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A GOVERNMENT Minister has visited Melksham station to see the recent and ongoing improvements.
Stephen Hammond, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport was accompanied on the visit by Michelle Donelan, Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Chippenham.
Melksham had its rail service increased to 16 trains per day in the last annual timetable change, thanks to a local sustainable transport fund (LSTF) grant from the Department for Transport, and co-operative working between all parties – the Government (both Liberal Democrat and Conservative elements), Wiltshire Council and First Great Western.
Chair of the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership Sion Bretton said, “The improved service has already boosted passenger numbers using the TransWilts – both through passengers and passengers to and from Melksham, and we are delighted that all the mainstream political parties, and experts in local government and in the rail industry are all working co-operatively together to improve the facilities and services further for the benefit of the economy of the area, residents, business visitors and tourists.”
The Minister and parliamentary candidate were shown the following improvements at the station which are already complete and in use: • Poster board (under the lights) and posters • Station name signs • Help point with button to real person and display screen • Line markings on road • Bus stop for town community minibus • Commuter “Rail Link” bus service • Remarked parking spaces and taxi space • Temporary additional car parking.
Further improvements are scheduled in the coming months including new larger and lit shelter, planters and flowers, CCTV, ticket vending machine, cycle rack improvements, A350 underpass improvements, A350 footpath / cycle lane widening, permanent additional car parking, link through to Foundry Close for pedestrians and cycles / to cafe and residential areas, link through to Foundry Close for buses, raised table at entrance and a bus stop on main road for full length passing services.
President of the Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry Graham Ellis said, “Previously, the service was poor and trains underutilised, but early figures indicate a seven-fold increase in passenger numbers already. Studying other Wiltshire towns with long established rail services, we expect a further seven-fold increase in passenger numbers over the next seven years is likely. That will take the number of passenger journeys per day up from 11 to 500. Information systems are key in developing this new service too – with Wiltshire Council’s ‘Connecting Wiltshire’ projects working hand in hand with volunteers and the rail industry and First Great Western publicity machines to help newcomers to rail – in a town which hasn’t had a useful train service for years.
“It’s a real pleasure to see how everyone’s working together – cross party and cross discipline – for the very real benefit of the community. It’s early days for the improved service yet, but already we’re seeing data telling us that we’re headed towards a service that will be sustainable as part of the main rail network into and through the next franchise. And it’s already making a real difference for individuals and businesses.”
Below: Stephen Hammond, Michelle Donelan, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Chippenham and Sion Bretton, chairman of TransWilts Community Rail Partnership.