Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary
Melksham Station - passenger numbers and prognosis
Rail passenger numbers (station entries and exits) from the year April 2021 to March 2022 have just been published. Here is a table of the estimated numbers for all railway station in Wiltshire, and also for nearby stations which people commonly use as railheads for Wiltshire.
Raw numbers tell us little - they need to be put into context. So I have added columns of numbers for
- number of journeys 25 years ago (1997) - the earliest for which stats are available
- number of journeys ten years ago (2012) - to give a comparison over that last ten years
- number of journeys to March 2020 - to give the latest (often peak) figure before Covid
- number of journeys to March 2021 - showing how numbers fell during Covid lockdowns
- number of journeys to March 2022 - showing some recovery, but it will be noted that these numbers are now over six months old and there have been considerable travel and national events which may mean that things have changed again in the last six months!!
A good measure of the success, or otherwise, of the promotion of appropriate train services is to look at how passenger numbers have grown over the years, or have withstood national events. The following three columns look at growth (or otherwise) over the last 25, 10 and 2 years. So taking the Melksham example which I have highlighted on the chart, we have grown to 1353% of our 1997 figure - 13.5 passengers for every one we had a quarter of a century ago. 4.5 times what we had a decade ago, but only 69% of what we were two years ago pre-covid.
The final two columns show journeys per person per annum - the number of passenger journeys taken per head of population each year. It's a measure of how much the railway has become / is an integral part of the town's life. So on average a Trowbridge resident will make 17 journeys by train a year, but a Melksham resident will makes just two (and even that's 4 times what it was a decade ago!)
What does the data reveal?
1. Passenger numbers were back up to about two thirds of their preCovid level in the year to March 2022. But in almost every case, that number is considerably more than it was 25 years ago.
2. Covid recovery has been noticeably slower at stations with major London commuter flows - Grateley, Swindon, Pewsey, Bedwyn, Chippenham. Recovery has been best at Frome, Warminster and Westbury which are perhaps not the traditional commuter stations; I also note Avoncliff and Dean up there, where the numbers are small and the traffic is strongly leisure
3. Journeys per head of population per annum remain in excess of 10 journeys right across the county - a number are in excess of 30 journeys indicating perhaps a town heavily reliant on its railways. Only Frome (just outside the county, included as a railhead) and Melksham have significantly lower figures, and I note that these are the only two towns for which this statistic is provided that have infrequent and erratic trains - all the others have a pattern that runs at least once an hour.
4. Growth at Melksham has been massive compared to any other station over the years - now at 452% of what it was a decade ago which is nearly 4 times the growth of anywhere else. However, it started from such a low point that passenger number remain truly appalling. Previous work suggests that the numbers would grow to a similar level as (say) Warminster - that's 5 times the current numbers / quarter of a million journeys a year should a reliable hourly train service, from early morning to late evening 7 days a week.
Here is the timetable for trains calling at Melksham from 11th December 2022 to May 2023.
Service prior to 10th December virtually identical.
See below for holiday, engineering and industrial action notes.
Trains noted "A" and "B" and in green are seasonal - one OR other runs every Sunday.
Trains schedules may vary around public holidays
Planned strike days - service is reduced or totally cancelled on those days. When there are engineering works, rail replacment buses will be provided; these will take longer and often involve a change in Chippenham, sometimes bus to train.
Published Wednesday, 30th November 2022
Security issues in Melksham - lighting and CCTV
Two excellent debates last night at Town Council - a security theme looking forward with regard lighting in the East Ward and at CCTV for the town.
Lighting - East Ward
The new(ish) housing areas to the North of Snarelton Lane, (Skylark Road), Cranesbill Road (Verdana Court and the Water Meadow) and the Blueberry Road area are separated by green space with paths which are very dark indeed at night. And that includes the early evening, even at the time the children are walking home from school.
The lack of lighting provision from when the houses were built was regretted, and the need for lighting was agreed. Further work is to be done by a professional adviser to work out more closely what's needed, with regard such issues as providing a safe environment rather than an area which encourages anti-social behaviour, avoiding disturbing wildlife by Clackers Brook, and working out how it will be done, what it will cost to do, and who will maintain it at who's expense. The suggestion is that the work would be funded from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) - a pot of money set aside when houses are built for community facilities of benefit to the new residents. Excellent preliminary work by town councillor Louisa Lewis, Unitary Councillor Mike Sankey and a member of the public. The council also passes a resolution authorising the Town Clerk to work with Melksham Without to consider lighting the direct route from these new housing areas to the Melksham Oak school, which runs across the boundary of the two parishes.
CCTV - Town Centre
A proposal for Melksham to join with Warminster, Westbury and the West Wilts Trading Estate in a modern, real time monitored CCTV system was brought by councillor Goodhind. Our current system is old, low quality and not monitored in the same way, and there is a feeling that a more modern system that's monitored more could/should help reduce various crimes, and assist the police in their work.
Two gentlemen from Warminster, where a new control room and equipment is to be installed, answered councillor's questions and some concerns. Without expert input on where and how many cameras would be needed for the new system, Councillor Goodhind proposed that we agree in principle to joining the scheme, and spend a few thousand pounds getting such advice. Total scheme cost over four years, though, likely to be around £150,000. I suggested that we might to ahead with commissioning the expert input, but not agreeing to join "in principle" as the whole point of expert advise is to help answer the question "is this right for us". However, the proposal even to get expert advise was rejected in a vote.
