Notes of a meeting held 1st December 2012
The TransWilts CRP sponsored a meeting of all Wiltshire and near-Wiltshire Transport User groups at the Laverton in Westbury to make sure we're excellently informed and co-ordinated to get the very best of changes that are happening and exciting opportunities that are around.
￼Notes of the meeting follow:
Warm welcome by Peter Blackburn. Mr Blackburn introduced Steve Petty and Richard Gamble and Graham Ellis. He said that no matter what your political views this is an issue that brings us all together.
Mr Blackburn then introduced Duncan Hames, Liberal Democrat member of the UK Parliament for the Wiltshire constituency of Chippenham, including Melksham, Corsham and Bradford on Avon.
Mr Hames: "Good morning a pleasure meeting with rail passenger groups. This is something I've been doing long before I was an MP. I consider myself a rail enthusiast, and find I am more productive on a train than sitting behind a wheel myself.
First point is we have seen a dramatic shift in how the Government addresses railways. Railways were seen as a liability in the government accounts, a subsidy that had to be limited. At a time when all government policy was focused on economy we could reposition our policy on the railways. Railways became a part of the solution. The transport infrastructure makes a serious contribution to the economy. The government is making the greatest investment in our railways since Victorian times. HS2, electrification of the railway in our part of the country. We need to be sensible over how fast these things can be done but there are very real opportunities too. Our credibility is not just based on cross-party initiative but also the civic voice, the community rail partnerships, community and business groups all singing with one voice to make Trans Wilts happen. I think this is understood in the Department of Transport too. I can give you my assurance that the people represented here and myself as a Wiltshire MP are determined that we shall see some reward for our efforts. Touched on the subject of disabled access to trains at Chippenham. Disabled access is one of the arguments we seek to use in making the case for extending electrification from Newbury to Westbury. The other major concern for me is what we can do for the people of Corsham to board a train without having to travel somewhere else. I am aware that over- demand on the track between Bristol and Swindon seems to be an absolute barrier today. I don't think the DofT envisages a way of achieving that prior to electrification
Finally a word about rail fares. On those rare occasions where I buy a standard open single to and from Paddington I feel robbed, on behalf of the taxpayer. I generally travel off peak and there are a lot of people who do the same. I take the view that priority must be to get investment into the railways. If cost of fares is top of our list I fear it undermines the rest of our argument but it is a very real concern."
￼Peter Blackburn thanked Duncan Hames and highlighted his remarks concerning disabled access. What came out of a recent transport event was that a mother with a child on one arm and a shopping basket on the other is in effect disabled. Disabled isn't 5% of the population, it's more like 50%.
Duncan addressed questions from the floor, including Kate Freeman who asked for a transformation in access to rail. The buses need better access to railway stations in Wiltshire. Richard Gamble said that Duncan's point about a sea-change in people using rail services had not yet been reflected in a change in people using buses but that there are signs of this happening.
In response to another question from the floor, Duncan Hames confirmed that under plans for electrification there will be trains from Temple Meads to Parkway and thence to Swindon but this will not be an exclusion to trains via Bath.
There followed introductions from each person in the room.
• Peter Blackburn, county councillor
• Richard Gamble, Wiltshire Council's transport portfolio holder
• Steve Petty Wiltshire Councillor and also ran a bus and coach
• David Jenkins Westbury Trainwatch
• Horace Prickett Westbury WWRUG
• Gordon King from Westbury
• Dominic Mckeown- Trans Wilts Community Rail Partnership
• Ian Cunningham - Westbury Train Watch
• Pam Roquette - Salisbury Walking forum rep
• Margaret Willmot - Salisbury CAP
• Lee Fletcher
• Scott Fulcher - "a bus and rail fan" (been to 2⁄3 of stations in uk)
• Howard Reed - Pewsey Train Watch rep.
• Colin Gale - Pewsey Comm Area Trans Group
• Paul Johnson former Westinghouse MD now local economic
• Kevin Gaskin Corsham area partnership and transport group and
First Group bus user panel
• Andrew Rolph ex-London Underground station planning officer
• Anne Lock from Corsham station campaign and town council
• George Bailey - Radstock action group - needs Frome to
Westbury onward rail link
• Roger Newman - WWRUG chairman. Also interested in bus/rail
￼interchanges such as they have in Finland. Is against predatory
• David Phillips Wiltshire Council officer
• John Yates from Transition Marlborough - keen on public
• Edward Glennie From Swindon
• Bill Wells Bedwin train passenger group
• David Redgewell TSSA re. devolution of local rail and bus services
within 50 miles of Bristol
• Nicholas Reid First's new Westbury station manager
• Pat Aves Melksham town councillor
• Kate Freeman chair transport group Devizes CAP and founder of
the Wiggly bus
• Anne Henshaw Calne area transport group and CAP and SCOB.
