Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Lisa and Graham served on the executive committee of the Chamber of Commerce from 2000 to 2017

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Future Swindon - Westbury train services. At current level into the future?

This post has been prepared on behalf of the Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as resolved at their meeting on May 20th 2014.




The Department for Transport is consulting with stakeholders about how train services should be run in the South West of England and South Wales from 2015 to 2020 in the next franchise.

Page 30 states:
This section contains questions about specific aspects of the service pattern that currently operates and describes how that pattern may need to change over the 5 year period in question. The actual service pattern run will be decided by the operator within the constraints of the Train Service Specification.

Page 31 states:
Westbury - Swindon (twice daily); now increased to a two-hourly service

There is a potential major problem here - the current service is the two hourly service in addition to the twice daily service that has been running for many years. The two-hourly service complements the previous services, making in combination a well tuned service that is growing significantly faster than was forecast, and already making a real difference to people's lives and the economy of the area. Cutting out the previous services and leaving just two-hourly train would cut the heart out of the new service.

Here's a diagram showing the times the trains arrive into and leave Swindon, with commuter options shown along the top. With the 06:12 and 18:52 departures and 07:48 and 20:21 arrivals no longer running, the classic "9 to 5" working day options would change as follows:
* Arrival 07:48, return 17:36: would no longer be available
* Arrival 07:48, return 18:52: would no longer be available
* Arrival 08:18, return 17:36: would be retained
* Arrival 08:18, return 18:52: would no longer be available

Current train arrivals from Westbury, Trowbridge and Melksham into Swindon, and return departure times. Trains with a red spot may be under threat from 2016 if the future franchise proposal is read literally, with the green star trains remaining. So only one of four work day commute opportunities would remain - that's the thin line on the diagram, with the three opportunities shown in a thicker line no longer being available.


Taking a typical employee who needs to arrive in good time to start work at 9, and has to tidy up and get ready to go home - say 20 minutes at each end of the day - and with the retained service you have only got a "reach" to workplaces within 19 minutes of Swindon Station. The lost 07:48 to 18:52 service option reached out to workplaces up to 72 minutes from Swindon Station - that's 14 times the area (square law applies) and also commutes onward by train to Didcot, Reading and Oxford.

Diagram showing the effect on catchment area in Swindon of reducing maximum commuter transfer time, station to work, from 72 to 19 minutes.[82][c2]à Yellow area is currently practical for commuting. With original trains removed, only green area would remain practical for commuting


Commuter flows from Melksham to Bristol and to Filton Abbey Wood would be left with no useful service at all if the long standing service were to be removed. Arrivals at 08:00 and 08:44 at Filton Abbey Wood would no longer exist, with the first arrival being at 09:22. The return service at 17:23 from Filton Abbey Wood would still exist, but the 18:09 and 18:27 (potentially useful if a flexitime worker arrived at would at 09:30) would be lost, leaving a wait until 19:09 for the return train which after a slow journey would get the commuter back to Melksham at 20:38.

Cutting the long-standing trains and only leaving the new ones (which is how it is described in the consultation document) would rip the heart out of the succeeding new service and reduce it once again to a thinly-used niche.

I don't know if there's a serious risk of the services being cut. But I do know that it's worth making an input to the consultation process to say "In answer to question 7. Services between Westbury and Swindon should not drop below the current level, which is two-hourly with additional commuter services making the service hourly at peak times, and not as stated (simply "two-hourly") on page 31 of the consultation document"

Please make that input. Should you wish to do so, you may consider adding:

a)

In answer to question 12. The current success of the new service on the Westbury to Swindon line is due in part to the activities of the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership (a member of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, with train operator, local council and community working together). Please include the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership and the train service on the line as an officially designated service and partnership as you have done with the other active partnerships in the region - Devon and Cornwall, Severnside and Heart of Wessex"

b)

In further answer to question 7. Traffic on the Swindon to Westbury line has grown dramatically and well beyond forecast since the service was improved in December 2013. Should the performance still be in excess of forecast in the 2nd year of the service, the opportunity of service recast upon replacement of the Swindon - Cheltenham Spa local service by through London trains should be taken to use one of the two trains on that line (which already provides the extra peak trains) to provide extra services between Westbury and Swindon, which are already getting to be "full and standing", and to improve connectiving and linkage at Westbury south to Salisbury, and to Taunton and the west of England.




Announcement of consultation and link to document:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/great-western-specification-for-the-future-franchise

Direct copy of document:
http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/gw-consultation-document.pdf

Email Address to respond to:
GWconsultation@dft.gsi.gov.uk

The consultation requests (direct quote from page 45)

When responding, please state whether you are responding as an individual or representing the views of an organisation. If responding on behalf of a larger organisation please make it clear who the organisation represents and, where applicable, how the views of members were assembled.

Members of the general public may also wish to copy their responses to their local district, county, unitary authority or London borough or Member of Parliament. Copies of comments can also be made available to Passenger Focus.

The deadline for responses is 26 June 2014, but earlier replies will be very welcome.
(written 2014-05-25, updated 2014-05-26)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z402 - Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry
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  [4672] Annual review of Melksham Matters for Chamber of Commerce AGM - (2016-05-15)
  [4738] Melksham Chamber of Commerce - my final Presidents report - (2017-05-10)


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