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Author Topic: Heart of Wessex (from Melksham) - should I renew my railcard for this year?  (Read 415 times)
grahame
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« on: March 05, 2021, 11:39:23 am »

Sharing an answer here ... a piece of text written in response to a question I paraphrase as follows.

Quote
Should I renew my railcard, which I have used in past years for day trips from Melksham to walk the coast at Weymouth?

My answer ... perhaps worth wider reading

Quote
Firstly, until 29th March at the earliest, we are only able to use the trains and buses for essential journeys and we are strongly encouraged to keep those locally. At MRUG» (Melksham Rail User Group - site) we find ourselves in the unusual position of asking you NOT to travel several hours each way at the start and the end of the day for a walk. We really hope (and have indications) that will only be a short term position.

When restrictions are relaxed, we will be encouraging a return to rail and bus travel.  We expect this to be in stages, as destination opportunities slowly open up - things to do when you get there, and whether you can stay away.  Countryside (and coastal) walks within the region will be some of the earlier opportunities, although the only eating facilities at first opening will be food you take with you, food you buy during the day at stores and takeaways; not ideal in inclement weather.

Train times at present are for key and essential workers and are reduced right across Great Britain.  From Melksham, we have been very fortunate in retaining most of our Swindon to Westbury trains - probably because the service was so thin to start with there was nothing much to cut without making key journeys (which form a high proportion of our local train use compared to other lines).

From next Monday (8th March 2021) schools return and a few extra trains return in the region.  There are a couple of changes from 4th April. Changes from 16th May have been in planning too - a number of us attended an online briefing from GWR (Great Western Railway) on what they plan, looking for community input and we followed up with some suggested connection updates. We are looking for better connections towards Bristol and Weymouth off the first southbound train, where trains have been just failing to connect at Trowbridge and Westbury respectively,  In the evenings, we have asked for the Saturday evening empty train that used to run to Swindon on a Saturday evening to take passengers (this had been planned from May 2020 anyway but was still-born); between those changes, these changes on top of plans for the summer will make Weymouth from Melksham a much more marketable product.   Once we know what is happening in May, we will have an opportunity to make further inputs for December 2021, setting up (re-asking or looking at the next step) for 2022.  In general, rail and communities are working well together in the same direction of moving to a better train service and beyond. The treasury also wants passengers back for the economic benefits and greater fare box income, but with a different slant.

What I have just described is short term tactics but they start fitting in with a long term strategy.  That looks for an hourly service each way from Melksham, and would inevitably reduce really long waits at Westbury - but a look would be taken to optimise that particular connection which is important, but not the MOST important.  Wider across the region, the Heart of Wessex line (Westbury to Weymouth) is also wanting an improved service, and that’s become very much justified in recent years.  So - whatever happens the ssummer - we are hopeful and working for the bigger picture in future years, and hope that if the rail industry doesn’t manage to provide services that will persuade you to use them in Summer 2021, they will become progressively better in future years.

I do need to add that - even after most restrictions are removed on or after mid June, it’s probably that masks will still be required on trains, together with social distancing. With these measures, train travel has remained safe and should continue to do so and it’s something we should continue to accept and adhere to for an indeterminate further time.

The Melksham Rail User Group meets (via Zoom - http://www.passenger.chat/24600 ) at 19:30 on Wednesday 17th March - and you are very welcome to come along.  You’ll hear more about the plans to help inform people about the return to trains and buses, station adoption, what’s upcoming, and much more.  We’ll love to have you join in with us - a chance to meet and do something while you can’t go walking beyond Melksham.   I joined for a one-off many years ago and have made many friends with an interest or side interest in travel and transport.

With regards purchasing a railcard this year - your call.  It has been making sense not to renew with travel being so limited, but I think the tide is turning.  Hopefully for most people a failure to renew will be a temporary hiatus and not something ongoing for a longer period.  New passes can be purchased by eligible people at any time in the year, so there will be no need to wait for the next opportunity.
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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2021, 09:46:32 am »

This comment elsewhere had me following up with Melksham to Weymouth as an example

There is a general public perception that rail fares are hugely costly and also very complicated. The actual fare payable is often considered to be a matter of luck rather than being determined by a logical process.

Since the original question related to "should I buy a railcard" there was also a cost element to the original question which I chose not to address, as there's little point if the connections are kyboshed every day of the week to the extent that the journey includes an ugly wait and / or unreasonably late first trains or early last trains every day of the week, as it does at the moment.

But looking now at the fares.

Melksham to Weymouth, there are two fare sets - via Reading (%) and via Yeovil. Travel via Reading is a much longer journey - no day returns are offered. No ticket is offered via Salisbury and Southampton, even though you can reach Weymouth sooner that way than either of the other routes if you 'present' at Melksham (or in reverse at Weymouth) station at certain times (*).

Melksham to Weymouth - anytime return via Yeovil - £44.40, and there is no anytime day return so that's your base ticket (@) if you set off on the early train during the week.  Off peak day return via Yeovil - £19.60. But then ...

There is no point in catching the early train anyway .. it arrives in Westbury at 06:53 and the trains to Weymouth leave at 06:52 and 09:32 - which is a good connection off the 09:09 from Melksham (that latter being one of our victories of common sense as it used to just miss too)

Lower fares for one person - railcards, etc

As the journey is partly outside the Network South East area, Senior Railcards can be used to reduce that fare by a third for lone travellers.  So fare £12.90 rater than £19.60

If you hold an ENCTS (English National Concessionary Travel Scheme) bus pass, that offers you the same discount as a senior railcard between Westbury and Weymouth, - so you could split. £4.20 day return Melksham to Westbury, £20.10 reduced to £13.30 Westbury to Weymouth, so total fare £17.50

Lower fares for groups of 2

If two of you are travelling together, your two together card is NOT valid on the 09:09 (card not valid for journeys starting before 09:30). It is valid on the next train - 11:31 from Melksham, 46 minutes at Westbury, 14:06 in Weymouth which hardly makes it a day trip.   

However, your 2 together card is valid on the 09:32 from Westbury so if you buy tickets at £12.90 each Melksham to Weymouth and an extra single Melksham to Westbury a £4.10, your total fare each is £17.00

Lower fares for groups of 3 or more

Simples.  Groupsave offers 3 or more adults at 34% discount so (ignoring the early train that does not connect) you can reach Weymouth and get back the same day for £12.90 each, irrespective of railcards held.

Two adults and a child?  Remember that tickets described colloquially as "adult" are actually "any age" tickets - so Groupsave at £12.90 each is your best bet rather than paying £16.30 (average) each ... unless of course one of both adults have Senior Railcards or ENCTS cards, in which case I recommend an Excel spread sheet to work out the best fare - or you could ask on the help point, where you can reach an expert on these things ...



(*) - 06:36 from Melksham, changing only at Southampton Central (08:08 to 08:27) arrive at Weymouth at 10:12 which is nearly an hour before the first possible arrival Melksham to Weymouth via Yeovil. Goodness knows how you would arrange tickets for that, or what it would cost, especially if you came back a different route. . Edit - I have just discovered that there's a Westbury to Weymouth via Salisbury fare - not sure that would help if you are doing different routes.  I am confused ...

(@) - £44.90 may be the base price, but if you split at Westbury you can pay £5.00 return Melksham to Westbury and £24.90 for a Westbury to Weymouth anytime - so reducing by splitting to £29.90

(%) - Melksham to Weymouth via Reading fares (before any railcard consideration) range from £75.30 super off peak period return to £331.20 anytime first class period return.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2021, 10:10:16 am by grahame » Logged

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