There's a big difference between Twenty Thousand (20,000) and Two Hundred Thousand (200,000).
There were somewhat under 20,000 train journeys made on the Chippenham to Trowbridge (via Melksham) railway line in the year to December 2013, and we anticipate that the number will be close to 200,000 in the year to December 2015 (it was already up to around 160,000 in the year to December 2014).
Community Rail Partnerships help put 'new life into local lines' (that the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP)) tag line. Our TransWilts Community Rail Partnership was set up in 2012 to help support the line, and brings the community, the rail industry and the local councils together to help support the line and its use, for the mutual good. And in April 2014, after a lengthy application procedure and initial rejection then further caveats, we were accepted as members. We were running on a shoestring, totally with volunteer organisation, and with (initially) just 2 trains each way per day, supplemented from December 2013 by an additional single carriage shuttling up and down from 3 to 6 times per day.
There's a big difference between Twenty Thousand (20,000) and Two Hundred Thousand (200,000). And our structure and operation for a service with 20,000 journeys was creaking at the seems as the service rose to 160,000 and heads for 200,000 and - in a foreseeable future - perhaps 400,000. There are so many things that we would like to do, that we're pretty sure would bring rich rewards in traffic, and in social and economic gain to the area served, but yet as we were set up we had a bottleneck at the CRP admin level. We're not unique in this - talk with other CRP admin / officers, and you'll find they talk about their main pinch point being their own time and admin - funding for small projects and finding volunteers not really being of concern as compared to their own time. And - as purely volunteers - I and Lee (who's in essence job-shared with me) have produced results, but could have done so much more and indeed there's much more to be done for us to look after, retain, and help further develop th customer base.
So, as from 31st January 2015, the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership has become a division of the TransWilts Community Interest Company (CIC). That's a structure that's well tested in the community / rail support sector - with nearby CRPs such as Severnside using this structure, and TravelWatch SouthWest being another. It adds a formality, a layer of accountability and gravitas to our little gang of enthusiastic amateurs, and it allows us to move up a step and sit at the table with others, helping them be secure in who we are, why we are there, and what our objectives are. It also adds a mechanism to allow the existing keen team of people to work closely together and to draw on each other's skills better, including allowing me to divest a lot of the admin work that's so time consuming (and that I'm awful at) onto others, and to put at least a little time each week aside for rail business, knowing that my costs are now covered.
There's one aspect of TransWilts that differs from many other Community Rail lines. We're a line in the middle of the National Rail Network. From Swindon, there are connections to South Wales, to London, and to Cheltenham Spa for the North. At Chippenham and at Trowbridge there are connections for Bath and Bristol. And at Westbury, there are connections for Weymouth, Taunton, Devon and Cornwall, with some of our trains running on (and some connections) to Salisbury, thence Southampton and Portsmouth. That's an unusual (but not unique) metric for a community line; they're often single rather than double ended for connections, and this natural connectivity makes a huge proportion of our journeys "network" ones. We've also got a heavy regular daily commuter traffic already, and with further potential, and we link five major towns (seven adding the Warminster and Salisbury extension to some services). There are no tiny stations set in the middle of the countryside, but rather urban stations where our passengers are looking at bus links onwards, and at other town links. From our viewpoint, these are all really positive things for the future - yet they mean that we have moved on from 20,000 (and being the smallest line in terms of traffic) to 160,000 (comparable to the other lines in the First Great Western area that operate less than hourly) in a single year - and we still have a long way to go.
So - how will the TransWilts CIC work?
We have a board of directors - President, Chair, Finance, Secretary and Community Rail Officer - looking out for and after the divisions / individual areas in the network. As CRO, I can now say "yes, that's me" rather than "I suppose I do that" to many task, but yet Paul Johnson as Chair, Phil McMullen as secretary, Mike Harley as accountant and Peter Blackburn as President all take a lot of the load / weight off my shoulders, and with Lee continuing to provide his valuable research and on-the-ground support in what is in reality part of the background of the CRO job. Everyone's an expert in their own areas - in fact I'm 4th out of 5 in the length of rail experience I have in Wiltshire, and in the working with rail organisations. So that frees up some of my time to catch up and work my own business, and my time to be doing the CRO role's front facing element which very much comes to line support and press and publicity.
