Wiltshire Publications

Real rail success for Transwilts in Westbury

THE Transwilts rail service from Westbury to Swindon received the seal of government approval on 7th February with a visit from the Minister of State Baroness Kramer. 

The minister attended the official launch of the service and praised the hard work of all those who helped get it running.  The revised timetable between the two towns began last December and marked the final stage in the restoration of a service, after many years of campaigning by the Trans Wilts Community Rail Partnership, first threatened with closure by Dr. Beeching  50 years ago.

Baroness Kramer came with good news, as the line is now projected to carry 60,000 passengers in its first year.  Original numbers were projected to be 45,000 but the latest passenger counts suggest the much higher figure.

Restitution of the service has been made possible by Wiltshire Council bidding for a government grant of £4.25m, permitting the council to support the route for three years.

This is similar to a scheme on the Severn Beach line feeding into Bristol; a service which also had £400,000 support for three years and which now carries one million passengers a year and has no subsidy.

Baroness Kramer was joined by MP Duncan Hames, Wiltshire Councillors Richard Gamble, John Thomson and Horace Prickett and members of the Trans Wilts Community Rail Partnership on the 11:47 from Westbury to Chippenham, where an official reception took place to celebrate the event.

Baroness Kramer said, “Duncan Hames said I had to come and see this project as it is exemplary of a community coming together at every level.  The investment going into the railway is absolutely crucial for the economic future that we want and the benefits come from many directions.  We are celebrating the work of many people and organisations and I would like to thank Wiltshire Council, First Great Western, Duncan Hames and the community rail partnership.”

Graham Ellis from the Trans Wilts Community Rail Partnership said, “It’s going better than we hoped and everybody is very positive about it.”  He added that this would help people to seek employment in Swindon;  previously this had been very difficult without a car.

The improved rail service between Westbury and Swindon also serves Trowbridge, Melksham and Chippenham with six additional trains each way daily Monday to Saturday and four trains on Sunday.  It is also intended to extend the service to Weymouth during the summer holiday period.