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Public and sustainable transport in Wiltshire

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People WILL walk to the station in Melksham, but they need a path and trains

Yesterday, I walked through Melksham catching up on a couple of errands, and stopped by a sandwich shop to buy lunch to take home. Chatting with the young lady behind the counter, I learned that she lived in Melksham, doesn't drive, and finds it really hard to get out of town at times - especially for a significant journey. She's keen on using the train but has been frustrated until now by the lack of trains when she wants to travel; she'll be using the train on Monday to take advantage of the day trip opportunity to Weymouth, which she learned about from the leaflet that was included in her local newspaper. Talking about the possibility - which looks like it's becoming a probability - of better services within the year, her face lit up. It will make a real difference to her.

The journey to the station to catch your train (and from the station at the far end) is as important as the journey on the train - in other words, you won't use a train unless you can get to the station.

I asked the young lady where she lives (being careful not to make it sound like a pickup line), and she tells me that she lives off Queensway. That's the far end of town from the station, yet still she's happy to walk through the town to the train - probably around a mile. And there are many like her. I recall coming off the trains that we ran to Weymouth in the summer of 2011 and - once the last stragglers had left - walking home. And being astonished at just how far people - especially the young people - had walked as I walked behind them. From the town centre, some headed off up Stratton's Walk, some down Semington Road, some into the Queesnway area, and some were still walking - to Bowerhill, our most distant suburb - when I turned into our own gate on The Spa. And we know that the young people of Melksham do walk, and cycle - we see those who attend The Oak school walk past the front or our house, twice a day, five days a week, when school is in. The town centre has good pavements and road crossing, and there's a convenient short cut which brings the station far closer on foot and cycle to the town than you would at first think. There's an underpass which gets cyclists and pedestrians over (or rather under) the trunk A350 road, and there are cycle racks at the station which even our cycling 'nut' thinks are adequate for present and near future use. Excellent!

Station access becomes somewhat inadequate if you look at the northern section of Melksham, which includes the areas with our lowest car ownership per head of population. There's a huge irony that Foundry Close, clearly visible from the station and sold (when built just under 10 years ago on being "near the station") is hard to get to. To get north to this area of multistory town flats with limited parking, you have to head off south east, cross under the main road, walk alongside the main road northwards, cross it again - this time on the level (thank goodness there's a pedestrian crossing) and then walk between McDonald's and the Aldi supermarket into the housing. Of course, this really doesn't / didn't matter when there were hardly any trains worth using, but there's a serious need for a pedestrian (and probably cycle) cut through in time for the start of an appropriate train service. It's the difference between being 100 metres from the station and having a 700 metre walk. Wiltshire Council owns the land from the edge of Foundry Close, where the roundabout has been built with a spur ready for the link, to the station, and until recently all that was needed was the tidying up of a piece of waste ground, laying of some sort of footpath surface for a few yards, and removal of a fence panel. I was rather shocked the other day to see what looks like a new pair of gas tanks installed close to where the path would run, and I do hope they are temporary or can be easily fenced off when the path is opened. Last autumn there were consultations with the residents of Foundry Close who are concerned at potential car parking issues, but re-assured by the fact that other council land at the station is on very short term lease only (or so we were promised) so that there's plenty of car parking for park-and-ride rail customers, and even additional parking available for visitors to Foundry Close.


Looking wider than Foundry Close, the whole northern area (Avon Road) section of Melksham is within walking distance of the station and will be 500 metres closer when the path is provided. Not only will it be closer, but there's a newsagent, a place you can get coffee before you catch your train, a supermarket and a corner store and two takeaways where you can collect a meal on the way home - or rather where you will be able to once we have trains and cutthrough.

Let me just take a look at Melksham Forest too - the other (and largest) more northerly suburb of Melksham, and again an area with a great deal of Victorian and early 20th Century development which doesn't naturally lend itself to the multicar lifestyle, and as a result is very popular with those who prefer to conserve resources and let others drive much of the time - i.e. potential bus and train users. Via the town bridge, using current paths, It's over 1.5 km from the station to the nearest point in Melksham Forest. People would, undoubtedly, walk that... but far more would walk / cycle and feel encouraged to do so if the walk was reduced to 1 km, and was across fields, the footbridge at Scotland Road, a backroad and past somewhere they could buy a coffee before getting on the train. That's a big difference, and that little stretch of footpath will make a huge difference once the trains come back properly.

The upper illustartion shows the platform at Melsham station in the foreground, with Foundry Close in the background; look just how close that is! The lower illustration is taken from the council land and shows just how short the extra cutthrough needs to be - over that piece of wasteland between the new-looking tanks and the blue barrel - the fence is just behind the tree and that's Foundry Close's housing towering above!/font>

(written 2013-08-25, updated 2013-08-31)

 
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  [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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Some other Articles
Pimms and Croquet at Well House Manor - 7th September 2013
Python varables - checking existance, and call by name or by value?
People WILL walk to the station in Melksham, but they need a path and trains
Wedding from Well House Manor - an excellent base in Melksham
Wedding Photos - Kim Ellis to Kyle Londors, 22nd August 2013
A further chance to see Melksham on TV
Wedding Reception preps at Well House Manor
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