"I've paid for my train journey, so why should I do anything else to support the railway service. It's being run by a commercial company, isn't it, so I've paid my dues".
Personally, I do more to support the train service that just travel on it, and I'm going to explain why in a moment - but before I do let me be very clear indeed. If you simply buy a train ticket and use the train for appropriate journeys, that's good support for the service - THANK YOU.
That's exactly what I did ten years ago, and it's fantastic news that many many more people are using the train today. No need / requirement / request for more than a few to do anything more.
Thank you for reading this far. You may stop if you wish. But if you would like to know a bit more about doing a bit more, or why you see volunteers, council staff and railway staff around on the TransWilts counting passenger and asking you about your journey, please read on.
The TransWilts train service is, in effect, new this year. Last year, the service was so poor it was officialy described as unmarketable but - for three year - there are six new trains each way per day, and it's potentially useful.
And it's more than potentially useful, because people are starting to use it. Not because they're forced to, but because it works for them - it saves many time and money ... and it makes journeys possible that weren't possible before. But people need to know about the service before they can use it, and government and railway operators need to know it's providing real improvements for people and not just abstracting traffic from elsewhere before they'll agree to keep it. And both of those activities - telling people about the trains, and keeping a watchful eye on how they're doing and why people are using them, are an area where the community can really help; we the community have a better knowledge of our own area and our own metrics that central organisations and (after all) we also know what we had in mind when we helped persuade people to provide this trial.
I'm a volunteer. I always tell people that when I introduce myself. However, I will also admit to having some knowledge about how the system works, about funding, and about our area. And I have some idea about railway safety too. I don't work for any Train Operating Company - my day job is as an IT trainer and hotel manager at Well House Consultants / Well House Manor in Melksham, Wiltshire. And like when any community volunteer's on the train / at the station except as a regular passenger, it's with the permission of the train operator, and he / she is briefed on safety and procedures. None of us would interfere with the operation of the railway; that's simply not how it works.
So - what are we doing. There are three main strands:
a) We are telling people about the service out in the community (you, dear reader, can informally do that too as an ambassador for the service - tell family and friends and colleagues)
b) We are counting passenger - seeing which trains and station calls are busier and quieter than expected, and talking to passengers (on some occasions every passenger) to gain maximum information
c) We are feeding back what we find through local and central government, and through the rail industry, to help specify what's needed for the short medium and long term future.
(I was going to call this FAQ - Frequently Asked Question - but actually they're not frequently asked so INfrequently asked questions it is!)
Should we (as a community) be doing these things?
Yes, absolutely if it can help our community for the future by coming up with a well used, of life quality / economic benefit, service. First Great Western and Wiltshire Council and the SWLEP and ... others ... are doing there bit too, and it's all about working together. Whilst it's true that the Train Operating Company makes money out of community activites, we're better place to do some of that than they are, and they do help with funding. And we want it to work - I don't want to be explaining in December 2016 that the services has finished at the end of the trial because not enough people used it / government wasn't given data to show enough people had used it.
Should we be doing so many surveys?
Wiltshire Council, First Great Western and the Community all do so countinng and surveying - in association with each other. None of us want to ask too many questions too often; it's time consuming and expensive to do - however, we need a lot more data on a service such as the TransWilts which is rapldly changing than we would on a service that's been stable for years. So we work together, collecting data in onjunction with each other - for example volunteers will assist Wiltshire Council in collecting journey information, and First will provide copy and literature, and Wiltshire Council will print literature, for community distribution. We are also all aware that people don't wanted to be asked too often!
Should we explain the setup of Community / Rail Company / Council to everyone we talk to?
To some extent, yes - community volunteers always intoduce themselves as that, and are happy to explain. There's a suggestion that this may not have happened sometime(s) - please let us know of specific instances if that happens; we can't soer out generallities. And we are always happy to talk in more detail about the setup - although we may need to take details and get back to you if it's in the course of an 8 minute train ride!
Do the volunteers act on behalf of the Train Company?
Not usually, and only with permission. I can think of just one instance, where train "diagram" was cancelled and there were no staff at Melksham station, with passengers milling around and the help point only having an unhelpful message. After checking with First Great Western, we let people know that alternative road transport had been arranged, and helped get people into separate taxis / minibused for Trowbrdge and Westbury so that appointments and connections weren't missed.
Does everyone agree with running the TransWilts service as it is run?
