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Author Topic: Which of our marketing for the TransWilts is effective?  (Read 5045 times)
grahame
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« on: April 13, 2014, 04:49:50 PM »

Numbers are encouraging as regular readers will know ... but we can't rest on our laurels. We (TransWilts CRP) need to keep informing people about the services; still too many people say "I thought it was just 2 trains a day" or "I don't know there was a station in Melksham".  Please can I ask everyone who reads this to complete one of our surveys - it doesn't matter if you live in the area or not, as we need to reach potential passengers far and wide and the survey does ask for at least part of your postcode so that we can geographically analyse the results.

Here comes the standard post being used across other media ...



Passenger numbers using the new TransWilts trains between Swindon and Westbury are already encouraging. We (at the Community Rail Partnership) have a very limited marketing budget, and to make best use of that money we need to know which ways of reaching people have worked, and which haven't. Can you tell us / help us, please, by completing the survey at Survey Monkey - https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/896VYVP - or at My Evolve - http://bit.ly/1lTKose (which will offer you other surveys relevant to you too). We'll be collating answers after 27th April 2014, and your inputs will help us plan our information distribution for the summer.

Any questions - please ask. Or take a look at the TransWilts web site at http://www.twcrp.org.uk/ . And THANK YOU for taking the time to tell us where we've been effective, and for sharing this  .

Illustration - passengers board the 09:47 from Melksham to Chippenham and Swindon yesterday (Saturday 12th April 2014). Looks busy, but there are still plenty of spare seats on the train!

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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2014, 04:47:20 PM »

Many thanks to those people who have completed our survey on the ways we've been informing people about the new TransWilts (Swindon to Westbury via Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge) train service.  We'll be doing a full analysis of the results next weekend when the survey has closed (and you can still take part via https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/896VYVP if you wish - PLEASE DO).   We have been assisted by the Melksham Community Area Partnership on this survey, and indeed much of our marketing activity has been in Melksham, where the new service has provided a fourfold increase in trains to a resident population that hasn't had a viable service for many years.  Thus the responses have a Melksham bias, and are primarily guiding us towards our ongoing marketing in this town.

23  out of the 76 respondents so far have taken the time to write in a suggestion / question / request / note of thanks to the team that's helping to provide the new service (and in turn as a member of that team - THANK YOU for those comments). Of those 23, 12 have provided us with an email address so that we can answer questions raised and keep them informed, and 11 have chosen not to do so.  And where someone has gone to the trouble to ask a question, or to make a suggestion, I'm delighted ... and I'm going to answer each in turn here.  In a few cases, works are changed to protect the identify of the questioner.  And I'm going to group the questions to help you find answers:

On FARES (section 1)

On INFORMATION (section 2)

On SERVICE TIMES AND FREQUENCY (section 3)

On GETTING TO TRAIN SERVICES (section 4)

On OTHER TOPICS (section 5)

Comments marked "(A)" are anonymous / no email address has been provided to us so we are unable to get back directly to the author ... however, we have answered the points raised as others may find them useful.

-----------------------------------------

1.1 Lowering the cost of train fares to make train travel an affordable option to use. I would love to use the train more often, but I simply cannot afford it.

1.2 Melksham station needs a ticket machine.

1.3 It is really great news for Melksham that the number of trains has been increased. However the prices of tickets are still very expensive, and I feel that there should be more promotion of the discounted fares above, which I knew nothing about. To me there is much confusion when booking a rail ticket, with so many ticket types..I do not understand them all, and will go for the cheapest option every time.

1.4 More information regarding fares.

The fare system is complex - probably much more complex than it needs to be, and it's daunting for the newcomer.   There are some very good (i.e. low) fares available, but if you choose to travel first class, at peak time, and buy your ticket on the day (so that the train operator has to provide places just in case people travel) then you may end up paying a lot of money.  We have written an introduction to the various fare types - a series of key points to look at to see if you can get a better price - it's at http://twcrp.info/bestfares . Even that just provides pointers - you'll also be offered many more fares if you look up your journey on line - plan it via the First Great Western web site (for example) at http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk .   Point to point fares are all listed at http://www.brfares.com/#home . Railcards at http://www.railcard.co.uk/ .Season tickets prices at http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/service/seasonticket/search . Ranger and rover tickets at http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/rangers_and_rovers.aspx .  And these sites range from excellent to awful in terms of how you can find information - which is sometimes so complex that not even the official people who help you when you phone up will actually give you the best value fare!

