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Author Topic: Other operators using some of the same tracks?  (Read 2216 times)
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« on: September 25, 2007, 04:59:05 pm »

Here's an interesting letter I have received via email, and which I reproduce here with permission.

Open Access is something that we have investigated in some depth with regards to the TransWilts service, decimated last December in spite of growth in the years prior, and amazing future prospects. For where else do you six major town and cities along a 40 mile corridor, each of which is to grow around 50% in the next 20 years, and the connection from end to end between them being a bus that takes 120 minutes, and roads that are already overloaded?

But this case, put by the UpStart Coop reaches far wider.


Dear Mr Ellis,

I've just been reading your excellent website, relating to the poor service currently experienced on the Melksham line. I am a social enterprise development worker, and I have recently been working on a study on the use of co-operatives and community businesses to provide additional rail services. I'm interested in cases where track exists, but none of the private rail operators wish to run full services on it.

One of the less well known features of rail privatisation is the potential for independent businesses to offer new services through an 'open access' contract. So far, these have been used by subsidiaries of rail operating companies to provide additional services to London (for example from Hull, Sunderland and Wrexham). However, there is no reason why co-operative or community owned businesses couldn't provide local services. New rulings by the Financial Services Authority have made it much easier for these types of business to raise the finance necessary.

Obviously, it would be easiest for everyone if First Great Western were willing to simply improve the service on their franchise. However, if they aren't, there is always the possibility that an open access service could do it instead. Such a service wouldn't be burdened with the cost of the franchise, might be willing to forego short term profits in exchange for better public service, and could raise investment directly from the people who would most benefit from the service.

Yours is not the only poor quality service in the West country. I have also been looking at services from Yeovil Pen Mill, Okehampton, Minehead, and towns such as Wellington, Somerton and Chard that have lines but no stations. I suspect that there may be scope for a cross country service linking Exeter and Milton Keynes (or at least Oxford, as not all of the track between Bicester and Milton Keynes is intact) - as well as providing services to the communities on the way, I believe that the connections between main routes will allow many travellers the opportunity to find faster journeys to a wide range of destinations. The stretch of line that runs through Melksham would be a handy short cut for this route.

I'd be interested in your views on this. My next step is to secure funding for a feasibility study, and if you would like me to keep me informed on the progress of this, do let me know. You can see some more information by going to the new page of our website ( and looking for 'Rail' in the news stories.

Yours, Alex Lawrie

Here's the scheme Alex is talking about ... there's a larger version downloadable from here

I note that we do already have other operators on the tracks here abouts - notably the Cross Country franchise, and also South West Trains extending to Bristol and Plymouth. 

Coffee Shop Admin, Vice Chair of Melksham Rail User Group, and on the board of TravelWatch SouthWest.
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