Wants all forms of transport considered including bike and foot.
• Heather Morris of Holt - chair of Neighbourhood Plan
• Dilton Marsh resident
• A lady from Westbury resident and ex commuter
• Nigel Bray Rail Future Severnside
• Lisa Ellis - very proud of Graham
• Phil McMullen - secretary Trans Wilts Community Rail Partnership
and co-ordinator of Melksham Community Area Partnership
• Graham Ellis - Meeting facilitator and press officer Trans Wilts
Community Rail Partnership
Graham Ellis said these are exciting times. So many of the cards are up in the air that we really can make a difference.
Thank you to Peter Blackburn, Graham Ellis, Duncan Hames.
I am not entirely sure what Graham had in mind for me to say when he offered me the subject "The Shape of Transport in Wiltshire", especially when he has listed against his name the meaty topics of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, the Great Western Franchise ITT, the TransWilts railway etc. I am, therefore, a little relieved that he has allowed me to speak before him, and I apologise if, when I touch on to those topics, I have also trodden on his toes!
So it may be wise if I start with buses. Bus services of one sort or another are a fairly significant part of Wiltshire Council's budget.
School transport is a statutory obligation. We spend nearly £9 million per year moving about 9,000 school children to and from school every school day. In times when budgets are challenged, this is an area where there is precious little room for manoeuvre although we have saved what we can by reassessing routes and contracts, etc.
￼There are still some places where we are spending money moving children a fairly short distance to school because there is no good footpath. In those places, I am keen to see if such a footpath could be provided, which would save money in the long run and would also be much healthier for the children. If any of you have ever been involved with footpath legislation, you may know that is easier said than done.
School buses are only used for a small part of the day, so those vehicles and those drivers are generally the ones that are available to provide public transport services during the rest of the day. The reason you may see an unreasonably large vehicle carrying only a few passengers is because that vehicle is needed for the school run in the morning and afternoon. It is much cheaper to use it, even for only a few passengers, than it is to put on a small vehicle at those other times.
We spend over £4 million per year subsidising public bus services at present. You won't be surprise if I say that we do not have enough money to subsidise regular bus services for everybody who wants them and needs them. Indeed, the budget continues to shrink and we are looking to save a further £260,000 this year.
In particular, we are reviewing services where usage is low. We have a policy guideline that says the maximum subsidy per passenger trip should be no more than £3.50, so any service that breaches this is under scrutiny.
It may be a little consolation to know that most other counties have done far worse.
Somerset is cutting £1.5 million from its subsidised services this year, which I think gets rid of almost all of them.
Hampshire has slashed £2.75 million from its bus budget. Gloucestershire has cut £2 million, a 40% reduction.
Yet bus services can be a lifeline to those who have no car and have no other access to the outside world. 17% of households in Wiltshire have no car and it is as much as 25% in Salisbury. Even for those families that do have a car, if one member has taken the car to work, for example, then anyone left behind at home is carless. On this definition 44% of households have limited access to private transport.
To save money in Wiltshire, we have retendered contracts and rationalised routes. Some services with a low priority, which includes some evening and Sunday services, have been withdrawn. So far, the programme of reviews has resulted in trimming rather than drastic cuts, but of course, for some, the resultant changes are still unwelcome. The pressures remain very great.
One of the groups most dependent on buses is the elderly. Of course most of these have a bus pass. Concessionary fares cost Wiltshire about £5 million per year. In theory we get this back from government in the formula grant from the DCLG but the calculation of this is not disclosed
￼so it is impossible to say if we receive a fair deal or not.
Some authorities think they are being short changed and the point was put strongly to Norman Baker at a conference I attended in Manchester a week or so ago. He denied any responsibility!
Going forward, a review of national policy on concessionary fares seems to be needed. In our area, a free bus pass will be of little use if there is no bus. A nominal payment of 50p or £1 per journey might be worth considering.
Overall, there is a real possibility that some areas may not receive the same level of service they have been used to. One possibility is that Community Transport can reach the parts that other bus services cannot reach.
Already there are 19 groups in the county providing services to their communities using minibuses. These might include routine shopping trips or journeys to day centres or regular outings to places of interest. These services compliment the many Link schemes that operate across the county, co-ordinated by Community First. Link schemes are a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable in the community and I applaud them. I know that there are a number of challenges in the Link schemes about finding drivers and about the distances that are sometimes involved to get to hospitals.
Last year Wiltshire provided over £330,000 to support these various services and the Wheels to Work programme through Community First. The challenge now is to see what more can be done.