"Tickets are very expensive" is - in my view - something of a myth.  SOME ticket prices are indeed very expensive, others are not.  Melksham to Swindon, ^9.20 return in the peak (^38.00 for a seven day season ticket, ^6.70 off peak return, ^3.35 off peak return per person if travelling in a group of 4) strikes me as pretty good value.  A First class return to London (Paddington) from Melksham at ^250.00 is - for most of us - a lot of money. But a superoffpeak return at ^50.00, or ^25.00 per person in a group of 4, is good value.

The big problem for newcomers is finding the right fare.

Suggestions:

1. Try out your journey on the First Great Western (or any other train company) website http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk and see what it offers, or try out the "Cheapest Fare Finder" on the National Rail website - http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/service/farefinder/search

2. Telephone National Rail Enquiries on 08457 48 49 50

3. Ask at the ticket desk at a staffed station.

4. If you join the train at a station where it's not possible to buy your ticket, ask the train manager for his/her advise.

5. Ask members and supporters of the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership.  We have a number of members who have a great deal of knowledge of the fares system and how to get good value for your journey. See http://twcrp.info/forum email info@twcrp.org.uk or call on 0845 459 0153 . Please note that we're railway passengers / members of the community just as you are, but we're happy to share what we have learned to help you travel in a cost effective and legal way.

There is, indeed, a need to provide better information on the fare options to people.  The problem is that with so many options, how should we make sure that the right information reaches the right people?  I'm not sure that we always can, but we can certainly learn how to improve.

A ticket machine is scheduled to be installed at Melksham station in the near future.  In the mean time, please buy your tickets on the train for travel on the day.

Train travel isn't free ... and there will always be people who find it expensive. But the cost of running trains has to be paid for somehow. The ConnectingWiltshire web site (http://www.connectingwiltshire.co.uk) gives a cost of driving from Melksham to Swindon of ^13.00 (plus perhaps parking costs)  (so that's ^26.00 return), compared to a return train ticket, peak time, of ^9.70 . The journey is 28 miles - so that's 17p per mile for the train.   Within Wiltshire, the train is often even less expensive than the bus.  I'm sorry if you can't find the ^9.70 (or ^6.70 off peak) fare for a trip to Swindon ...

-----------------------------------------

2.1 I think the train fares, train times should be easier to find. More ppl may use the train if. This information was available easier.

2.2 There is no information at my local station.    There is no information at Bath station, so fas as I can ascertain: e.g. Melksham does not appear on the posted lists of destinations on the eastbound platform [compare with Severn Beach, which DOES appear!]    There is no small FGW pocket timetable for the route, even though similar exists for most if not all other routes.  [Yes, I know it appears on the bigger, stapled, Paddington - main-line-to-South-Wales-and-branches timetable, but that's not the same as a handy, local timetable.    There's probably more that could be better - I think the FGW effort has been lamentable; they clearly aren't interested in the success of this operation.

2.3 Posters & up to date information in Melksham Tourist Information centre (A)

The Community Rail Partnership provides and restocks timetables and selected other leaflets in the Melksham TIC, at the library and at the town hall. And we supply some poster too.   It's up to the TIC what they display, as they have limited space - but to my knowledge there have always been current timetables on the shelves since the train service improvements last December, and we will work to ensure that remains the case.

But the whole issue of providing the right information to the right people is massively complex.  With over 2500 stations on the national rail network, there are over 6 million possible different journeys. And with lots of different fares available in most cases, you're looking at a price list of over 60 million possibilities.   So leaflets / timetables have to concentrate on the more commonly required journeys, and then information systems are used to provide the other less frequently needed information.  But such systems are still developing, and although they improve over the years they still have quite a way to go.  Please take a look at the advise at the end of section (1) for your journey information - that should be a good starter for you.

