Thursday, 30th June, marked the 175th anniversary of the first train journey between Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads through Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Box Tunnel! An auspicious day on which to welcome seventy Corsham residents to The Tynings Hall to learn of the work recently undertaken by SLC Consultants for the Gateway Town Team of which our speaker, Paul Johnson, is a member. For those who had not lived in Corsham since 1986, Anne Lock briefly made reference to early meetings of the Civic Society’s Station Committee; of the contribution of Dave Finney, whose IT expertise had translated the entire town’s travel data into excellent graphs and the past experience of Mike Altman, which led him to suggest the necessity of a slogan, the three “Ps” – Patience, Persistence, Persuasion – and how right that proved to be! Photographs exist of side-line celebrations in 2002 following Wiltshire’s successful bid for funding, only to have that withdrawn nine months later, and to be followed the next year by the withdrawal of ‘our’ local service, the Bristol/Oxford.
Paul Johnson’s presentation was based on the work undertaken by SLC, the consultants appointed by the Gateway Town Team who had found the provision of a station at Corsham achievable, their work having taken the project to Stage 2 of Network Rail’s GRIP process, GRIP being an acronym for “Guide to Rail Investment Process”, eight stages through which any scheme, large or small, must progress. These being:
- l) Output Definition 2) Feasibility 3) Option Selection 4) Single Option Development 5) Detailed Design 6) Construction, Testing and Commission 7) Scheme Handback 8) Project Close Out.
Target dates of 2018 and 2026 were mentioned, the first particularly dependent upon Wiltshire Council working with the West of England Partnership team on MetroWest Phase 1, and prepared to contribute financially to the scheme which would see the new Bristol Temple Meads service continuing past Bathampton to Chippenham’s bay platform. A longer-term solution was the return of the Bristol/Oxford passenger service. Graphics were shown of the station design envisaged by the consultants.
A number of those present raised their concerns about the lack of sufficient parking provision, their fear being that vehicles would be left on nearby residential streets. Paul pointed to their experience of Melksham Station (with free parking available) where most passengers walked, even from as far afield as Bowerhill on the opposite side of town.
Anne urged people to get involved with the Neighbourhood Plan as through this they could seek provision of resident’s parking zones to ensure the document took account of the need for these as plans for the station progressed. Concerns were also expressed about the feasibility of using Pound Mead for a dedicated rail link bus, given the narrowness of this street since the building of the Tramways development. It provides, along with Stokes Road, pedestrian access to Corsham Junior School and many would need convincing that the running of a bus would not prove a danger to young children. Throughout his presentation, Paul Johnson was able to refer to the success of the two hourly Melksham TransWilts services that all but met its fifth-year passenger target within the first eighteen months of operation. That success owing much to the dedication of the team, one member having undertaken the task of delivering a timetable to every household in Melksham!
Paul Johnson also referred to the work TransWilts were undertaking with Wilton Town Council on the reopening of their station, plus Royal Wootton Bassett, which he felt could well prove beneficial to the reopening of Corsham Station given that both require a local service. Paul made clear that the new electric Hitachi 800 would not serve our station, although the lower running costs of electrification could make any new station more viable.
The Q&A ended with Paul encouraging his audience to join TransWilts as a “Friend of Corsham Station”. The cost per year is £5 but between April and August, a 50% discount applies, to which one adds an initial joining fee of £2. This membership ensures friends are kept up to date with all the latest information. It will also act as an indicator of the level of residents’ interest in supporting our Gateway Town Team’s initiative. Please visit www.transwilts.org and click the “Friends” icon to join. We hope you will take advantage of the April-August offer and why not tell your friends via Facebook and Twitter that you have done so!