JAMES ABBOTT takes a ride along the TransWilts route from Swindon to Westbury and hears about plans for expansion
Wiltshire is well provided with east-west rail corridors. Three routes between London and Exeter cut through the county: the original Great Western line through Bristol, the GW’s Berks & Hants cut-off through Westbury, and the London & South Western route through Salisbury. But north-south links are scarcer: this makes the TransWilts line from Swindon and Chippenham through Melksham to Westbury, plus the related line from Bath through Bradford-on-Avon that joins the TransWilts line at Trowbridge, all the more valuable.
The line through Melksham was almost a casualty of the Beeching cull, but survived thanks to its freight and its utility as a diversionary route. However, passenger services dwindled away, with the station at Melksham closed in 1966 and the line singled. Although the station was reopened by British Rail in 1985, a decade ago it was only served by a couple of trains a day: it was not until 2013 that a revival began, with services now roughly every two hours.