West Wiltshire Rail Users Group News and Newsletter
Proposed Closure of Station Ticket Offices
On the 5th July 2023 the Rail Delivery Group (the umbrella organisation representing UK Train Operating Companies) announced a proposal to make major changes to ticket offices at mainline railway stations. GWR have said that they intend to "move ticket office staff into other areas of the station where they can help more customers" - i.e. close the ticket offices at our local stations. Transport Focus are currently running a 21 day consultation to gather responses to the proposals. As a rail users group we strongly object to these proposals for numerous reasons, and are in the process of compiling our response. Back in August of last year we wrote to both our local MPs to express our concerns when we first heard rumours of the proposed changes.
There is, as usual, much more information about the proposed changes online:
The GWR Proposals including stations in West Wiltshire can be found here;
The link to Transport Focus consultation and details on how to comment can be found here;
There is a National Petition against these changes which you can sign by clicking on the link here;
If you are not already a member of our group, then these proposals demonstrate just how important it is to have a collective voice with which to express our opinions - just like a union there is strength in numbers! To join, see the contact details on our home page.
Withdrawal of South Western Railway's direct Bristol Temple Meads to London Waterloo trains - update Dec 2021
The very last South Western Railway direct train from London Waterloo to Bristol Temple Meads departed bang on time at 19:20 on Friday 10th December comprising of 8 carriages - the last two forming the portion going forward to West Wiltshire towns, Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads. These were quite full and we believe somewhere between 30 and 40 remained on at Salisbury for destinations in West Wiltshire, Bath and Bristol. Unfortunately if they attempt the same journey after this date they will face a lengthy wait at Salisbury for a connecting GWR service.
Withdrawal of South Western Railway's direct Bristol Temple Meads to London Waterloo trains
South Western Railway currently operates the direct Bristol Temple Meads to London Waterloo service which pre-pandemic provided four return journeys on weekdays with the first departure from Bristol at the convenient time of 08:49. With the reduction in services during the pandemic to match demand, from May 2021 the first two services were removed just leaving the 15:50 and 19:35 from Bristol with the latter only running as far as Basingstoke. SWR and the department of transport have now announced their intention to withdraw these services completely from Dec '21.
SWR have issued a consultation document on their proposals for the December 2022 timetable, and as a users group we have responded accordingly. However, on P37 of this document there is the statement that SWR will withdraw its current three daily return services from Bristol Temple Meads to London Waterloo via Salisbury following "a separate review with the Department for Transport". Some of the reasons for withdrawal are given as lack of demand, and duplication of services between the two operators (GWR and SWR) not providing good value for taxpayers. This does not even give the services the chance to recover as people return to using the trains again encouraged by the TV and press advertising campaign funded by the Rail Delivery Group.
Although the intention is to retain the few SWR direct Waterloo trains running from Yeovil to Waterloo via Frome, Westbury and Warminster, Bradford-on-Avon and the county town of Trowbridge will lose all of theirs meaning it will not be possible to travel to the capital without a change of train at either Bath or Westbury, or to Waterloo with a change (and long wait) at Salisbury. As people return to using the trains, the prediction by SWR is that leisure travel is likely to exceed pre-pandemic levels even though business travel may not return to quite what it was pre-pandemic. This makes retention of these services even more important as their timings and availability of cheaper tickets makes them ideal for leisure journeys where the slightly slower travel time compared with GWR high speed services is not a deterrent.
The group has written to both our local MPs. Dr. Andrew Murrison responded, echoing our concerns and forwarded our letter to the DfT, eliciting a reply from Grant Shapps which contained some very unconvincing reasons for withdrawing the service. Michelle Donelan has also taken up the cause with a strongly worded reply to the DfT, reported in Wiltshire Times on 17th October. BBC local news also reported on the proposals in breakfast news on Wednesday 20th October.
Other affected transport user groups have taken up the cause: the Bath Two Tunnels group here; the great western 'coffeeshop' passengers' forum here; and committee member Graham Ellis has started a petition on the government website which we urge all who are concerned about losing this popular service to sign, by clicking on the link here.
Avoncliff Walking Talk - 24th July 2021
On Saturday 24th July members, partners and friends were treated to a very informative walking talk in Avoncliff by WWRUG member Dr. Trevor Turpin, chairman of Bath Industrial Heritage Trust and Churchill Fellow. We learnt about the history of the halt, the canal and aqueduct, and of Ancliff square, former workhouse, red cross hospital and hotel which is now twelve private residences. A more detailed description of the day will appear in our next newsletter.
© West Wiltshire Rail Users Group 2022. All Rights Reserved. Website by Richard J Cowell.