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TransWilts community rail partnership could get formal footing

The 32-mile route between Swindon and Westbury, known as the TransWilts line, could formally be recognised as a community rail service under a new consultation launched today by rail minister Claire Perry.

Although the partnership already exists as part of the TransWilts CIC (community interest company), it is not formally recognised by the Department for Transport in its list of 19 community lines.

A department spokesman told RTM: “If the consultation is successful, it’ll be added to the list of dedicated community rail services, and that means it would give the partnership more leverage – whether it’s working with local communities or working with the local rail companies.

“There are a few rail lines that, whilst they might operate in a similar sort of way, they don’t necessarily have the designated status.”

Designated status gives some “extra leverage” on funding, putting the partnership “on a much firmer footing when you’re talking about access to grants or engagement with the local authorities”, he added.

But the more important aspect is the formal recognition of the status and the fact that the DfT recognises it as a bona fide community rail service, RTM was told.

In the consultation document, the department also said formal designation will help build on the good work of the existing TransWilts partnership.

If given the green light, the label would allow the local community to design train services according to its needs, in turn helping improve passenger numbers and strengthen connectivity.

Operators including Great Western Railway (GWR) would continue running passenger services under the scheme, but it would have to engage with, and be supported by, the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership.

As is customary, the partnership would be made up of local organisations, TOCs, rail users and the local Wiltshire Council – all of which would have direct input in securing better services and facilities for the region.

This would include Chippenham and Melksham station improvements, which also fall under today’s proposals. Last year, the existing partnership also helped push for a series of improvements to Trowbridge station as part of a four-month £1m investment.

A GWR spokesman told RTM: “Throughout the Great Western network community rail groups play a leading role, adding value to projects designed to improve services and make stations safer, friendlier and greener.

“We have worked in partnership with Wiltshire Council and the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership to improve the service offered on this line between Westbury and Swindon; providing additional services, and this has been reflected by an significant increase in passengers numbers. We and are delighted that the partnership is being considered for more formal recognition.”

Naturally, infrastructure such as track and signalling would continue to be under Network Rail’s remit.

Perry said today: “I know how important this line is to local communities in Wiltshire, and it’s right that passengers have a bigger say in shaping its future.

“By designating the TransWilts line as a community rail service, we can breathe new life into this route, ensure its long term future, and improve connections between Swindon that will mean better journeys for customers and promote local economic growth.”

If given the formal status, the TransWilts partnership would closely follow two other partnership designations in the last few months, including one in Cambridgeshire on the Hereward Line and another in the London Borough of Hounslow – the capital’s first.

(Top image c. Geoff Sheppard)


Andrew G   12/02/2016 at 11:22

It be good to have a community operated railway in Wiltshire with Great Western Railway (GWR) operating usual services between Swindon and Westbury and even to Warminster and Salisbury.

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