The important part is that there is money available! Needless to say, it's not from Wiltshire's own pocket as I have already said we don't have any to spare. We have, however, received a grant from the Department for Transport, from something called the Supporting Community Transport Fund. The total that the government is putting into it is £20 million in two tranches, each of £10 million. We have got a share from each tranche of £240,595, so it's not far short of £500,000 in total and it all has to be spent by 2016.
It's important that we spend it wisely because the money is not ring- fenced. That jargon means that, although government has given Wiltshire Council the money to support community transport, Wiltshire is at liberty to spend it on anything it likes. In this case, if we cannot show to the cabinet that the first tranche of £240,000 has been well spent, the second tranche will be used for something else!
So we are working with Community First to help community transport groups with support, with grants and with loans to deliver more community transport services.
I should also mention one other fairly big spending area relating to buses, which is the Salisbury Park & Ride. We achieved significant
￼savings in the park & ride budget last year by changing from pay per car to pay per passenger and I think it went quite well in other ways.
Salisbury is the only place in our county to benefit from a Park & Ride system. It is also the only area where we have something called a Quality Bus Partnership which is a formal agreement between 3 bus operators, the Vision for Salisbury and the Council to deliver better bus services. It has already brought some reward because it helped us bid for about £400,000 from the Better Bus Area fund which was then supplemented by £900,000 from Wilts & Dorset for improvements in the city.
With them, we are now implementing a programme which will include new buses, route improvements, bike to bus lockers at some key sites and key fobs with bar codes which will be readable by smart phones to give you personalised access to the real time information system. We will not be implementing improvements to the bus station but we are working with them to make arrangements for when the bus station closes in the summer.
Also in Salisbury, we are working on improving bus/rail interchange facilities at the station using money from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. I could bore you all silly with what we have in mind there but, if you are a railway fan, they key idea is to re-open the entrance on the north side of the station. Our plans should also enhance the setting of the wonderful Brunel buildings there.
Graham is going to tell you more about the LSTF but let me say at this stage that we have £4.25 million of government money to spend by 2015 and about £1.5 million of our own. It is not just the rail service that is involved. There is a whole list of so-called complimentary measures. We are going to improve bus access at some of the other stations on the route, not least Melksham, and start a bus service to link Longleat with Warminster Station
We are going to improve cycle routes to stations, cycle parking at stations and cycle hire.
We are going to improve walking routes too
We may even install charging points for electric cars at some stations, which will be something of an experiment.
On the soft measures side, we will be promoting station travel plans, which have proved very successful in some other areas of the country.
And of course, we want an enhanced railway service on the TransWilts line between Swindon and Westbury as soon as possible. We had expected to have to wait until February or March to deal with that when we would know who the new franchise holders would be for the Great Western area.
￼Of course, we will not now know that so soon, and we do not know how long we have to wait, so we are talking with First Great Western and we hope they will agree to get things underway as soon as possible. It think Graham will be telling you more about this so I won't speak more upon it except to say that, when it comes, it will be down to the communities to make it a success so we have to think of everything we can to promote it.
I also want to thank Duncan Hames for pressing Simon Burns to get his support for this.
The franchise has itself raised all sorts of issues. Those of you who heard me speak at Westbury Area Board on 18 October will know my views. I hope you will forgive me if I repeat them here.
The franchise lays down the terms and conditions that DfT require for a company to run train services. Traditionally, it specified what train services the operator must run.
A new franchise means a new specification set by DfT. The first change is that, this time, the DfT has not specified what train services should run, at least not in the same detail as it did in the past. For example, the new specification says 20 trains must run each day from Exeter to London Paddington but it does not say how many of them must stop at Westbury before going on to London. That is left to the bidder.
Surely, you may say, the train operators would want to stop at Westbury because it is such a nodal point. 3400 people get on or get off trains there, so it's a fairly busy place. Saturdays are even busier. In fact growth on the Berks & Hants line services has been about 11% per year since 2007.
But we have no guarantee the operators will stop here. Indeed local authorities in Devon and Cornwall have been pressing very hard for their trains to get to London as quickly as possible and that means by- passing Westbury. And Westbury does have a by-pass, at least on the railway. By using the by-pass, trains save at least 71⁄2 minutes, which is the equivalent of two other stops, so that's a big incentive not to stop here.
In addition, I am concerned that the data available to train operating companies about ticket sales makes Westbury look less important than it is because ticket sales do not record all those people who change trains here. The figures I have quoted about usage are from Wiltshire Council's own surveys. They have not come from the rail industry.
￼What DfT has specified in the new franchise is how many trains in total must stop at Westbury. In fact, DfT said that at least 95 trains per day to stop here. That's quite close to the current figure and does not seem too bad until you realise that, in theory, all of those trains could be going north-south and none east-west. Or perhaps the train operating company could run a shuttle service, say, between Frome and Newbury, which would not be very helpful for people wanting to commute to London or to travel to Plymouth.
