West Wiltshire Rail Users Group - News

West Wiltshire Rail Users Group News and Newsletter

Proposed Closure of Station Ticket Offices

Typical station ticket office

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

SWR Class 158 at Waterloo

SWR Class 158 at Bradford-on-Avon

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

SWR Class 159 at Bradford-on-Avon

SWR Class 159 at Trowbridge

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

Avoncliff Walking Talk

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 Newsletter

The WWRUG publishes a quarterly Newsletter which is sent out to all members, containing news relating to local rail services, reviews of recent WWRUG meetings, members travels, and other interesting articles. We don't publish this on the website, as we want to encourage membership of the group! However, the following two articles from recent Newsletters give an idea of the content.

The first, written by Mark Hopwood, managing director of FGW was published in issue 100 of the Newsletter in June 2011. (It has been edited slightly to remove some train times which have since changed - and could cause confusion).

The second was published in issue 107 of the Newsletter in March 2013. It details how the 4.25 million in funding secured by Wiltshire Council will be used to improve station facilities in West Wiltshire.

Station Improvements.

Wiltshire Council has successfully bid for 4.25M from the Government's Local Sustainable Transport Fund to improve the area's rail provision over the next three years. The Council is looking to invest in measures at the rail stations to turn them into sustainable transport hubs by improving facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. Atkins have been appointed to develop a Travel Plan for each station in Wiltshire. They have studied each station and have identified for each station a number of issues and barriers to sustainable travel. Some of the problems they have identified are poor cycle facilities including a lack of secure parking, no walking and cycle routes with signposts to stations, insufficient car parking, lack of real time train information and incorrect signage, lack of branding and marketing and missed opportunities to promote rail in conjunction with special events. To assist they recently held a seminar attended by an invited audience to obtain further views on what is desired.

Looking at the stations in our area alphabetically:

Avoncliff - access is by steps and there is no onward travel information;

Bradford-on-Avon - a high level of bicycle thefts, insufficient cycle parking, incorrect signage and a barrow crossing used under staff guidance to avoid a long walk;

Dilton Marsh - long ramps are a disabled access problem, poor visibility at road on leaving the station and no dropped curbs;

Melksham - hidden from view, poor service of trains, no signs from bus stop and need for car parking;

Trowbridge - no bus stop in forecourt, pedestrian sign pointing wrong way, town map is behind a tree in the car park some distance from the platform exit and no signs from / to local bus stops;

Warminster - wheelchair access between platforms through an often flooded subway, bus information has routes but no times;

Westbury - uneven pavements in station entrance vicinity, main bus stops are 300 yards away in Station Road and road layout, recently constructed, makes bus access to station forecourt difficult.

Atkins will be seeing as to how many of these problems can be resolved with the finance available...


On behalf of everyone at First Great Western, I would like to offer my congratulations to the West Wilts Rail User Group on reaching the 100th edition of your excellent newsletter.

We have always valued the help and support, (and challenges!), that we have received from the Rail User Groups and Community Rail Partnerships in our region, support that has been of great assistance to us in the development of our timetables and services to best meet your needs. I know that I also speak on behalf of the many members of First Great Western through this and the previous franchise who have attended your meetings and listened to your views.

We are of course particularly pleased that we can now offer a new through high speed service to and from London Paddington for the residents of Bradford-on-Avon and Trowbridge. On weekdays, the first Westbury to London Paddington train now starts from Bristol Temple Meads, calling at Bradford-on-Avon and Trowbridge then running as before from Westbury to London. In the evenings, the 17.06 London Paddington to Westbury service has been diverted after Pewsey to call at Trowbridge, then Bradford-on-Avon, and going forward to Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads.

In addition, we are working in partnership with Wiltshire Council this summer to run a trial of extra Sunday services between Westbury and Swindon via Melksham. Running during July and August, there will be a morning service from Westbury to Swindon. Leaving Westbury at 07.30, it will call at Trowbridge, Melksham, then Chippenham, arriving at Swindon for connections to London. The train then returns from Swindon at 08.20, calling at Chippenham, Melksham, Trowbridge and Westbury, where it forms an early departure to Weymouth, offering a day out at the sea.

Looking a little further ahead, the forthcoming electrification of the Great Western Main Line from London to Bristol will also have a benefit to passengers journeying via Bath to London. Electrification will bring reductions in journey time and a more reliable, environmentally friendly service for our customers.

This is a crucial step forward in the revitalisation of the Western Route, and improved infrastructure coupled with new electric trains opens the door to more frequent services and further potential journey time savings, in line with the Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy published last year.

I acknowledge things don't always run smoothly, but together I believe we've made significant progress in recent times to deliver a better service. We now look forward to drawing on our unrivalled expertise and experience to bid for the new Great Western franchise and continue to develop key projects across our network. In the meantime we will continue to focus on delivering a high quality service for our customers throughout the remainder of the franchise.

Congratulations once again on reaching your 100th edition, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to deliver reliable and expanding rail services, now and hopefully over the next decade and through the next 100 issues.

Mark Hopwood, First Great Western Managing Director.