Bath Spa (to Melksham) is a good example of a train journey that's not well advertised.  Why's that?  The journey is an awkward one - with a change of trains at either Chippenham or Trowbridge, and only a small proportion of rail passengers making this journey, connections are very variable at best.  And there's a more frequent, direct public transport service from Bath to Melksham in the form of 2 buses per hour; it's better for the railway to use its valuable advertising and information space at Bath to promote other passenger flows, rather than using to compete with what's a better alternative for most passengers.  From Swindon, from Westbury, from London, from Bristol, from Chippenham, from Trowbridge ... train makes sense to Melksham.  First are rightly promoting the services that work really well rather than those that aren't the best product, though I appreciate this means that the observer at Bath Spa station may (incorrectly) conclude that their effort has been "lamentable" as a result. Being closely involved, though, I can assure you that First are committed to the success of the TransWilts where it provides a good travel option for passengers.

The printed timetables that you'll see at stations are expensive to produce and you'll see a move towards more tailored, online information. From December, TransWilts services were added to the London to Bristol and South Wales booklet, rather bucking the simplification trend; prior to that point, finding Melksham to London journeys (for example) was truly a nightmare.

For the timetable change in May, we're producing a local leaflet too for the TransWilts line, with just the TransWilts train times listed, sample fares, ideas of days out, etc.   It will be in stations on the line, at TICs, and widely distributed in the community too.  We will also update our "Melksham to Bath and Bristol" sheet at http://www.twcrp.org.uk/localtrafficmkm.pdf .

Also from the timetable change in May, the "A to Z" departure sheets at some stations will have extra TransWilts destinations on them.  That's the equivalent to the sheet reported at Bath Spa;  with increasing TransWilts traffic, Trowbridge will be added to the sheets at Chippenham and Swindon, for example.

-----------------------------------------

3.1 I use the Saturday service to Swindon on a regular basis since there was more choice of departure times. The fare is reasonable and will continue to use and promote to friends.

3.2 Train times that suit the kick off of Swindon Town matches, help fans get to games.

3.3 We are a Melksham-based business with visitors from around the country. Lack of a regular train service makes it more difficult for us and increases car use. It would be good if more focus was made on the needs of local businesses in relation to train travel (A)

3.4 Later trains needed for return journeys (A)

3.5 What are the linkages with the Newbury to Bedwyn/Pewsey line? (A)

3.6 Greater frequency of trains (A)

With just one extra train available to run the new services, with a limited budget, and with a single track section of railway from Trowbridge to Chippenham that takes nearly 20 minutes to traverse, there's a limit to what could be achieved. Furthermore, trains have to be timed to fit in with other existing services, and to run to and from locations where they can reverse, and be clear of the main lines while doing so. Robustness of this service, and of other existing services, is vital; a service that isn't reliable soon gets itself a bad name and looses traffic.

Two thirds of us who are employed still work to a more or less traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 schedule - and as the single train can't be in two places at one, a decision had to be taken as to which 'flow' to service best.  The choice was made to serve Chippenham and Swindon employment bases, for residents of Melksham, Trowbridge, Westbury; estimates are that this accounts for three quarters of the commuters up and down the corridor, and early indications are that the service is a success, with a well loaded train.

I run a Melksham based business (just like one of our respondents, who unfortunately hasn't included an email address so I can't respond directly). We too have visitors arriving in the town, and leaving the town, for all parts of the country.  The 09:15 arrival and the 16:31 departure work pretty well for us - from London at 07:45, back there at 18:15, for example.  We *have* asked about moving both of those trains by a few minutes, to give a slightly earlier arrival into Melksham and Trowbridge, and a slighty later departure; this would allow the services to provide a much better commuter option for people working in those two towns but living in Chippenham and Swindon.  I wonder if the correspondent has been in touch previously / if not - PLEASE contact us as First, Wiltshire Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and the CRP all want to tune things as best as possible, especially for businesses.   We're not going to get to a "clockface" service where it's always the same time in each hour - at least for a few years - but everyone is watching for the opportunities for improvement in that direction as electrification, train replacement, etc, come in.

