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Author Topic: Friday, 4th October - and the evening before  (Read 2142 times)
grahame
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« on: October 05, 2019, 08:48:04 am »

The Community Rail Conference is a wonderful networking opportunity. We tend to be aware of Community Rail Partnerships in our own TOC area, but less aware of what's going on elsewhere in the country. And we tend not to be aware of individual stations and projects which - somewhat naturally - are aimed at the communities they serve and normally receive little exposure outside.  The networking and awards sessions don't fill us in with details - time is far too short - but they do pull one corner of the covers back, allow a peep, add inspire.  The networking is also an excellent opportunity to spend time - some "times" no more than a few seconds each - shaking hands with / reminding key team members at GWR, ACoRP and the DfT of our positive presence, and appreciation of their roles and how they fulfil them. With regional / groups seating, a chance to catch up with "close relatives" and some slightly more distant cousins too over a meal. All a bit "hit and miss" but I still came away with five useful follow ups.

Community Rail has moved on from "getting people on local trains" in general - where it has helped in such a success tat many / most lines no longer carry fresh air - to reaching out to other elements of the community and encouraging them to use the train.  It was notable though the evening that top awards were going to groups / projects majoring on groups in society who form far from the typical train travellers - LGBT in one category, dyslexia in another, lonely seniors in another. And talking with others, I noted (example) their drive to pull in volunteers and passengers from new sectors of their multi-cultural communities.  This has to be a positive development - provided it's not happening to the reduction of other Community Rail activities that have been so successful to any great extent.

Our first return train leg back yesterday morning was on an off peak train from Aberystwyth and Pwhelli to Birmingham International.  Already pretty full when it pulled in to Telford, those of us joining had to ask passengers already n board if they wouldn't mind moving their bags so we could sit down. I don't know how the loading had been earlier in the journey, but certainly this was not a service that could stand general marketing at present - demand would outtrack supply, even on the three trains per hour where it was just one in my youth. On the other hand, talking with Heart of Wessex people at the ACoRP event, I was saddened to hear that - in spite of their astonishing growth - there is generally plenty of capacity on most trains (big summer leisure peak problems) but that for the first time in many years theres no current "line brochure" to help encourage general traffic, and that funding help for activities at stations (or at least one station) to help keep it looking pretty and friendly is no longer available.

Against the background of the changes from general to targetted society groups, it's remarkable that the Coffee Shop was shortlisted in the "Best Community Engagement Project" category.  For sure, we reach high numbers and across a far more balanced age and gender cross-section than most community rail groups, but we don't engage in heavy positive discrimination the forum is for people - all people.

On the TransWilts line, we were asked to measure our progress and the progress of the service based on passenger journey numbers.  A combination of ticket sales and on-train counts (and noting a high proportion of otherwise-unticketed passengers on Tuesday who were being sold tickets at that point, when they had joined at stations with staffed ticket offices, the two figures are different) provided a good measure.  Quite how the success or otherwise of the new Community Rail approach is measured, I don't know - and how funding is evaluated and provided is something I don't know. The example of ongoing funding being removed above, effecting general marketing and station condition, is a concern.

However, Thursday evening was very much a celebration of a successful movement that's grown from a tiny seed 25 years ago, from something making a difference on a small number of "basket cases" into a much wider movement that's brought that success to 60 plus lines and 1000 stations, with 460 people making the Gala dinner to further this work. So let's celebrate, look at the wonderful work, and just be aware of the cloud on the horizon that we need to turn our hand to.  There are some really great people in community rail, and the will is there - and I'm sure that it will continue to thrive.

Pictures through the evening from initial reception through to back at the hotel. I suspect that some members can put names to faces in many of these pictures!

















And so, yesterday, that return from Telford to Melksham.   It just shows what a complex rail network we have that my 3 changes on the return (Wolverhampton, Bristol Temple Meads and Chippenham) were three different changes to the outward journey (Swindon, Newport and Shrewsbury) and that only two sections of track were common to both routes - Melksham to Chippenham, and Westerleigh Junction to Bristol Parkway.  The latter, ironically, travelled over in the same direction on both outward and return journeys.

My travel companion commented that it felt an awful long way by train to Telford compared to the journey when driven.  Yes, it did. And that's because, yes, it is!  Measured on a map, it's just 95 miles. The two rail routes used were 170 miles (outbound) and 145 miles (inbound).  In the famous words of one of our local scribes, "If ay were goin there, I wunna be startin from ear".

Yet, really, the whole journey worked well. We chose to walk from the hotel to the station - estimate just under a mile - through the modern town centre and over the footbridge across the various transport arteries



Plenty of people on the platform - I suspect that around half of the train-joiners were leaving the conference, but nevver the less very busy



A class 158 from the mid Wales services - still in Arriva colours.  Arrived pretty full, left very full indeed!



5 car Manchester to Bristol Temple Meads - reasonably busy off Wolverhampton, lots of interchange at New Street, numbers faded by the time it got to Temple Meads



Onward by IET to Chippenham; can't see it from the picture, but "average" load from Bristol and lots on at Bath Spa



And finally the TransWilts service to Melksham - and onwards to Frome.



Biggest delay?  At Melksham Station; as we (two of us travelling) had luggage, Lisa came to the station to give us lifts ... and got stuck in a 20 minute traffic jam on the Melksham bypass on the way to us. All to do with the roadworks (lots of cones and little going on, I'm told).  Very grateful for the lift - though as the delay was over 15 minutes I do wonder whether I can claim delay-repay or similar from the council.
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Coffee Shop Admin, Vice Chair of Melksham Rail User Group, and on the board of TravelWatch SouthWest.
bignosemac
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« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2019, 11:01:55 am »

Those roadworks on the A350 from Farmers Roundabout to the station turning were a right PITA during my time in Melksham. I avoided them whenever possible. Have the traffic lights been switched on yet?
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bobm
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« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2019, 12:43:04 pm »



Was I the only one drinking - don't remember that.....   Grin
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grahame
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« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2019, 12:48:22 pm »

Was I the only one drinking - don't remember that.....   Grin

I vaguely recall that 3 out of the four of us had similar glasses - but I suspect that a couple of us guzzled in the hope of more. The fourth member of the party (one of the other two gents pictured here) had an opaque, non-alcoholic drink of rightly the same colour as a Network Rail tabard.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2019, 01:52:36 pm »

I hid my pint behind my back!
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« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2019, 05:25:07 pm »

Those roadworks on the A350 from Farmers Roundabout to the station turning were a right PITA during my time in Melksham. I avoided them whenever possible. Have the traffic lights been switched on yet?
Afraid not, still digging holes, I feel there will be a couple of weeks more to go before the roadworks get finished.
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