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The future needs for rail services to Melksham - change needed; current service an insult

Do you want to attend an event in London on a Sunday? There's museums, sporting fixtures and so much more, and what better way than to go by train to London. The requirement was rather proven by last year's trial service over just eight sundays when a train ran from Westbury at 07:30 with a London connection, and loaded up to some 70 people in spite of not appearing in the printed public timetables and with virtually no publicity.

Those of us who have been involved with rail for a while have heard talk of the "7 day, 24 hour" railway. Alas, that remains just a pipe dream - an aspiration - and I was rather forcibly remined on that by a request in my mailbox overnight:

For the last 4 years I've run the BUPA 10000 in London..... for the first 2 driving up and making a weekend of it and the last two going up on the 07:00 (or near) train on the day just for the race. This year the earliest train from these parts seems to arrive at 09:45 which is no good whatsoever as the race starts at 10:00. I'm wondering if there's a cunning way of getting there earlier? Race this year is Sunday 27th May (Bank Holiday weekend).

Perfectly reasonable requirement, you would have thought.

The first train from Chippenham runs at 08:10, which is scheduled to get into Paddington at 09:44. Even by driving up to Swindon, you'll catch the same train and only get to London at 09:44.

How about the next line to the south - from Westbury or Pewsey? Lazy daisies over there - first train out of Westbury isn't until 09:41, getting to London at 11:29, by which time the race is probably over. How about from Bedwyn, the extreme of the London suburban service which just pokes its nose into Wiltshire? Oh - the first train from there doesn't run until 09:51, getting to London at 12:22 having had you on a bus for part of the way!

Of course, I (and my correpondent too) live in Melksham, a town of some 24,000 people. Our Sunday train service is totally inappropriate for days out on a Sunday. First train is at 17:25, with a connection that gets to London at 19:26. Frankly, the service we're offered on sundays this summer is an insult. Whilst slightly late for the BUPA 10000 race, last year's 07:45 departure getting into London at 09:44 was a fantastic (and much used, even in 8 weeks) facility that should at least have been offered again this summer, and really should run on every (52) sunday in the year.

My correspondent asked about a "cunning plan". There are earlier trains on South West Train's line in the south of the county - from Salisbury, there's a train which gets to London at 08:19 - a full hour and 20 minutes before First Great Western wake up and provide a service from Wiltshire; what a pity it's a huge dogleg from Melksham to go via Salisbury and (of course) there isn't an early train from Melksham to Salisbury - in fact the first train there isn't provided until 18:44

What a tremendous scope we have for improvement to something much more appropriate for our needs in the next franchise!




A business visitor is coming to see us from the Bristol direction on Tuesday. She's looking to arrive in the town at around 09:30 (and happy to be an hour or so earlier or an hour or so later), and she does not drive. We don't know how long she'll be with us - best guess is about 4 or 5 hours, so ideally she'll want to return at around 3 p.m.

Bristol is a major city; Melksham's a town of some 24,000 miles just under 30 miles from Bristol, and within Bristol's natural catchment - so this should be easy enough - an hour's journey at the most, right? WRONG!

She'll need to leave Bristol Temple Meads at 05:44, change at Trowbridge (42 minute wait) to reach Melksham at 07:19, as the following train doesn't leave Bristol until 18:30 for a 19:10 arrival in Melksham (to prove it CAN be done in 40 minutes!). For the return journeys, there's a train at 19:11 and another at 19:48, both taking under an hour. Rather late for that 3 p.m. departure, but those are the first trains after 07:20 in the morning! Using the bus, the journey of 30 miles from Bristol takes 99 minutes each way.

Our Monday to Friday public transport service is totally inappropriate for business visitors to our town.




The train services that we currently have on the TransWilts line that provides the service to Melksham (and from other West Wilts towns to Chippenham and Swindon, and betwen those places and Salisbury) may have been adequate ten years ago - but now they're woefully inadequate and that has a serious negative effect on the economy of the area the line serves.

The current franchise, operated by the First group, runs a service level that's based on usage figures that are now ten years old (and even then were depressed by a lack of trains) and assumed a growth rate of 1% per annum. Contrast that growth rate to the growth actually experienced in West Wiltshire over the past decade:

and you'll see that the figures for train use have nearly doubled - the growth rate's been something like ten times the rate predicted, which was broadly in line with population growth. Plans simply didn't allow for the modal shift to rail that's happened, and continues to happen.

Graph presented at a public meeting in early April in Trowbridge by Richard Gamble, Portfolio holder for public transport in Wiltshire Council and reproduced with his permission.

What's needed for the next franchise period, then? Services all day, every day. People will move their journeys forward or backwards by an hour, but not much more - so that's a train every 2 hours. This appropriate service level has been tested as an economic case - it passed with flying colours. For operational feasabiity - it passed with flying colours. In a business survery - it got excellent support. In a public survey - support is massive. Even in a trial service last summer - which was so busy it's a victim of its own success this year.

But I do one further samity test. I real travel requirements I hear of, such as the two at the top of this article, and I measure them against the service that's being asked for. I ask "would the requested service meet the requirement". And I get the strong answer, again and again, YES, it would.


Please ... can we have this well researched and appropriate service in the next franchise?
(written 2012-05-11, updated 2012-05-12)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z501 - Public Transport - Rail
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  [1291] Day trip to Weymouth - (2007-08-05)
  [1274] Radio coverage for railway issues - (2007-07-23)
  [1273] Melksham or Weymouth? Meal or day out? - (2007-07-23)
  [1228] Some progress on the train campaign - (2007-06-10)
  [1139] Overcrowded trains around Bristol - (2007-04-08)
  [1097] Train and business balls all in the air! - (2007-03-02)
  [1093] Wiltshire Train - can YOU come on 5th March? - (2007-02-25)
  [1076] Save the Train - an update - (2007-02-12)
  [1069] Rail trouble forced me to buy hotel - (2007-02-07)
  [1063] Bradford-on-Avon - 150 years of passenger trains - (2007-02-03)
  [1045] Bang! Train campaign hits home - (2007-01-19)
  [1044] Call for appropriate train services - Swindon, Bristol, Bath, West Wilts, Severn Beach etc - (2007-01-18)
  [1033] Empty at Easleigh, Missing at Melksham, Overflowing at Oldfield - (2007-01-14)
  [976] Santa at the station - (2006-12-09)
  [974] The last commuter train through Melksham - (2006-12-09)
  [952] Coming from London to Melksham by train for a course - (2006-11-28)
  [877] Yes, but what do we do now?? - (2006-09-24)
  [814] Melksham Railway Calendar 2007 - (2006-07-25)
  [803] Not shouting - (2006-07-16)
  [790] Shadow Transport Minister to visit Melksham - (2006-07-02)
  [697] For any North and West Wilts and Swindon Readers - (2006-04-23)
  [688] Are you free on Friday evening? - (2006-04-18)
  [648] West Wilts Railway Users Group and trains to Lacock - (2006-03-16)
  [634] Real chance to make a difference - (2006-03-05)
  [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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Then and now pictures of Melksham - on show through the summer
Some other Articles
Ten more visitors to your premises every day?
Now Open - A Museum for Melksham. Come in and see us.
What is a metatable? How do I set one up? How do I use them? Lua
Then and now pictures of Melksham - on show through the summer
The future needs for rail services to Melksham - change needed; current service an insult
Using Lua tables as objects
Press Release - Museum to explore the story of Melksham
Lua Tables
Learning to Program in Lua - public / open training course / class
Bank Holiday Monday, so it was pouring with rain.
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