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Author Topic: THANK YOU - Ten year of support for the TransWilts (Swindon - Westbury) service  (Read 780 times)
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« on: December 09, 2023, 07:54:10 »

Yesterday, I attended a celebration at Westbury Station of 10 years of the current service from Swindon, via Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge to Westbury, and I was invited to speak alongside Joe Graham of Great Western, Horace Prickett of the TransWilts CRP (Community Rail Partnership) and Tamara Reay of Wiltshire Council.  Pictures of the day to follow - but here's what I said, also available as a .pdf at

It's ten years since the train service at Melksham stepped up from 2 trains each way per day to 8. Pictured here in 1994, a few years after it was re-opened and this summer (2023).

Melksham Passengers departing have risen from 4 a day before 2013 to an average of 104 in recent years with the new service in place an established, and journeys on the line (to, from, through) have risen from 18 thousand and quarter of a million.

As well as more service, the trains and platform are longer (and they need to be) and the service, though thin, now runs all day and every day, operated by a dedicated, professional and helpful staff to whom we say our thanks.

On the 10th Anniversary, let's remember local campaigners who are no longer with us - Gordon Dodge, John Money, and Peter and Margaret Blackburn, without whom we would not be where we are today. If they could look down, they will see a service and use proudly grown in line with their dreams, but still with a great deal to be done to bring it up from being a thin but appropriate service.

It would not have been possible without long term community campaigners such as Lee Fletcher, Phil McMullen and John Hamley who's dedication - well, I don't have the words to describe it. The Community Rail Partnership we formed has become the tool used by Paul Johnson who has tirelessly fought the unseen battle to get Wiltshire's rail service recognised and planned into the future of the area, and for towns such as Melksham the difference it's made is unmeasurable. And well set for the future with local plans. And a further shining light is Bob Morrison who transcends, with great tact and diplomacy, no little skill and a vast amount of time, often out on the line, with the day to day work of keeping the stations and line on track. A thank you too to county councillors such as Horace Prickett and Richard Gamble from various parts of Wiltshire who sit on the board, and to current Community Rail officer Sophie Martin who organises her teams to encourage newcomers to rail with schools, litter pickers, glee clubs, Christmas sales, days out by train and much more.

Without help over & above the call of duty from GWR (Great Western Railway) management and Wilts Council officers, we would not be where we are today. Some wish to remain anonymous, others must, though on a day such as today may I pick out David Phillips and Jane Jones as representatives, in each case, of a whole army without whom this would not have been possible.

Politicians have played a key role too - especial thanks to Duncan Hames, Andrew Murrison, Michelle Donelan and Claire Perry, and those at National bodies such as ACoRP (Association of Community Rail Partnerships) - Neil Buxton and Brian Barnsley. Stephen Joseph at the Campaign for Better Transport.

We have all crossed swords in our passion for the cause from time to time, yet the results are effective. When I interact with others in the UK (United Kingdom), I come to realise how lucky we are here in Wiltshire.
A long list of names? Yes, a team effort by the area and the rail industry FOR the area. In local volunteers, I would also like to highlight Alan, Andrew, Anne, Bob, Brenda, Brendon, Bruce, Bryony, Carol, Catherine, Chris, Colin, Dan, David, Dawn, Duncan, Emma, Gail, Guy, Ian, James, Jane, Jenny, Joe, John, Judith, Justin, Kevin, Kulvinder, Lisa, Lucy, Marianne, Mark, MartyJon, Mary, Matt, Mike, Natacha, Neil, Nick, Nicki, Nigel, Nina, Peter, Phil, Reuben, Richard, Robin, Roger, Rosemary, Ruth, Sean, Sid, Simon, Sion, Stacey, Sylvia, Teresa, Tina, Tim, Tom, Tony, Tracey, Vicki, Wendy and William - over 60 names there, some shared and no doubt some overlooked. I don't have a master list but we heck of appreciate what you have done or do. any, many linked with the "Melksham Railway Development Group" which by virtue of success has been able to rename itself the USER group now that we have users!

Between us - if I may add my name into that illustrious mix - we have achieved a very great deal for the line and for the places it serves including Melksham. I would like to thank my local councils of Melksham Without, and Melksham Town for their support and indeed the mayor of Melksham has asked me to add his thanks and appreciation today too, and I am speaking on his behalf as well as my personal one.

So where are we now?

We are in the midst of a project. A massive amount has been achieved as we have move from moribund resource to a thin but useable (and used) provision. We have another decade of work to do. Perhaps in coming years - some of these things sooner rather than later - we will see:

* An appropriate train service - hourly rather than thin and infrequent

* Far better service reliability than we have seen of late, with the rail industry sorting out its problems with operation and governance, and better connections.

