THE TransWilts Community Rail Partnership has been admitted as a full member of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) – a federation of over 50 community rail partnerships and rail promotion groups.
Sion Bretton, chair of the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership said, “This is really great news as it will guide us into activities which will help us promote the line efficiently – learning from those who have ‘been there, done that’ before so that we can maximise passenger knowledge, numbers and satisfaction over the next 18 months.
“As members of ACoRP, the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership will be able to tap into a wealth of knowledge and experience as we encourage more people to use the train services, and will be able to benefit from the nationwide marketing of community rail lines and services that ACoRP undertakes.
“Community Rail Partnerships are a bridge between the railway and local communities. They are about positive development, bringing together a wide range of interests along the rail corridor.
“The TransWilts Railway line runs from Swindon, via stations at Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge to Westbury, with services continuing or connecting to Dilton Marsh, Warminster and Salisbury. The service is operated by First Great Western. The TWCRP is a group of like-minded organisations seeking to make better use of the TransWilts railway line. The partnership aims to achieve positive, sustainable and imaginative development of the Trans-Wilts railway in ways which also benefit the places it serves, including enhancement of services to meet the current and future travel requirements of those places. It sees the line as an essential link for the local communities and businesses along the route, and as part of the projected strategic north – south rail link through an area experiencing major expansion. The TWCRP liaise with all interested parties to promote the social, economic and environmental prosperity of the local communities.”
First Great Western managing director Mark Hopwood said, “Throughout the First Great Western network community rail groups play a leading role, adding value to projects designed to improve services and make stations safer, friendlier and greener.
“With the recent launch of six additional TransWilts services a day, between Westbury and Swindon, we have worked in partnership with Wiltshire Council and the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership to improve rail links. I am delighted the community rail partnership has been recognised today by ACoRP.”
Horace Prickett, passenger transport portfolio holder for Wiltshire Council, said: “I am only too willing to support and enhance the appointment of the Transwilts Community Rail Partnership as members of ACoRP. This group have been working tirelessly for several years to make the connectivity of Wiltshire’s only cathedral city, Salisbury, and its largest conurbation, Swindon, truly possible. This service also provides Melksham with a rail service to Westbury/Trowbridge and Chippenham/ Swindon for the first time since the Beeching era cuts of the 1960’s. Thanks to the cooperative work of Wiltshire Council, who are supporting this service with a £4.25m grant over three years, the Transwilts group, who have kept a skeleton service alive for so many years, and the government’s funding of sustainable transport projects, rail connectivity across Wiltshire has become a reality.”
Passenger numbers on the new train services are encouraging, in spite of the poor winter weather, with many new rail journeys being made as locally as from Chippenham to Trowbridge, and as distant as Melksham to Glasgow.
Sustainable station improvements funded via an LSTF (Local Sustainable Transport Fund) grant from the Department for Transport are underway, such as a new larger shelter, connecting commuter bus and more parking at Melksham, and electric car charging points at other stations. CRP volunteers have already been undertaking a wide range of activities, such as leaflet distribution, keeping smaller stations tidy and welcoming, travelling on trains to provide usage feedback and identify local issues, talking to local meetings and groups, publicising via the web and facebook, and so on.