Peter and Paul are exceptionally experienced in rail matters - formally a member of the Transport User's Consultative Committee, and formally chair of Knorr Bremse and the local LEP (local enterprise partnership), they've got the expertise and contacts to help look and plan ahead and ensure that things develop for the future with the best outcome, not only for the TransWilts section but also truly across (or Trans) Wilts. This is very much a development that was foreseen by the constitution which already looks at ongoing and linkage services "to from in and through" Wiltshire, and is fully supported and encouraged by both the Wiltshire Council portfolio holder for public transport, and the Wiltshire Cabinet member who is very much linked with Transport and is on the TravelWatch SouthWest board.
Connectional issues and linking all the public transport modes together - the complete network - are a key part of the main network in Wiltshire. We've already established a twice a year "TransWilts Link" forum / meeting at which various groups co-ordinate and that will be continuing and strengthening, with encouragement from elected Wiltshire Council specialists - helping to keep everyone informed, and to help with joined up promotions, and joined up transport planning. Where appropriate, we can provide some assistance from within our developing resources on elements such as buses and multimode connections.
On the TransWilts CPR side, 2014 was the year of big growth and we're not going to see anything like that same growth again in 2015. But then we already have trains full and standing on most weekdays and many Saturdays and in the first year we achieved 150% of our third year target (target, you will note - not estimate. We always know we could do well). For 2015, we're concentrating on retaining the customers gained during 2014, and growing the leisure traffic using services that still have lots of space. Undoubtedly it will be a challenge, with daily disruption from 18th July to 31st August while Box tunnel on the main Chippenham - Bath line is closed, but that will also give us opportunities on at least some days for direct trips that are not normally possible, but other days when many if not all trains are replaced by buses.
It's also good to hear of plans to recast the Sunday service from May; for the initial trial the extra services were merely shoe-horned into the existing availability and that worked well (with a few little exceptions) on Monday to Friday, reasonably on Saturday, and created a really irregular service on Sunday afternoons. By sorting this Sunday issue out, and by linking the TransWilts on beyond Westbury, the timetable planners and their masters are not only enhancing the service at no extra train cost, but also showing faith in the services from within the trial carrying on beyond December 2016.
Come March, we may hear details of a new franchise from September. Come May, we may have a new government. Come September, we'll have a new franchise - or perhaps even some other new arrangement if there's a big change to a new setup who prioritise changing rail. Come the end of 2016, we certainly need something in place to take the TransWilts service beyond December 2016 when the trial service has run its course, and we're certain to have major changes when electric trains are running to and through Swindon from 2017. The new structure of the TransWilts CIC, and the TransWilts CPR division, sets us up will for these interesting times - having regained an appropriate service to retain that appropriate services, and the public transport network they're a part of, into the future for the benefit of passengers, the rail operators, local government and the economy and quality of life of the area. (written 2015-02-12)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesZ408 - TravelWatch SouthWest 
HST Power Car TravelWatch SouthWest - (2008-03-01) 
Background to the TransWilts Train Fiasco - (2008-12-29) 
Listening to The Minister - (2009-10-05) 
Oliver Cromwell at Bristol Temple Meads - (2010-03-06) 
Random thoughts on Melksham Town Planning and development - (2010-03-08) 
Monitoring the success and traffic of your web site - (2010-05-01) 
Railway meetings, trips and meetups this autumn - (2010-09-12) 
Buses - what they cost and their future direction in the SW and in Wiltshire - (2011-03-06) 
How long is a speech? - (2011-03-29) 
Some advise for guest speakers at meetings - (2012-03-31) 
Community Transport - Pewsey, Taunton, and the whole picture too - (2012-10-06) 
Want to help us improve transport in Wiltshire? Here is how! - (2012-10-26) 
Report on the last year - Melksham Railway Developement Group for Melksham Without Parish Council - (2013-03-11) 
Train and Rail Travel - who runs it and where do I ask questions? - (2013-09-13) 
TransWilts Trains - running a successful campaign talk - (2013-10-05) 
Melksham to Bath and Zigzag buses - at a turning point? - (2013-10-06) 
Extended Weekend - but not a quiet one! - (2013-10-07) 
TransWilts / Press and Publicity report for AGM / 30th January 2015 - (2015-01-17)Z406 - 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) 
Some questions on how our Community Rail Partnership works - (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) 
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
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