* Improved total journey connections - regular buses to and from the station in Melksham, and far more at Westbury and perhaps Chippenham.

* Better cycling and walking access to stations such as a northern entrance at Melksham reaching many residential areas without a long zigzag walk

* Housing, business and leisure facilities growing near the station. Planning has already passed for homes on the old up yard, and the Copper Tires site - 11 hectares which comes within 100 yards of the station - is cited for Brown Field development in the new Neighbourhood Plan. All of these plans, of course, protect the railway corridor to allow the line to redoubled when appropriate.

* Electrification of the line for heavy freight and passenger use, and continued adaption and adoption as we move forward in amongst the new world in which the climate emergency is at last being taken more seriously and will be ever more serious, but at the same time maintaining our mobility

* And finally a friendly face at the station with an encouragement to use the service rather than the sticks of penalty warning signs, an incomprehensible fare system, and a feeling at times of isolation that scare so many people away at the moment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank YOU for what you have all done and I, and Melksham for whom I speak, look forward to working further with you in coming years. Personally in my role of running a business in Melksham, the railway made a massive difference once the service was improved in bringing our customers in and taking them home, and that's a difference far from unique to us. As the Transport Minister at the time - Derek Twigg - said to me on Radio 4 in the early days, "We can't run a service just for Mr Ellis". I agree - it's not just running for Mr Ellis - it's running for the businesses and residents of Melksham, and Trowbridge and Chippenham, and Westbury and Swindon. Now, and into the future.

Graham Ellis, 8th December 2023 or find me at or
« Last Edit: December 10, 2023, 04:46:28 by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2023, 08:28:42 »

Travelling to the event

Ten years, a million miles travelled every year.

Joe Graham, Business Assurance Director of Great Western Railway

Horace Prickett, longest serving director of TransWilts Community Rail Partnership and Wiltshire Councillor

Tamara Reay, Wiltshire Councillor and portfolio holder

Just some of the guests - all of whom have helped make a real difference!

Just some of the guests - all of whom have helped make a real difference!


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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2023, 11:50:30 »

Press release from GWR (Great Western Railway) at

08 DEC 2023

Ten-year anniversary sees enhanced TransWilts services rack up more than one million miles

Celebrations were in full swing today to mark exactly 10 years since TransWilts services were increased in a joint partnership between Wiltshire Council, Great Western Railway, the Department for Transport and local users. 

In that time, TransWilts services between Swindon and Westbury have clocked up more than one million passenger-carrying miles – the equivalent of travelling to the moon and back….TWICE!

To celebrate, a special cake was cut at Westbury station in a 10th anniversary celebration attended by representatives from Wiltshire Council, TransWilts Community Rail Partnership, Melksham Town Council, Melksham User Group and GWR.

Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Transport, Cllr Caroline Thomas, said:

“This 10-year anniversary marks an incredible milestone for Wiltshire, as it celebrates a decade since we jointly invested in additional services from Westbury through to Swindon by rail.

“The Department for Transport said they would take over and operate the services if there was sufficient demand after three years. The services did so well that they didn’t even need to wait the three years!

“This milestone is testament to the hard work of TransWilts Community Rail and our partnership working, and we look forward to the line serving the county for many more years to come.”

TransWilts Community Rail Officer, Sophie Martin, said:

 “We are proud to have been part of the journey over the last 10 years on the TransWilts. Not only have we seen passenger numbers increase, we are particularly pleased to have attracted numerous schoolchildren and young adults to the trains, many for the first time. We look forward to building on that success in the years to come.”

GWR Business Assurance and Strategy Director, Joe Graham, said:

“We were delighted to work in partnership with Wiltshire Council and TransWilts Community Rail Partnership to improve rail links, and it is heartening to see them still proving popular with customers 10 years on.

“When these extra services were introduced the TransWilts became the fastest growing community rail line in the country – so much so that not only did the Department for Transport adopt the services earlier than expected, but we had to double the capacity by going from a single carriage service to the two carriages you see today.

“We look forward to building on the success of the TransWilts line and using it as a model for success on other parts of the GWR network.”

Main picture: Celebrations at Westbury to mark 10 years - and more than one million miles - of increased services on the TransWilts line

Inset: Toasting 10 years of enhanced services on the TransWilts line are, left to right, Cllr Graham Ellis, of Melksham Town Council, GWR Business Assurance and Strategy Director Joe Graham, Horace Prickett, of TransWilts CRP (Community Rail Partnership), and Cllr Tamara Reay, of Wiltshire Council


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