I've been to Weymouth five or six times over the last two months - providing an information source to passengers travelling from the TransWilts
stations of Swindon, Chippenham and Melksham, and importantly to help them find the right train back in the evening.
Frequent rail travellers such as myself are perfectly used to finding the right train at an unfamiliar station, but many users of this service were infrequent, or even first time, users. I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised at that. Weymouth station is due for an upgrade - in fact work has just started. The combination of old systems, trains which left from different platforms to initially indicated on the the majority of occasions I was there, and a train which was dividing en route and was confusingly labelled "Bristol and Cheltenham" when people had come on the train from Swindon contrived to make it hard for people to know which train to board, and which carriages on that train. So having a face or two that they had seen in the morning on arrival, and they knew to look our for in the evening, was a great reassurance. "Yes - it's this train for Swindon - the carriage(s) nearest you". "Go to the front for Trowbridge - it will be quieter". "Third carriage for Melksham - the platform there is short and you need to be in the front of the back train". In fact we could have really done with some sticky destination labels inside the carriaages.
I'll confess that I've enjoyed the trips. It's very rewarding to see people travelling home after a day out that they've obviously enjoyed, and it's rewarding to have trains on the TransWilts which are attractively timed to use ... and they have been used, too
. I've made new friends, caught up with old ones, and had a great time in Weymouth - there's a surprising amout to see; I didn't exhaust all the options by a long way!
This Sunday just gone, the family came along. And that meant that Gypsy could come too - she loves the train, and she too loves making new friends. There's a short section of Weymouth beach where dogs are allowed, and they have a ball!
First picture © Lisa Ellis, reproduced with permission. Click to enlarge.
And here's a remarkable thing. Gypsy
has been scared of water. We're not sure why, but it's been impossible to get her anywhere near a bath or shower or hosepipe. And indeed on a previous brief beach outing, she had stayed out of the water. Yet here she is - racing through the water and splashing and having the time of her life.
Second picture © Lisa Ellis, reproduced with permission. Click to enlarge. Yes, that's me in the background.
The trips have encouraged me to "spread my wings" a little - to do things that I wouldn't have dreamed of doing a few years ago, and I sense that others may feel the same. I've certainly seen friend do - and enjoying doing - some things that I can't imagine them even contemplating when I first met them. And, yes, I'll miss Weymouth next Sunday!
The $64,000 question that many people were asking over the later weeks, when the trains were clearly carrying a successful load of passengers, is "will you be running them next year?". Well - of course, they're not my trains to run. And this year they were sponsored as a one-off by a number of businesses and other organisations - that way, we reduced the risk to First to a level they were prepared to accept. On one hand, logic says "they were a success - lets do it again", and further logic says that with nearly every seat taken, they should be being paid in full by the people who are actually travelling. On the other hand, the real outcome that we're looking for from our work is an appropriate service on the TransWilts line all day, every day ... and the extreme popularity of the service lead to some loading and crowding issues which hadn't been bargained/budgetted for.
I'm not going to prejudge any meetings, but I rather suspect that everyone will be want to see something next summer. We've got the Olympics to 'consider', but the 07:30 from Westbury to Swindon (which also did better than predicted this summer) and the 08:20 from Swindon could be the first train, year round every Sunday in an appropriate service on the line so we should build on them. And it would be peverse in the extreme if they we're to be available again because they were too popular.
These are ... personal thoughts, and not the echo of any policy of any group that I'm a member of. (written 2011-08-30)
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