government gives go-ahead for passengers to have greater input in local Wiltshire rail services by approving the community rail plan
TransWilts line is a 32-mile route between Swindon and Westbury including Chippenham and Melksham stations
TransWilts Community Rail Partnership to play greater role in improving vital regional rail links
Community groups and passengers in Wiltshire will have more say over the design and operation of their local rail services, under a new rail plan announced by Rail Minister Paul Maynard today (29 September 2016).
This will allow the community to work with Great Western Railway to design train services according to local needs on the 32-mile route between Swindon and Westbury – known as the TransWilts line. The aim is to increase passenger numbers, improve connectivity to key destinations and ultimately boost the local economy.
Great Western Railway will continue to operate passenger services. However, it will be with the support of the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership, comprising local organisations, train operators, Wiltshire Council, rail users and other interest groups.
The partnership will have direct input in securing better services and station facilities for customers, including Chippenham and Melksham stations, which also fall under the proposals.
Rail Minister Paul Maynard said:
The TransWilts line is vital to local communities in Wiltshire and it is right that passengers will now have a greater say in the shape of its future.
Designating the line as a community rail service will breathe new life into this route and ensure its long term future. Improved connections between Swindon and Westbury mean better journeys for customers and a boost for the local economy.
Great Western Railway managing director Mark Hopwood said:
I am delighted that the TransWilts route between Westbury and Swindon is being recognised in this way. Community rail provides some of our fastest growing and most reliable services, and customer growth in TransWilts services has been exceptional.
Building on the 6 new TransWilts services launched in December 2013, we were very pleased to introduce a further 2 services in May working in partnership with Wiltshire Council and the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership.
“I know they will continue to go from strength to strength following the decision to designate the line and I offer my sincere congratulations to all involved.”
Community Rail Partnerships are made up of local councils, train operators and community groups including volunteers, to decide how lines should be run. Research shows that Community Rail Partnerships are good value for money and support economic, social and environmental development in local areas.
Paul Johnson, Chairman of TransWilts said:
We are delighted to achieve our service designation which recognises the efforts and support of our local members and volunteers in establishing improved local services.
Since our service was established in December 2013, passenger numbers have grown rapidly and we have reached our 5 year target in just 2 years.
The designation is important because it formalises the status of TransWilts and gives us access to some additional support, including funding. An early priority for us will be to see how our designation can help us improve the coordination between local bus and rail services along our route.
At the same time, the government has decided to incorporate the additional services initially funded by Wiltshire County Council since December 2013 into the Great Western franchise.
Infrastructure such as track and signalling will remain under the authority of Network Rail, ensuring that freight operations will not be affected.
Nineteen rail lines around the country have been designated by the government as community lines since 2005, along with a further 21 as community rail services since 2005. In the south-west of England, these include the Heart of Wessex line (Bristol to Weymouth) and Avocet line (Exeter St Davids to Exmouth).