Melksham Train services for the next 15 years – to 2028

Train services improved – dramatically – on 9th December 2013. Up from 2 each way per day to 8 each way per day. And that’s a game-changing improvement.

Station facilities need an upgrade – and thats started already. As this update is being written around Christmas 2013, a new notice board has been installed, there are extra parking spaces, and there are more exciting things planned for early in 2014.

There is also the need to inform the local community. Five years ago, most didn’t even realise that they had a station in the town. It;s much more even now, but those who are aware have probably seen past publicity campaigning for an improved service, and may not realise it has happened.

We need, as a community partnership, to see significant use of the station, and the trains, in 2014. That will take us forward to the following franchising rounds in a string position. All eyes are on us, and the CRP is working fabulously well bringing together the community, the council and the rail industry.

Historic text … to be deleted soon!

At present, train services at Melksham are limited to just two services a day each way, to Salisbury at 06:37 and 19:11, and to Swindon at 07:20 and 19:48 (Monday to Friday), and at different times on Saturdays and Sundays. That’s a very sparse service indeed for a town of our size.

For the next franchise, the government has started discussions based on the current service throughout the South West. It is asking for consultation inputs to suggest where services should be changed.Amongst their objectives on this franchise are to:
• Provide appropriate capacity for passenger services which is affordable, and delivers value for money
• Ensure the overall passenger experience improves.
And that’s within the Department for Transport’s overall objectives to:
• Sustain economic growth and improved productivity through reliable and efficient transport networks;
• Enhance access to jobs, services and social networks.

Wiltshire Council, Chambers of Commerce across Wiltshire, the Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, community groups and rail organisations have been working together for the last year and have made a business case that meets all of these objectives, based on a service of 10 trains each way a day. This could mean trains from Melksham to Swindon at: 06:30, 07:20, 07:50, 09:50, 11:50, 14:05, 14:50, 16:50, 17:40, 19:48 and 21:16. and trains heading south from Melksham to Trowbridge, Westbury and (mostly) beyond at around 06:40, 08:10, 09:15, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00, 16:00, 18:00, 18:45, 19:20 and 22:30.

Furthermore, Wiltshire Council are bidding for local sustainable transport funding for improvements at Melksham station to include better parking and rail/bus interchange facilities. …. BID WON …. we’re on the way!

These improvements will be long overdue and would provide a real economic and social boost to Melksham, and fit in with the Department for Transport’s criteria.

If you feel that the improved service should be provided, let the Department for Transport know. They can be emailed at Copy your MP (Duncan Hames for Melksham).

The Options for the TransWilts …

How should we respond to the GW Franchise consultation?
The questions which are of particular interest for the TransWilts are:
21. Taking in to account the current service pattern and the future changes, respondents are encouraged to suggest train service changes that they believe will be affordable, deliver value for money and provide a strong commercial, social or economic case.
22. Respondents are encouraged to consider appropriate train times and service frequencies during planned disruption for the life of the new franchise. Respondents are also encouraged to consider alternative service propositions.
and also touching on
6. Respondents are encouraged to consider any changes to the services included in the Great Western franchise that they would like to propose as part of a remapping exercise.
9. Respondents are encouraged to bring to our attention research, evidence or publications which the Department should consider as part of this re franchising process.

We should respond to the consultation by answering in support of all the work that has been done and is outlined above, framing our answers to show how they have wide support and meet the objectives of the refranchise operation, and of the Department for Transport as a whole

DRAFT RESPONSEManagement Overview

* Services from Swindon to Westbury should run at least TEN times per day (Monday to Friday), EIGHT times per day (Saturday) and SIX times per day (Sunday) from the first timetable change of the new franchise under the forthcoming Great Western Franchise. ((That’s compared to two trains a day under the current franchise))
* Most of these trains should continue to Salisbury
* A similar service should be provided from Salisbury and Westbury to Swindon
* All trains in both directions should call at all stations

Picture – Joining the 19:35 train from Westbury to Swindon (TransWilts) train on a Sunday in August 2011. An extra trial morning service gave a practical day out opportunity to Weymouth, and was very well used (loading to up to 400 passengers on the TransWilts). Returning passengers in the evening used existing services, such as the 19:35 from Westbury to Swindon, pictured here. This train usually carries 20 – 30 passengers, but while the trial service was running in the morning it averaged around 240 people. It’s a good example of how an appropriate service for a flow can lead to additional traffic on existing services too.

The case for the level of service requested (10, 8, 6 round trips per day, M-F, Sat, Sun) has been well researched (see below) with a benefit to cost ratio for the improvements conservatively calculated at 2.74 to 1. No capital infrastructure investment is required in order for the trains to operate – they are within the capacity of existing facilities both before and after electrification / train replacements. Wessex Chamber of Commerce surveys representation businesses employing 11,000, and of 1,600 individual, confirm the theoretic case that the service is required, and a trial service operated on Sundays in the summer of 2011 consistently loaded very heavily indeed.

This request for a higher level of service on the Swindon to Salisbury (TransWilts) line is supported by Wiltshire Council’s Local Transport Plan 2011 to 2026, and by the current Wiltshire Council bit under LSTF (Local sustainable Transport Fund). It is also widely supported by rail user groups, special interest groups, local councils, MPs, businesses and the public (see Chamber of Commerce survey and trial service results)

The LSTF bid if successful will provide funding for the initial ramp-up costs of the service, which should be broadly self supporting within 3 years. Peak traffic both ways, very little seasonal change, serves many intermediate large towns, plenty of onward connections at both ends mean it is a regional link rather than a branch line. The LSTF bid will also providing funding for station improvements at some locations to handle dramatically increased traffic, including bus / car / cycle interchange.

South of Westbury, there are currently a number of occasional services running under the FGW franchise which were specified prior to additional trains being provided by South West Trains and Southern on the same routes, and often just a few minutes apart. It would be logical to review these, with services south of Salisbury being transferred to an operator with a depot in the area, rather than being operated from Bristol. The effect of these changes would be to make rolling stock available within the Great Western franchise to provide the improved TransWilts service. This proposal does NOT suggest service withdrawal, except where another service is available with 15 minutes either way and journey times are not extended by more that 15 minutes.