - from 15 minutes (good connection) up to an hour per journey.
b) Through trains across Wilsthire which will encourage a further growth in traffic
c) A train onto a line where it can run usefully all day - not just for 20 minutes in each peak
d) A proper train service to the town or Melksham (24,000 population, large commuter flows)
There are two words of caution here, though
e) It may be necessary to stop extra London expresses at Oldfield Park and / or Keynsham in the future to help reduce growing overcrowding there onthe morning flow into Bristol (not necessarily a big problem as these very early trains into Bristol are in essence already commuter services from Swindon)
f) It costs more to run a carriage as a separate train than to stengthen an existing train - crew costs primarily. And that brings us on to ...

Extra Cost

Hang on a minute, though ... isn't this new service going to bring more people onto the trains, through the day and at weekends too, and raise income? YES - it is. And from the work we've done / reports commissioned, we've shown that the ridership on the TransWilts will actually be a superb base compared to others ...

a) Commuter traffic is TWO-WAY - Up to Swindon and down to West Wilts and Salisbury
b) This is an ALL YEAR service and not a seasonal one
c) There are substantial long distance links which will GENERATE INCOME for connecting trains, including incoming business and tourist trade which will fill some currently-empty seats on those connections
d) A substantial population of residents live all along the line and will make considerable LEISURE use of the line

But ... bums on seats don't necessarily lead straight to pounds in the pocket of the train operator to pay for the service and give him an operating profit. A line that's got regulated fares at a low rate-per-mile, a train that covers the miles relatively slowly, and a train that still needs a driver and conductor is a noxious operational cocktail financially. And add to that the current situation where the Train Operator is only allowed to keep a small part of the farebox income due to underperformance elsewhere ...

But there *are* possible solutions; "rejig the fare system" / raise the regulated rate is something that should be considered - a six pound return on a Saturday from Melksham to Swindon is wonderful value - just 12p per mile; in real terms that could go up (in my probably unwelcome opinion) to aroun 16p to 18p per mile, and it would make a huge difference. But it's a political hot potato, so I don't see it happening. What could be done?

a) I don't see why we should have to pay the "Fine" imposed on First Great Western from our line because they're underperforming elsewhere. If the Department for Transport were to consider our line to be a "new service", then the operator would retain the full fares paid by passengers, and this would make a HUGE difference. I have figures for this, but must plead "commercial in confidence".

b) Car parking at stations costs money almost everywhere else except in Melksham - it's over 7 pounds a day in Chippenham, for example. If you look back to my previous post, you'll see the expanse of space that would be available for parking, and by changing for the parking, even allowing for operational costs and even at a lower rate than Chippenham, a substantial extra revenue could be raised.

c) The building on the car park - ah "Melksham Station Building" ... and we have an idea or two there which may provide a degree of positive cashflow too. Once again, I have to plead "commecial in confidence" just for the moment.

Please discount my "rejig the fare system" - I don't see that happening as it's a political poisoned challice, but (a), (b) and (c) can happen.

Summary

So in summary, what do we have?

We have a good case - an excellent case for a service in theory. And we have an excellent mechanism through which it can be put into practise, with the Department for Transport being offered a forward looking approach which lets them redeploy stock intelligently rather than just throwing it at a currently-overcrowded stretch, and we have a financial case where the cost of extra crew can be met without either the Council tax payer or the Minster of Transport having to dip into his pocket.