. No; I can find you a few people with different views. On one hand you have a few people who believe it will only reach target passenger numbers if it's linked to other services and runs through to Hampshire, and I can also find you people who think that because the majority drive, nothing should be provided for anyone else. And I can find people who say it should be left up to the train operator to do all the marketing and backup work because they make all the profit. However, I'm really struck by the vast majority being so very, very supportive. Walking through Melksham in the Carnival Parade yesterday is an excellent way of the community reaching to colleagues in the community, and "anyone want a train timetable" questions to the crowd resulted, time and again, in a sea of outstretched hands. By the way, it is working; trains are over target, and our surveys tell us that part of that is because we have the right service, but equally prt of it's because people know about the service. (written 2014-07-13)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesZ406 - TransWilts Community Rail Partnership 
Wiltshire Public Transport User Group co-ordination - (2012-10-05) 
Rail services in Wiltshire - up in the air? We need to say what is best required. - (2013-01-20) 
Passenger survey at Chippenham - report and pictures - (2013-07-24) 
Special General Meeting, Adoption of Constitution for TransWilts Community Rail Partnership - (2013-08-01) 
Bank Holiday Monday - pictures of a great train trip to Weymouth - (2013-08-27) 
TransWilts Community Rail Partnership - formally constituted - (2013-09-01) 
Getting people to and from Melksham Station - not 20 but 700 times a day - (2013-10-12) 
TransWilts Link - meeting notes from 19th October - (2013-10-20) 
Official - Trowbridge and Melksham to London train improvements - (2013-10-22) 
New trains for 2014 - Swindon to Westbury. Meetings Melksham, Swindon, Trowbridge, Chippenham and Westbury - (2013-10-24) 
A THANK YOU to those who have brought the new train service to fruition - (2013-12-06) 
TransWilts train services - up from 2 to 8 per day - (2013-12-09) 
Melksham Resident? Commuter? Save yourself 2000 pounds and 100 hours in 2014, and have a better journey! - (2013-12-20) 
Thin end of the wedge - plan to be thicker in 2014 - (2013-12-26) 
Taking Greyhounds and Lurchers to London for the day - (2014-02-23) 
Talk and walk to promote train service - Melksham Carnival - (2014-07-11) 
TransWilts CRP - walking in Melksham Carnival - (2014-07-13) 
Train Online article - ACoRP / TransWilts introduction - (2014-07-25) 
Even in the dark of night, the train comes bearing passengers - (2014-09-28) 
Moving community rail support from amateur to professional - (2014-11-16) 
Folk music train, Westbury to Swindon round trip, 14th December 2014 - (2014-11-24) 
Politics and the railway the connects Wiltshire - (2014-12-06) 
A little thing can make a big difference - (2014-12-13) 
Celebration pictures, year 1 - (2014-12-15) 
What a difference a year makes - (2014-12-23) 
Why are people using the TransWilts? - (2014-12-29) 
TransWilts / Press and Publicity report for AGM / 30th January 2015 - (2015-01-17) 
Looking Forward - TransWilts Community Rail Partnership and TransWilts CIC - (2015-02-12) 
Images of our rail promotion campaign - (2015-02-21) 
Rail Conference, Nottingham - (2015-03-16) 
Neighbourhood Plan - travel and transport thoughts - (2015-03-29) 
Monday to Friday / TransWilts train times from 18 May to 11th December 2015 - (2015-05-17) 
Around the world from Melksham - (2015-05-25) 
The TransWilts Community Intergrated Transport Corridor - (2015-05-29) 
Learning from the others - Community Rail - (2015-07-12) 
The Weymouth Wizard - Saturdays in August from Wiltshire - (2015-07-31) 
Yesterday, Weymouth - (2015-08-02) 
Moderation - and the tendency to over-moderate - (2015-11-02) 
Management view - TransWilts and transport at the end of 2015 - (2015-12-25) 
TransWilts - robust these days - no longer the first service to be cancelled - (2016-01-03) 
TransWilts Community Interest Company AGM - 13 Feb 2016, Swindon - (2016-02-05) 
On the problems of a printed train timetable - (2016-02-15) 
Melksham Station - as at May 2016 - Part 5 (services and prices) - (2016-05-30) 
Melksham Rail Development Group becoming Melksham Rail Users Group - (2016-06-21) 
Three months in community rail pictures - (2016-08-27) 
Melksham trial train service is to be made permanent - (2016-10-02) 
TransWilts Partner Update for Melksham Area Board - (2016-11-07) 
A year of changes for Lisa and Graham Ellis, and Well House - (2017-05-27)
Some other Articles
The Horse is back!National Express replaced by train and by Megabus from Chippenham to LondonIt may be cheaper to buy in bulkSome questions on how our Community Rail Partnership worksReaction in Radstock to new First bus pricesPictures of Melksham Heritage Discovery FairCan a legitimate forum post become illegal a year later?