Following our representations to DfT about this, they have agreed to specify two fast trains to London from Westbury at peak hours. That's one in the morning and one in the evening, and the same coming back, but that's still well short of the current service.
So the first threat to Westbury is that, under the new franchise, it could lose most of its fast and semi-fast trains to London or its connections to the far South west, which are equally important. We have similar fears for Pewsey and Bedwyn. A significant drop in service is not certain, but it is a possibility.
It may, therefore, be a blessing to us that the franchise process has now been stopped. We don't know how long it will take before a new programme is clear and we do not know if there will be a new specification. We do, however, have a little more time to work on it.
The second threat is electrification. Sometime between 2016 and 2019, the Great Western main line will be electrified between Paddington and Swansea. The Berks and Hants line will be electrified only as far as Newbury. So when I said a few moments ago that a new operator might choose to provide services from Westbury only as far as Newbury, it was not said lightly.
There is quite a big incentive for train operators not to run diesel trains under electric wires if that can be avoided. Diesels are heavier and generally slower and more expensive than electric trains. Although there is some talk of bi-modal trains, that is both electric and diesel, there is no certainty or even probability that they would be used here.
So apart from those very few through trains a day that we have managed to squeeze out of the DfT, there is a real threat that other services on the Berks and Hants line will terminate at Newbury where passengers will have to change.
In my view, the best solution here will be to persuade government to finance electrification past Newbury to Westbury and beyond. Electrification is not overwhelmingly expensive. Network Rail tell me it is certainly possible and in many ways desirable from a train operating
￼point of view.
Thus, Glory Be, a recent delegation of MPs to Simon Burns managed to get him to agree that Network Rail would examine if this is possible. Network Rail have now been instructed to look at 4 stages:
From Newbury to Bedwyn
Extending from Bedwyn to Westbury - passenger use
Extending from Bedwyn to Westbury with connections for freight use The diversionary routes through Trowbridge to Bath
I hope you agree, it's a step in the right direction
Finally, and this is the closest I will get to mentioning roads, steps are currently underway to form a new Local Transport Board which is a partnership of Wiltshire, Swindon and the Local Enterprise Partnership whose role will be to deliver so-called Major Transport Projects from 2015 onwards. For this, the LTB will receive a proportion of the national funds in line with the population, so, for the first time, we will guaranteed our fair share of the national cake.
I don't think we should be over excited about that as our fair share of the national cake may only amount to crumbs, but they will be our crumbs and we have to figure out what to spend them on. For the detail of that as it emerges, watch this space.
That's more than enough from me. I apologise to Graham if I have touched on subject he will discuss.
I have not mentioned new railway stations at RWB, Corsham and Devizes although these are all mentioned in the Core Strategy, or Freight Transport or the Community Infrastructure Levy or Special Needs Transport or Connect2Wiltshire or parking or the Transport Strategies for Chippenham, Trowbridge Salisbury and Devizes. But if you want to ask questions on those or other matters I may get a chance later.
Graham Ellis. Introduced a quiz concerning people's knowledge of Wiltshire Transport issues.
Quiz on Wiltshire's Transport is at http://wellho.info/travelquiz
Touched on the next Great Western rail franchise. It's up to the TOCs to do as they wish which isn't always for the best - take Melksham for example.
￼LSTF looking to improve the service but also the joined up services. A green initiative that asks for more parking!
Touched on BANES reducing lorries - they want to remove over 300 lorries from the A36 and A46, which would mean they would have to travel via Beanacre and the north of Melksham to Westbury and beyond.
600 people surveyed say they would use the train service.
Noted that taxi drivers at Chippenham station are not keen on there being an improved trans-Wilts rail services - there are always winners and losers.
Improved information systems needed. 42 different train tickets to travel to London.
Graham's Presentation on how travel info should move forward for the county is located at the following address - http://www.twcrp.org.uk/cp1/
Kate Freeman - The role of the LEP. Local Economic Partnership. Concerned the word sustainability didn't appear at all. It seemed to be driven by road schemes.
Gordon King - information about train use but what we realty need are the economic arguments for the effect on the Wiltshire economy. Can Richard work with portfolio holders in other areas to find out what the effect overall might be
Pewsey are most concerned about what might happen to our trains under the new franchise. We have no guarantees under the ITT that we can do anything but watch trains fly by
Lack of joined up thinking and how local community views can get fed into it. Bus rail interchange at Salisbury needs to take into account closure of the bus station. Local people need to know how they can feed their views into this, and the air quality action plan, Salisbury has the second worst in Wiltshire after Bradford on Avon
I have looked at all the documents - the core strategy, the transport strategy etc., where amongst all the forward calculations where is the percentage calculated on the demographics. We are an aging
￼population. There is soon going to be a tipping point between those being supported and those doing the supporting. Perhaps we should serious think about what we're going to be providing in ten to fifteen years time. The demographics are going to change the whole county.