We would love - at the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership - to see these jigsaw pieces fall into place. And it can be done; behind the scenes, many are working their best to help get it done.
(written 2011-05-02)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z501 - Public Transport - Rail
  [4353] Celebration pictures, year 1 - (2014-12-15)
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  [4268] Metrics - historic and current TransWilts train use - (2014-04-27)
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  [4252] Staveton Halt, former station between Trowbridge and Melksham - (2014-03-25)
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  [4226] Saturday train to Swindon - two weeks in - (2013-12-21)
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  [4219] TransWilts train services - up from 2 to 8 per day - (2013-12-09)
  [4218] A THANK YOU to those who have brought the new train service to fruition - (2013-12-06)
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  [3336] Efficient travel - from Melsksham to Edinburgh by Sleeper Train - (2011-06-26)
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  [3328] Summer Sundays - days out by train from Swindon on the TransWilts - (2011-06-18)
  [3318] Summer Sunday Trains - outings from Swindon, Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge and Westbury - (2011-06-05)
  [3273] Wanted - a look to the future - (2011-05-02)
  [3198] TransWilts rail - coming together, wanted and needed - (2011-03-10)
  [3187] Past and Present - Melksham Station - (2011-02-27)
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  [3176] Comparing German, Dutch and British Railways - (2011-02-19)
  [3171] Train and boat journey - the passenger accommodation - (2011-02-15)
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  [3141] Wiltshire Rail services - a golden opportunity - (2011-01-21)
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  [3114] Transwilts Link - both Wiltshire and beyond - (2010-12-30)
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  [3111] TransWilts Link - Days out from Swindon to Weymouth? - (2010-12-28)
  [3080] Santa Special - rather more special than usual - December 2010 - (2010-12-07)
  [3079] TransWilts Rail News ... Melksham (Santa Special) Edition ... 5th December 2010 - (2010-12-04)
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  [3017] Seventh day traveller on the six day railway - (2010-10-27)
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  [2982] Travel, Transport and Tourism - A vision for Melksham, 2026 - (2010-10-03)
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  [2930] Walk - Tilehurst to Pangborne - (2010-08-21)
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  [2908] How Green is my train? - (2010-08-07)
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  [2664] Oliver Cromwell at Bristol Temple Meads - (2010-03-06)
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  [2626] On Malachite Green - (2010-02-06)
  [2568] Forums for your Melksham and open source discussions - (2010-01-09)
  [2557] Rail Campaign - response to core consultation - (2009-12-31)
  [2556] Railway Station Survey - please complete today or tomorrow - (2009-12-30)
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  [2529] Santa Special, 2009 - (2009-12-06)
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  [2486] Santa Special - Trowbridge and Melksham to Swindon - (2009-10-31)
  [2477] By train ... - (2009-10-25)
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  [2042] Wiltshire Rail Service Update - (2009-02-15)
  [2026] Melksham Climate Friendly Group - (2009-02-05)
  [2024] Carry on Training - in spite of the weather - (2009-02-03)
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  [1966] Background to the TransWilts Train Fiasco - (2008-12-29)
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  [1708] A Train Service Update for Melksham Party in the Park - (2008-07-13)
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  [1228] Some progress on the train campaign - (2007-06-10)
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  [803] Not shouting - (2006-07-16)
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  [632] Moral dilemma - (2006-03-04)
  [527] Greater Western Franchise Awarded - (2005-12-13)
  [524] Santa comes to Melksham - (2005-12-11)
  [521] Proof needed? Please just use common sense! - (2005-12-08)
  [488] Looking for railway groups and users - Swindon, Salisbury, Southampton - (2005-11-06)
  [486] Rail services under threat - Swindon, Melksham ... and Newquay and Bicester too - (2005-11-05)
  [447] Tomorrow's meeting. - (2005-09-19)
  [434] Through public transport connection, Chippenham to Salisbury, to cease - (2005-09-02)
  [428] Swindon - Chippenham - Melksham - Trowbridge - Westbury train service - (2005-08-29)
  [154] Railway train service, Melksham station - (2004-12-17)


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Wanted - a look to the future
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or
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Forward to
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - grows to appoint new Press Officer. Welcome. Sam
Some other Articles
Do I need to initialise variables - programming in C, C++, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby or Java.
Between a rock and a hard place.
International travel to the UK - coming to Melksham
Melksham Chamber of Commerce - grows to appoint new Press Officer. Welcome. Sam
Small scale improvement - big scale gain. And they CAN be done with local knowledge
Melksham Car Parking - current charges and limits
The importance of feedback
SQL - Data v Metadata, and the various stages of data selection
Files or Databases? MySQL, SQLite, or Oracle?
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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