OF WESSEX RAIL PARTNERSHIP
The partnership brings together County, Unitary and District Councils and the train operator to develop and fund projects that add value to the line to the benefit of local communities and their economies, and to encourage more people to travel by train.
Find our annual report for 2012 here.
Find a more detailed annual report for 2011 here.
Our funding partners are Bristol City Council, Bath& North East Somerset Council, Wiltshire Council, Somerset County Council, South Somerset District Council, West Dorset District Council, Dorset County Council and First Great Western.
We set out to raise awareness and use of the Heart of Wessex Line through:
1) Widening the partnership to involve local communities and improve understanding of, and response to, local needs along the line.
2) Improving quality and availability of information promoting the line and its destinations/local economies and raising the profile of the service as an alternative to the private car.
3) Improving station environments and facilities, and access to them by other modes of travel.
Between 2003 and 2011 the use of the line has tripled, a growth rate four times larger than the national average for regional routes. Our trains are therefore now far from underused, and the old perception of this line as a "Cinderella" route has been all but banished. A substantial group of community and volunteer supporters has been built up, carrying out their own projects to enhance stations, and promote the line and the destinations along it. Their own Community Rail Working Party meets regularly with First Great Western and Network Rail to progress ideas and projects.
Whilst there has been no increase to the overall number of services, the partnership has worked closely with First Great Western on timetables, and has achieved a number of improvements to the benefit of local customer groups. We have also collected data and produced the business case for both increased capacity on some trains, and for continuing additional trains to Weymouth in the summer.
The partnership commissioned a study in 2010/11 to make the case for improved services on the Heart of Wessex Line, and this has been submitted for consideration in the next franchise specification to begin in Spring 2013.
Promoting use of the line remains a major priority for the rail partnership, which produces the Bristol to Weymouth Line Guide and marketing initiatives aimed at bringing more visitors into the region by this rail route, and encouraging more local people to use it in preference to their cars.