Scott - Where is Lydeway? It's the old Patney and Chirton, the nearest rail point to Devizes. Further, is there a financial case for the 265 bus to run hourly? Then looking at the Melksham case - Warminster has an erratic service. Is it not possible for the Dilton Marsh service to run through Melksham?
Dominic - concerns over the bus service. Lives in Frome and regularly catches the 234 to Trowbridge. To get to the White Horse Business Park you have to join the 265 in Trowbridge but you cannot buy a through ticket. There is none available. It's also really badly advertised, there is no way of knowing where to change.
Colin - problem with transport and hauliers. Hauliers are switching to 12 wheelers and using non-A roads
Reopening of stations. Wilton and Porton - the latter has a new science park and it's growing very fast. Wilton also has major new developments.
Ann. Campaign for better transport Bath & Wiltshire. Concerned about linkages between Wilts and Bath and Bristol. Faresaver example - the traffic commissioner needs to be in a position to say when the service should be run. Paul Johnson LEP and Richard Gamble Wiltshire Council should be in a position to influence this.
David - the TSR. This is what the DFT is going to pay for the stations. The Train Service Requirement everyone needs to concentrate on. Concerns too about terminating trains at Bath. The Greater Bristol metro HAS to run through to Frome and Warminster etc. We have to cooperate. Finally, I am shocked at the closure of the bus station in Salisbury. The issue needs urgent discussion with the Go Ahead Group and everyone else.
Richard Gamble responded:
Kate - LEP & projects being sustainable. This is going to be in the hands of the new local transport body, which isn't formed yet. 2013.
Gordon - the economic case for ensuring electrification comes to Westbury. Wholly agree. Ditto Pewsey services. Margaret mentioned
￼public consultation on bus station in Salisbury - it's a private exercise, the bus station is owned by the Go Ahead group. There may be other alternatives, we don't know yet. As far as changes to the bus rail interchange at Salisbury station is concerned, it's imperative as the money has to be spent sooner than we have time to consult in.
Ann talked about aging population. Much talk of the Graph of Doom in Manchester last week, in time everything will be spent on looking after the elderly and nothing left. ADEPT are suggesting that the people who run adult car services should come and talk to us about cuts to their budget.
Scott's Dilton Marsh linked to the Trans Wilts is difficult because of the income offset as soon as you go beyond Westbury. We do have an ambition to extend the services all the way to Salisbury.
Dominic and the 234 service - this is a commercial service, First and Faresaver, so Richard Gamble is unable to influence and only advice. Wholly agree that buses need to be marketed better. Maybe Tesco ought to take over the marketing! "Heaven forbid", said an audience member.
Reopening Porton Down - the old station is a garden centre so have to look at a new site. Ingleston? As for Wilton I think I would rather look at extending the park and ride there.
The traffic Commissioner is a great idea. And a Chippenham Bath partnership is also a great idea.
Steve Petty - retired bus and coach operator. I use a bus pass all over England. Wiltshire has a mountain to climb in terms of bus services. Steve ran through his six slides and spoke knowledgably from a bus operator point of view. EG if you wish to operate a bus over a route you have to give 56 days notice of your intention and describe in full routes and stops, type of bus, etc. This applies to community buses as well. Of course, everyone else will try and copy your intentions - minibus operators etc.
Referred to the VOSA website - http://www.dft.gov.uk/vosa/
Mentioned that he used to run Salisbury market day buses from Melksham that were very well attended, as by regular bus it can take 4 hours each way.
Regarding Trowbridge - I supported the new development because buses get a good deal out of it, although walkers and cyclists are less
Buses have to run no more than 2 mins early or 5 minutes late (despite the weather) and must feature destination boards (something a lot of school buses often forget).
Point made from floor that it's difficult to find out how much buses are going to cost - particularly as a lot of them state it's "correct fare only"
Ann asked - rail franchising, are bus services the same? Steve - most are 3 or 4 year contracts, but there is a 12 week window.
Kate asked about the number 33 bus from Devizes. Isn't it quicker for it to go from the High Street? Also, how do we find out about registered routes? Steve answered - the Council has a record of registered routes. As for the 33, when I ran it did used to go from the High Street. We had no problem with delivery wagons in the High Street.
Where should we go from today? What are people's concerns? Is there anything that we haven't covered today?