More trains ... we need to make this work first.  But it is doing, and I can foresee this happening.  In fact there's a new Sunday morning train from 18th May, and a request to run that beyond the summer too.  For a later train back - again, we need to make this work first - however, you can leave Swindon at 20:12 by train for Melksham, Trowbridge and Westbury, and at 22:00 by train to change into the last bus at Chippenham, which accepts rail tickets.  That's a sensible piece of integrated transport design, as it means that there's a single piece of viable public transport at that late hour, rather than two pieces competing for a few passengers and making both non-viable.

We are delighted to see Swindon Town followers using the train; again, more trains may come in future years - at the moment, with a service every 2 hours there's likely to be a bit of a wait sometimes, but that's a tough one to fix without knock-on effects.  And for away games / evening games etc, the admin / setup for special workings makes it impractical for the most part, especially as there are no spare trains to use these days. Thank you for using the trains - it's appreciated, noticed, and the use will lead to further consideration / tuning as best as possible as things get amended in the future.

There are six lines into Westbury - from Swindon, Bristol, Newbury, Salisbury, Taunton and Weymouth.   But there are only 3 platforms. It would be lovely if six trains could arrive, people change if they wished into any of the other five, and they then all carry on on their way; alas, that can't be and at times a train will have to wait for a platform to be vacated by what you would like to be a connection.  The 06:38 off Melksham used to run a few minutes later, but was pulled forward to connect into the 07:01 service that runs via Newbury to London.  

-----------------------------------------

4.1 Is it possible to use a wheelchair or mobility scooter from Melksham?

4.2 Helps villages and towns attract more people to live in these areas

4.3 Regular (but not a few minutes apart) bus journeys to and from Beanacre. (A)

4.4 We have concerns about the security at Melksham station car park. (A)

4.5 Improved and secure bike parking (A)

4.6 Better bus-rail links in Melksham would help. (A)

4.7 A linking bus service for all trains would get traveller to and from the station. (A)

-----------------------------------------

Melksham Station has flat access and all trains carry ramps to load / unload wheelchairs. Mobility scooters come in a wide variety of sizes and weights, and I would advise you to check with First Great Western ahead of time.  See http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/44969.aspx and bear in mind you have to consider access at you interchange and eventual destination too.   Melksham station is unlikely to be the limiting factor.

Car and cycle parking and access is due for further improvement in the next few months (some improvements already made last December). Inlcuded in this is the provision of CCTV which should help ease your security concerns.

The Melksham Rail Link bus runs from Bowerhill, via Thyme Road and Melksham Forest and the town centre from Monday to Friday to connect with the trains that leave at 07:20 and 07:48, and it returns people who arrive back into the town at 18:03, 18:48 and 19:16. During the day, the vehicles that provide this service pass the end of the station approach, and call as Asda which is just a short distance from the station, at least twice an hour.   Buses on routes 271, 272, x72, 234, x34 and Zigzag / 69 also pass close to the top of the station approach.

An interactive bus map is in production by the Connecting Wiltshire team at Wiltshire Council, and this should help with information provision. Work has been ongoing to evaluate the possibility of better placed bus stops on the main road to service the station, although the structure of the roads makes it far from obvious if and how this could be done safely.

There is a limit to the size of buses that can safely turn around at Melksham station on a regular basis. Improvement of access to Foundry Close should happen in the next 12 months - allowing much better access to the x34 / 234 bus routes and perhaps allowing other services to run via the station too.

Getting the x34 and 234 (two competing buses) not running within a few minutes of each other, followed by a long gap, isn't something that directly relates to the train service.   However, members of our team are very much aware of the issue which has indeed been solved between the 272 and x72 on the Bath to Melksham run.  There's an old bloc article which explains some of the reasons at http://www.wellho.net/mouth/3523_When-competition-is-not-a-good-idea-Melksham-Bus-Absurdity.html and at http://www.wellho.net/mouth/4247_You-wait-a-long-time-then-buses-come-in-threes-It-s-timetabled-that-way-.html . And we do have thoughts on sorting this out ... community work in progress!

