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AN improved train service running through Melksham on the Westbury to Swindon line could be operating by Christmas.
Council leaders gave the go-ahead on 22nd October for the Trans Wilts Rail Service, and for a detailed contract to be negotiated with train operator First Great Western (FGW). It is hoped the new service will be ready to start operating on 8th December.
A draft timetable drawn up by FGW has an additional six trains a day in each direction from Monday to Saturday, meaning there will be one train approximately every two hours, including early morning and evening services in both directions.
There will also be an additional four trains on Sundays throughout the year, with at least one seasonal service connecting with the existing Westbury-Weymouth service in each direction. The subsidised Trans Wilts Rail Service forms part of Wiltshire Council’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund project. Funding for the project comes from a Department for Transport (DfT) grant and will support the improved service for three years. Further information about the project can be found at www.connectingwiltshire.co.uk.
Work on developing the improved train services through Wiltshire stopped in late 2012 after central government paused and then terminated the rail re-franchising process. The negotiating and subsequent awarding of a new franchise agreement to FGW by the DfT at the beginning of October meant planning for the Trans Wilts service (included in the franchise as a priced option) could resume. John Thomson, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for highways and streetscene and broadband said, “The improved Trans Wilts Rail Service is an important part of the council’s commitment to reducing inequality by ensuring better access to public transport for communities.
“The expanded service will soon be running and bringing real social and economic benefits to the people of Wiltshire; however it is important local people use and support the service to ensure it is viable into the future.”
First Great Western director Mark Hopwood said, “First Great Western has worked hard with Wiltshire Council and the Trans Wilts Community Rail Partnership to secure these additional services. We are delighted with today’s decision, which will enable us to provide an extra six trains a day in each direction. This is great news for passengers, allowing both commuters and leisure travellers a good value alternative to taking the car.”