Do we hold another meeting? (Confirmed - see below) Do we compile a report?
A better structure?
Richard Gamble - We have covered a wide range of topics today, but all of these points are useful. It does colour my thinking and that of the council as a whole. These are challenging times both in terms of budget and externalities. Both the train and bus companies are working in difficult times. BSOG has been reduced (Bus Services Operators Grant). Lots of those mixed points. We need to focus some of these ideas - rails, buses and roads.
Paul Johnson - Let it be understood that this is not an official LEP response, but I found today extremely useful. I came here to listen but from my own experience, there is a lot of information available: the JSA, even the Office of National Statistics. Except in key areas - and these are the use of the timetables and networks. Graham's work has been exceptionally useful. There are clearly a lot of local interest groups. The opportunity is to provide a Connected Wiltshire - joining all the local interest groups together. You can't make a case for Westbury in isolation but you can make a case for electrification through to Exeter which goes through Westbury. You need to form a cross-Wiltshire group. The Connecting Wiltshire website we've worked with for example, includes freight, transport, broadband. We'd envisaged with
￼the Connecting Wiltshire website that you would have the capability of making information available in a single place. That would answer one of the big information questions that have been raised today. It's extraordinarily difficult to know which bus to take and which train to catch. The success of the Trans Wilts Service in 3 years will depend on people knowing about it and wanting to travel on it. So, it would be really great if you could come up with some kind of partnership body. There are infrastructure funds in the LEP budget. You need a coordinated view. You need a clear vision of what you want to deliver of Wiltshire. We still only see special interest groups appear at the Wiltshire Transport Alliance meetings. But you can only deliver an integrated view. Get everyone using buses and rail.
Kate - a huge thank you to Graham and his team for organising this long overdue gathering. One of the most interesting things today was your quiz, Graham. That ought to be on all our Community Area Partnership websites.
(PMN: It's already to be found on the Melksham Community Area Partnership website, located here: http://melksham.communityarea.org.uk/parish-groups/travel-and- transport/ )
I suggest we have a regroup in February. It's extremely urgent that we get together again.
Graham Ellis: I have already booked this same venue (the Laverton, Westbury) for 2nd February 2013 for the next meeting, which will be looking especially at ITT and developments forward on the rail side.
Graham added, I run the www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop forum. We can put an integrated transport forum on there so we can all discuss matters there.
One more thing - huge thanks to Dominic for all his hard work in setting up the venue and arranging refreshments etc.
Notes: Philip C.E. McMullen, Secretary - Trans-Wilts Community Rail Partnership
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
3rd October 2012
Just as bids for the next Great Western Franchise were being finalised - they were due to be submitted to the Department for Transport by 25th October - the new Transport Secretary has "paused" the process, while enquiries take a look at the West Coast franchise which was awarded in the summer, but has now been suspended as it was considered to be seriously flawed. We await further news ...
30th July 2012 - See [here] for our May 2012 presentation to bidders.
This is a "powerpoint style" presentation of the headlines (follow links on underscores!!); some 17 Mbytes of backup reports are available for (or already have been provided to - in most cases) interested parties. Some of that data cannot be published for copyright reasons but please ask if you would like to see a copy.
The "May case" actually only needs minimal trimming in light of the ITT ... the main change being the removal of one of the [very much less positive] options that has now been excluded.
The TransWilts is no local branch line - it's a connectional artery that interfaces to other services at Chippenham and Swindon in the north, and at Trowbridge, Westbury and Salisbury in the South. There is a great deal of further information in the ITT which we are now studying (in the south in particular) prior to further comment and any further fine tuning.
27th July 2012 - The Department of Transport has published the invitation to tender (ITT) for the 15 year period from July 2013 to 2028 for the "Great Western" franchise.
The Department for Transport has today issued the Invitation to Tender (ITT) for a train service operator for the period 21st July 2013 to July 2028 to the four shortlisted bidders- First, Arriva, Stagecoach and National Express. We anticipate that the ITT will be made public in the near future.
The TransWilts CRP is delighted to see that service to Severn Beach, Falmouth and Barnstaple which have been locally enhanced success stories under the previous franchise are consolidated within the new franchise specification, and that the ITT calls for prices options for further services such as additional TransWilts services on both weekdays and Sundays. These confirms the path forward for an appropriate service - as both a part of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and associated Wiltshire Council sponsored improvements, leading on to the consolidation of the service into the full national network for the foreseeable future.
The Community Rail Partnership is already in direct touch will all four bidders at a senior level, and helping each of them gain the best understanding of local needs and aspirations so they can bid for a service of maximum benefit. We are also working closely with the existing service provider to ensure good preliminary work prior to the start of the new franchise. It should be noted that at franchise change, operational staff, trains and facilities are transferred to the new operator; ongoing work and relationships will continue, and we can carry on building the success of the new TransWilts services through whichever company puts in the successful bid.
