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Effective web campaign?

"but how effective have you been ..." asks a post on the "Save the Train" website for which I'm the webmaster. The site is dedicated to the Swindon to Westbury, Salisbury and Southampton train service that's under threat, in spite of dramatic traffic growth and much more potential.

Frankly, the question stung. And I felt a repost of "and where have YOU been, what have YOU done" coming on to my newcomer poster. But a minute or two to calm, and the question's one that we should be asking ourselves ... and it could be for all I know that my newbie poster has only just moved to the line's catchment area from somewhere far away.

When the "Save the Train" website was set up, the Swindon to Southampton service withdrawal was a line item on page 32 of an SRA report. The consultation period had already passed with none of us train users even knowing it was going on, and just 7 submissions had been made in its favour. A "did you know this is happening?" letter in the paper alerted us.

The objectives of the site were to get the case for the current service, or a forward-looking modification of it, very seriously considered based on substantive evidence, rather than having it just swept quietly under the carpet but some Whitehall Mandarin. At that stage, I did not know the economic case and I wasn't going to commit to recommending any particular decision.

What has been achieved, then?

Derek Twigg (Minister at DfT) is still trying to sweep it under the carpet. His 20th June letter to me refers back to a snapshot survey taken around Easter 2005 on which the original decision was based, and he makes no reference what so ever to any later reviews. And he makes it look very personal - " I was sorry to hear that the re-timed services will be less convenient to him. I hope, though, he will understand that it is not always possible to satisfy all passengers with the train services they would like". He chooses to ignore traffic figures of 109,000 journeys per year, and pictures of packed trains to be cancelled from December that give lie to his argument.

BUT ... Derek Twigg and his DfT official, and their chosen service operators (the First group) HAVE had to listen to the case. The BBC's radio 4 interviewed Mr Twigg and asked him about the service (and he chose to talk about investment on the West Coast main line to 'answer' the questions). All 4 MPs with stations on the threatened section spoke in Westminster against plans and again, Mr Twigg had to listen and chose to talk about other issues instead in his reply. And I understand that they're very much aware of the continuing pressure, and disgusted at their decisions, through West and North Wiltshire.

As I write, it very much looks like the official policy remains "sweep it under the carpet", as it has been for the past year. My own view has changed over the year, though. As I've learnt so much about running trains, hire costs, timetabling, planning, capital cost, and politics, and more politics, I've moved from "don't know" about the future of the service to a conclusion that the current service of 5 trains a day is the MINIMUM acceptable in any reasoned argument, and that 8 trains a day is the optimum ... and that optimum is in a harsh economic environment. Take a "throw money in" attitude, and an hourly service is justified.

I'm pleased that we've made the case to this level. I'm delighted with all the support it's pulled in. Sure, I'm disappointed that I've not yet been able to post any sort of positive decisions based on hard facts.

Some wonderful side effects (and these also was back into the mainstream). The visit by the shadow transport secretary for transport augers very well for a change of policy, and services such as that through Melksham getting appropriate consideration under a Tory government, for example.

I choose my battles carefully, and this is one that I've chosen to be a part of with care - yet realising that chances of success were slim. Getting the government to change its mind was never going to be easy.

Could we have done more? Yes, if those of us who are involved didn't have other lives and could have been giving all our waking hours to the campaign. Yes, if we were good at putting ourselves forward - approaching officials as they walk up to their offices, raising awkward questions at council meetings, making "cold" phone calls. But everyone has their own skill and their own comfort level. And I do have to ask my original questioner "and how effective have YOU been, mate".
(written 2006-07-12, updated 2010-10-13)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
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  [109] URLs - a service and not a hurdle - (2004-11-04)
  [98] No more 'Error 404' pages. Something better. - (2004-10-24)
  [32] Web design platoon - (2004-08-29)
  [23] Skills and responsibilities - (2004-08-22)


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Simple polymorphism example - C++
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The Courts, Holt
Not shouting
undefined reference to typeinfo - C++ error message
Simple polymorphism example - C++
Effective web campaign?
The case for exceptions
References and Pointers in C++
Writing up new C / C++ notes.
Busy day in Melksham
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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