-----------------------------------------

5.1 Why spend taxpayers money to promote an outdated, inconvenient form of transport? (A)

5.2 At age 83 travel is very limited and then by car only. (A)

Any new service takes time to "bed in" - for people to learn about it, try it out, switch to using it on a regular bases.  And for employment / education / commuting the lead in time can be several years.   For that reason, a subsidy is being provided for an initial period under a 3 year LSTF grant from central government.  At the most expensive year, the amount being paid is the amount of money it would cost to build 25 yards of road.   Roads are built, of course, by the public purse because of the economic benefit they will bring, and the same applies to this train subsidy which has been calculated as having a benefit to cost ratio of 2.74 to 1.  In other words, each pound spent brings ^2.74 of benefit.

Some may consider trains to be inconvenient and outdated, but dramatic growth of train use all around the UK in recent years, with problems of overcrowding and a shortage of trains, show that such a view is not commonly held.   Our own very early indicators are that the service has been performing 33% over target for the first year (report of Feb 7th) and early analysis of later data looks even better.  As costs are more or less fixed, that means we're achieving an even better than predicted benefit for the community.

Car, bus, taxi, walking and cycling all have their place, as well as the train. Many can't drive for financial, age or health reasons and that's where there's an element of public transport being a social service.  One of our local councillors used to take the view that he had been elected and he always used the car and his voters knew this ... so he wouldn't support the provision of public transport.   He's now a former councillor having lost at the elections in May last year.

-----------------------------------------

It's in the very nature of "write in comments" on a consultation / survey that they highlight remaining issues. There are some excellent thoughts and confirmations in what's been said in those comments, as many are things that we're working on and most are things that we're aware of.   Input 3.3, frankly, hurts as I felt that the plans had considered business needs, and 2.2 with its criticism of First's attitude is totally at odds with my experience.

Overall, the survey is being really helpful in helping to tune future marketing and information discemination - a big THANK YOU to everyone who's contributed.   The service is doing well and - with better information and some fine tuning - it will do even better!
« Last Edit: April 19, 2014, 04:57:41 PM by grahame » Logged

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Four Track, Now!
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« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2014, 08:56:58 PM »


1. Try out your journey on the First Great Western (or any other train company) website http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk and see what it offers, or try out the "Cheapest Fare Finder" on the National Rail website - http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/service/farefinder/search


Good advice, especially if you are flexible and booking in advance. Got Mrs FT, N! from BRI to EXD for a fiver, with no passes (sounds like Mastermind), cheap at half the price.
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« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2014, 12:26:55 PM »

I have seen (and heard) little mention of the travel possibilities from Frome to TransWilts destinations. I have found that the 0645 departure from Frome connecting with the 0704 at Westbury useful, giving a journey of around an hour to Swindon at a return fare (with old codgers card) of ^6.55, very reasonable in my eyes. The 0704 from Frome is a reasonable connection with the 0728 at Westbury, I've only used that one as far as Melksham. I've also used the 1555 Frome connecting with 1615 Westbury to Melksham a few times. The best (fun) connection yet was on a Saturday recently, with rail replacement bus from Yate to Bristol Parkway, I found a useful train from Parkway which connected perfectly with the 1736 at Swindon which gave me 18 minutes at Trowbridge to run over to Asda, get a bit of shopping and still get back in time to catch the Frome train that I would have got from Bristol Temple Meads if I had chosen to mess about changing there. One important point to mention is that neither the 0645 nor the 1555 departures from Frome are shown on the timetable displayed at Frome station, so many occasional users are unlikely to be aware of them. Better information could do a good turn to both Frome and TransWilts services.
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« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2014, 01:32:05 PM »

I have seen (and heard) little mention of the travel possibilities from Frome to TransWilts destinations.

Alan, a good point.  Within our resources, early concentration has been main flows where we'll see most usage ... we've had similar comments from Bradford-on-Avon too and we're aware of possibilities; I expect we'll follow up on them, the more so because of your prompting.