DfT Press release states, under options:
TransWilts Rail (Phase 1) Additional weekday rail services and reinstatement of Sunday services from Salisbury to Swindon via Melksham
The ITT itself, released later in the day, is a heavy document on which further comment will follow.
27th June 2012 - The Department of Transport announced that Wiltshire Council was successful in its £4.25m bid which will help boost the economy and encourage people to use sustainable transport. The bid, entitled "Improving Wiltshire's Rail Offer" is under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
The TransWilts Community Rail Partnership has been in support of Wiltshire Council's bid, and congratulates the Council on the success of the bid. We note with pleasure that the Department for Transport has approved the bid fully rather than partially funded, and we look forward to working with Wiltshire Council to bring all the various elements in the package together.
"Successful projects were those judged to perform well against the twin objectives of supporting the local economy and facilitating economic development, while reducing carbon emissions. They also demonstrated potential to deliver wider social and economic benefits, to improve safety, to bring about improvements to air quality, or to promote increased levels of physical activity." says Norman Baker MP, announcing the decision.
There is now a common concensus, based on considerable research - consultancy reports, Network Rail studies, surveys and a trial service that a train service at a minimum interval of 2 hours (hourly at peak) will bring substantial economic and quality of life benefit to the areas served. It has also become apparent during that research that a high proportion of travellers require onward travel facilities from stations along the line; the limited existing infrastructure to support such multimodal journeys would quickly become stretched by a new train service without enhancement, and indeed that extra infrastructure will encourage new journeys and journeys to convert from other less sustainable modes than would be the case without it. The research has also forecast a three year ramp-up period for passenger levels, requiring a degree of operational funding coverage. After that point, the service should be cost-neutral or approaching such, and carry on without considerable seed subsidy under longer term arrangements. A proportion of the seed funding has been promised by local government in addition to the £4.25 million - a real example of everyone working together.
What does the announced package mean for Wiltshire, for the TransWilts Rail line, businesses and people along the line, and for the Community Rail Partnership?
It means that the funding is in place to improve station infrastructure - bus access, cycle access, car parking, walkways, information systems, and other station and near-station facilities. There's funding too for specific station to town / attraction link services. And there's also seeding money within the total package, which includes an extra local contribution too, to cover the gap between operational costs and income in the build-up period.
A direct train from Swindon and Chippenham, via Melksham to Trowbridge and Westbury (at least) with a maximum gap of 2 hours between services, will allow:
• Practical public transport commuting from Melksham, Trowbridge and Westbury to Chippenham and Swindon
• An opening up for business visitors from outside the area via Swindon and Chippenham to Melksham and Trowbridge
• Public transport links from Swindon and Chippenham to Trowbridge, Westbury, Warminster and Salisbury
• Hourly trains (change at Trowbridge or Chippenham) from Melksham to Bath, Bristol, Filton (Abbey Wood), etc
• Leisure opportunities such as days out to Weymouth, to the South Coast, Salisbury, London, etc.
And this will reduce journeys that need to be made on the A350 road, and parking requirements and congestion in towns such as Chippenham and Swindon.
"Funding in place" does not mean that an operator has been identified and that we have a start date for the trains. At present, four companies (Arriva, First, National Express and Stagecoach) are tendering to operate franchised services over the whole of the South West of England, including on the TransWilts line. At the TransWilts CRP we are in touch with all bidders at a senior level, and helping to inform them as to key local factors and how the service will be best constructed and tailored to provide a maximum of benefit to our area, as well as being operationally sound and financially beneficial for them. We will continue to be in touch with them all through the bidding process, and we are delighted that they wish to engage (and are doing so). A fifth company - Go-op - is also looking to run a Westbury to Swindon service, which would continue to Oxford and Birmingham. Should their plans come to fruition in a similar timescale to a potential franchised service - or indeed at a later point after such a service has startd, their service will be most welcome. Analysis shows that an hourly service would result in trains being even busier than trains on a two-hourly service, so they would compliment rather than compete.
The LSTF application and linked plans cover funding for a Swindon to Westbury service every 2 hours, but the LSTF bid includes significant elements in transport linkage at stations to the south - Warminster and Salisbury - too. At the refranchise, questions have been raised about the shape of the services south of Westbury which run in addition to the Cardiff - Portsmouth expresses. Without moving any existing rail customer journeys by more than a few minutes, existing resources can be reused to allow for either an extension of the TransWilts service to Salisbury, or for an excellent same-platform connection to be made at Westbury for the journey onward, service intermediate stations at Dilton Marsh and Warminster.
