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Melksham’s recently improved train service under threat

Picture: Cllr Simon Gibbons, cllr John Thomson, Graham Ellis and Matthew Goulton of FGW welcome a train to Melksham Train Station

Picture: Cllr Simon Gibbons, cllr John Thomson, Graham Ellis and Matthew Goulton of FGW welcome a train to Melksham Train Station

MELKSHAM’S recently improved train service is under threat after the Department for Transport started a consultation which suggests a reduced service. 

Since the service from Melksham was increased in December passenger numbers have increased by 700% as many people have made use of the frequent trains that serve Westbury, Swindon and beyond.

However, the Department for Transport is currently consulting on the next train franchise across the Great Western area and this includes the TransWilts line. They are working out who is to run the line from the end of next year and with how many trains. In the consultation document it suggests a two-hourly service which is a reduction on the current service from Melksham which also has extra peak hour trains.

The reduction would see a 25% decrease in trains for the 2015-2020 franchise.

President of Melksham Chamber of Commerce Graham Ellis is urging people to write to the Department for Transport as that could help move services positively forward in Melksham.

He said, “It would be crazy to withdraw these trains. The improved service is carrying twice the number of passengers that was expected at this stage and is making a very real difference for many people. It’s allowing them to take new jobs, move home, make business trips, save money on travel, and even sell a car! And it’s providing new travel opportunities for those who cannot drive.

“But once again, there’s a threat of a change to services with a lot less trains in the future. At the same time there’s an opportunity for services to be efficiently enhanced when the main line in Wiltshire is electrified.

“I encourage everyone to write a letter to the DfT to ask for the services to move positively forward. I have every confidence that with a significant number of requests, we’ll be able to move forward positively.”

In spring 2005, just eight people responded to a request for suggestions from the Department for Transport on future TransWilts train services. That was seen as dis-interest, and services were slashed the following year. Graham Ellis added, “We live in different times to 2005 when the lack of responses meant that Melksham lost most of its trains, but never the less as a community we really meed to make lots of inputs.   The Chamber of Commerce response is already in, as a bit of a signpost that others might like to follow and in my role as Chamber President I’m encouraging others to write in too.”

“I would encourage everyone who wants to see the service go from strength to strength to write in.  We’ve provided a web page at www.railcustomer.info where you can find more information and add your support.”

MP joins in the fight to save service

MP Duncan Hames has also joined in the fight to save the Transwilts rail service as he has urged the Government to keep the new improved service at least at its current level when the new Great Western franchise begins in September 2015.

In a letter to Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, Duncan Hames raised his concerns about the way the current service is described in the Department for Transport’s consultation document for the specification of the new Great Western franchise. The current service between Westbury and Swindon is described as “a two-hourly service”, with no mention of the additional commuter services at peak times.

The MP explained to the Minister that the new service is, after just sixth months, proving popular and already beating expectations for passenger numbers. He also argued that cutting back to just a two-hourly service would “undermine the benefits both to those who use the services and the local economy”, and asked the Minister for his assurance that the Government intends for the service to be retained “at least at its current level of eight trains each way per day”.

Duncan Hames added, “In December I had the great pleasure of joining commuters to celebrate the launch of the new service. It’s something I’d worked on with the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership for a number of years, and I’m pleased that so many local people are benefiting from it.

“Now I am determined to make sure that we keep the new regular services we’ve worked so hard to secure, and am joining with local rail users to campaign for that.”


Prospective Conservative Member of Parliament Michelle Donelan has also shown support for the campaign by setting up a petition to ensure that the community voice is heard.

Michelle Donelan said, “In the new franchise document for the TransWilts line I want to see it clearly set out that there will be at least 16 stopping trains in total per day. There is the demand, and as our community have been using the service, we have seen a six times increase in passenger numbers.

“The service is helping support local businesses and attracting new ones into our town. It also gives locals the option of public transport which should start to help reduce congestion. We must not go backwards but forwards!”

Residents can sign the petition which can be found at: michelledonelan.co.uk/save-transwilts-train-service