Presently, good connections from Frome at
06:45, 07:04, 15:55 and 19:06 (Monday to Friday)
08:02, 14:39 and 16:29 (Saturday)
09:39 and 19:18 (Sunday)

Back from Swindon at
17:36 and 18:50 (Monday to Friday)
08:36, 14:36, 17:36 and 19:36 (Saturday)
17:28 (Sunday)

but Saturday and Sunday times to change from 18th May for the summer

Weekly season ticket from Frome - to Chippenham via Melksham, 26 pounds; to Swindon via Melksham, 39 pounds
Day return to Swindon 9.90 (peak), 7.00 (off peak) via Melksham
Day return to Chippenham 7.00 (peak), 6.00 (off peak) via Melksham



Quote
Better information could do a good turn to both Frome and TransWilts services.

I agree ... do you read the Frome Standard and / or the Frome Times?    Which is most widely circulated of is there another paper I have missed?

The Station is on the Heart of Wessex line and their Community Rail Partnership looks after it. Rather like us they can't do everything, but they do have volunteers and people around in Frome and an approach via them may well help sort out local timetabling issues. We (TransWilts CRP) are very open indeed to working together for our mutual benefit and indeed we share the fruits of their station adoption activities at Westbury and Trowbridge which allows us to concentrate the more on train services.

« Last Edit: April 22, 2014, 02:24:01 PM by grahame » Logged

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Alan Pettitt
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« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2014, 01:51:20 PM »

Thanks Graham, Personally I read both the papers mentioned, although I think far more people read the Frome Times as there are always copies left around on pub bars, in the doctors etc., although because of this it does seem to be a 'quick flip through' type of paper whereas the Standard has its regular in depth readership. By the way, I rest my case, it seems that even you have managed to miss the 1555 Frome (only 10 minutes wait at Westbury) which I have used quite often to get to Melksham in the afternoon!
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2014, 02:29:59 PM »

By the way, I rest my case, it seems that even you have managed to miss the 1555 Frome (only 10 minutes wait at Westbury) which I have used quite often to get to Melksham in the afternoon!

Oops ... I have (exceptionally) edited my previous post to add it in, since that may become a post for me and others to refer back to later and it needs to be complete.

Thanks too for the 'balance' on the local papers.   Watch 'em ;-)
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2014, 05:28:10 AM »

I've been taking a specific look at Facebook results ... through which we were hoping to reach a different profile to the typical rail group supports that we see at so many meetings;  it would be good to have something more balanced between ages and genders as we see on other regional transport services.  See how we're doing - blog article just posted at http://www.wellho.net/horse/

Sampler .. Attachement shows "Commuting from Bowerhill, East Melksham or Melksham Forest to Swindon? From Monday 10th February, the Rail Link Bus to Melksham Station will take you from Bowerhill to Swindon, by bus and train, in under at hour. The new bus connects with both morning commuter trains to Swindon ..." results from a February 8th post - https://www.facebook.com/TransWilts/posts/473143219452392
« Last Edit: April 23, 2014, 05:36:41 AM by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2014, 05:52:52 PM »

Second section of feedback from the survey - see:

http://www.wellho.net/mouth/4267_How-effective-is-our-publicity-.html

Where I've looked at how we reached people (how effective were the ways and means), where they look, and what information the want(ed)

Section 3 - about their journeys and train use past and present, and section 4 - about their geographic age and gender spread - to follow.    First section (answers to write-in comments) is above in this thread.
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« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2014, 09:33:42 AM »

Section 3 at http://www.wellho.net/mouth/4268_Metrics-historic-and-current-TransWilts-train-use.html

That's the "did you use it before" and "are you using it now" stuff.  I know what I read into the data / wonder what others make of it before I comment.    Journey details - which should really come under section 3, I suppose, are a separate analysis to follow.
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« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2014, 09:05:26 PM »

Section 3b - http://www.wellho.net/mouth/4269_Survey-Journeys.html

Where are people starting from and where are they going?
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TransWilts Rail - Linking North to West and South 9 times a day. [see here]
Alan Pettitt
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« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2014, 06:39:56 PM »

Brilliant publicity advertisement in tomorrow's "Frome Times", hopefully now a few more people will join the throng. One little point, in my copy the timetable headings are a bit 'black' and the 'Leave Frome' and 'Arrive Swindon' headings don't show up very well so I hope the uninitiated don't think that there are eight weekday trains from Frome with connections, hopefully mine is just an early over inked copy!
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