For the Community Rail Partnership, this announcement brings a lot of hard work - already started in our discussions with the Franchise bidders. When the new franchise (and any other) services start, we want to help champion them and promote them - and their connections - to a high standard such that they can be enhanced and developed further as appropriate. We already have some successes achieved - the southbound Sunday service, timetable changes to improve Westbury connections, and the very successful trial summer service last year. And just within the last few weeks, a fare anomoly that we were pressing to have corrected has indeed been corrected, reducing the cost of anytime ticket from Swindon to Salisbury on direct trains by over 50%.
Update - June 2012
1. We are now working with the four bidders to ensure that they're fully informed prior to submitting their bids in the autumn. See [here].
2. The summer Sunday trial that was run in the summer of 2011 will not be repeated in the summer of 2012. Quoting the BBC: "Simon Doggett, from First Great Western, said the service would not be re-introduced this year as it "coincides with the Olympics".". See full article [here]. We did try - but this is a very difficult year for other reasons too like the lack of people available to plan services as they're busy bidding for the next franchise, and we all need to concentrate on a proper, 7 days a week service. Once we achieve that, you'll be able to go to Weymouth on any day and we'll reduce the overcrowding on occasional trains that happened on the 2011 trial service to the extent that it proved to be an operational challenge.
The TransWilts line is included in the Great Western refranchise, currently being re-awarded for the period April 2013 for around 15 years.
We have asked under the franchise consultation for a service of 10 trains each way per day (Monday to Friday), 8 on Saturday and 6 on Sunday. That's been evaluated as an appropriate service level under numerous studies, which meets the Department for Transport's request for "suggestions train service changes that will be affordable, deliver value for money and provide a strong commercial, social or economic case".
Full consultation response at http://www.twcrp.org.uk/DfT_GWconsultation_TransWilts.pdf. Cover letter may be read [here]
Inputs closed on 31st March. Many thanks to everyone who wrote in to provide extra data and support the case for a service level of around 10 trains per day, each way, calling at all stations.. The Department for Transport will issue the invitation to tender document, tuned as they feel appropriate to take note of consultation inputs, in May. Bidders will have until October to prepare and submit their bids and an announcement will be made in December 2012 as to who is to operate train service across the South West from 28th April 2013. Shortlieted bidders are
• National Express
All are experienced rail operators and we look forward to working with all of them if they would like local input to help tune their bid to provide the best for the area and for their overall objectives too, and we look further ahead to working with the winning bidder to help make the very most of the TransWilts line - for operator and rail user alike - for the foreseeable future.
• Hugely successful trial service last summer - we worked with First Great Western, Network Rail, the Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce and local sponsors .. and an extra train service ran from Westbury to Swindon and back on Sunday mornings in the high summer.
That was over 2000 days out over just 8 Sundays
• We now have the five key elements - Reports, surveys and trial results to point the way forward to service amendment to a more appropriate service in the next franchise which will be awareded for services from 2013 onwards.
See [here] for a full status report / presentation given to the Melksham Area Board of Wiltshire Council in late 2011.
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The TransWilts Community Rail Partnership covers the railway line from Swindon to Salisbury, via Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge, Westbury, Dilton Marsh and Warminster to Salisbury. The Partnership works in conjunction with business organisations, the rail industry, government at all levels, and local groups to encourage the development and use of services on the line, and the improvement of stations and other facilities.
Successes so far
* An extra train - the 18:19 (Sunday), Swindon to Westbury
* Information screen (not just a button!) at Melksham
* Timetable leaflets for Dilton Marsh - produce and distribute
* Retiming of Saturday Westbury -> Swindon service to provide connection
* Extra stop at Dilton Marsh in early evening service from Warminster
* Retiming of early Swindon to Southampton service to connect to London at Westbury
* Providing an enabling environment for current service improvement works
* Day trips to Weymouth and the Thames Path, Santa Specials with MRDG
Projects in the pipeline ... AND HAPPENING
All Along the line ...
* An improved train service - up to a level appropriate for the line
* Publicity via press and other media to encourage use of the line
* Day out, "use your train", trail and timetable leaflets
* Special trips
* Station Adoption << 8 members have been safety briefed
* Flower Beds
* Decoration of Shelter
* Connection through to Foundry Close
* Additional Parking
* Additional Information Boards
* Adoption and clearing of waste land by station entrance
At Dilton Marsh
* Decoration of Shelter
* Leaflet holder / timetable leaflet distribution
Some of these things we have done, others suggested, others asked for. It's clearly impossible to know which id any of the suggestions would have come up anyway, and which others may have asked for and got!. But we do have excellent communications with Wiltshire Council, First Great Western, Network Rail and the Department for Transport.