So - what now on the future of CCTV for the town? I don't know ...
There were 16 numbered items on the agenda. The Mayor, early in the meeting, switched things around to discuss the two items above, for which members of the public were present. We then started to discuss the budget for next year, but very little time was left and at 10 p.m. that discussion was suspended, and all the other items on the agenda were lost or deferred to a later meeting.
It was really good to see all fifteen councillors in the chamber last night, and to hear interaction and inputs from everyone. That is exactly how it should be - and it happened because this meeting was put into all of our diaries for the year, and we're a conscientious lot. But with unfinished business there's a call for an extra meeting and there seems no suitable date for everyone - 14th December chosen as the least worst date - however, I will need to send my apologies as I have already planned to be away that week, plans made secure in the knowledge that there were no vital council meetings. There may be exceptional circumstances that extra meetings are needed, but I can't help feeling that the exception has turned into the norm.
Published Tuesday, 29th November 2022
Learning for Melksham - and notes on the Town CouncilI have only been around in Melksham around a half of the time during October and November, spending the rest of the time travelling around Europe by public transport (mostly train) with the intent of being better informed as I campaign for the UK - learning what is good and we could adopt for the future, and what we should be careful to avoid. It's not only public transport I've seen - I've seen river frontages, markets, tourism promotion, street scene, electric transport (private and public) and much more. And I will admit to having chosen some things to see and do for personal pleasure too - a.k.a. a bit of a holiday.
And so, back to Melksham - and council stuff. Three more members of our staff team have just finished or are finishing in the next week or so. All of them have made major contributions to the town and council, and I thank the for all they have done for the town and wish them well for significantly different new lives.
We have already (in my opinion) been short of staff time for our team to effectively do all the tasks laid upon them. A great deal of time and money has been spent on human resource issues - I am not privy to all of that as I'm not on the staffing committee for whom much work is in confidence, but I see evidence of issues. One of my return visits to the UK in the midst of my travels around Europe was for three meetings, but only one took place as planned - one was cancelled because there was no staff member to run it, and for another the staff member did not show up. I think we have work to do to put our own house in order - longstanding issues which, however, have been coming to a head.
The need to put our own house in order extends to us councillors too - I hear of meetings which were not quorate, and further for which apoligies for absence were not received. I can understand that the frequent missing and late cancellation of meetings by staff sets up an environment where councillors, who are unpaid volunteers, themselves can feel they don't need to put themselves out to attend .
The Town Hall is now open to the public on just four days a week; a sensible though regrettable decision as the five-day hours had proven to be unsustainable with reliability. I personally supported a full council meeting which voted to reduce the opening from 5 days to four, but to include an evening up to 7 p.m. so that people in normal full time employment could come in and speak with the team in person without having to make special arrangements with work. Sadly, and extraordinarily, it appears that the new hours implemented are NOT what the councillors voted for, and it does feel at times that staff make their own decisions which are contrary to what their councillors voted for. In answer to my question on this example, I understand that there is an issue with requiring staff to work into the evening, but that really does not seem right when as part of their roles they support evening meetings and evening and weekend events anyway. It really should have come back to full council if the full council's decision could not be implemented for some reason.
Having written somewhat critically of what's going on, I really must add my appreciation of staff who are doing a magnificnent job in the difficult environment they find themselves in. Criticism of the whole is not criticism of the individuals who do so much good within it - quite the opposite; a big THANK YOU to those individuals. And a welcome to newcomers to the team too - although we have been at something of an awkward situation, we have a great opportunity now - for the town - to rebuild. With two and a half years to the next local elections, this is likely to be the time that those councillors looking for re-election start looking more towards building for the future than perhaps they have done in some cases for the last 18 months.
Published Sunday, 27th November 2022
Taxi - charges and (no) surchargesIf you take a taxi in Wiltshire, the fare you pay should be what's on the meter; there is no "fuel surcharge" or extra payment required if you are taken into the Bath clean air zone. There have been suggestions that some passengers have been asked for additional payments - that should not be, and if what's suggested is true, it's illegal. Further, many taxi passengers are vulnerable people, and the licensing authority (Wiltshire Council) would take a very dim view indeed of taxi drivers asking for extra money from passengers. If you are asked for an additional payment, please let Wiltshire Council know (here) so they can help ensure that the same thing doesn't happen to other customers who are less informed.
OK - 99% of the time, no problem, and I'm not even sure how much my report is Melksham related. We have good excellent taxi services in the town ... though at certain times of day, not enough of them and sometimes it can be hard to find one available. On the Melksham Transport User Group site, I have a list of local taxi numbers - (here) - call that up on your smart phone and it's click and dial! Please let me know of any updates - taxi firms come and go. The criteria for listing are that a taxi firm must typically be available for journeys to and from Melksham Station, and it must be licensed by Wiltshire Council. I do not recommend any one firm over another, and indeed the list on that web page comes up in a different order each day so ensure no favouratism.
P.S. Not really a Town Council matter - but brought to your attention at the request to the council by a local driver who's worried that some of his colleagues may be getting them all a bad name!
Published Tuesday, 15th November 2022
Electric Car Charging in MelkshamOn the agenda for the Economic Development Committee of the Town Council on Monday (7 p.m., also on Zoom, all residents welcome), we receive a report written "To establish whether the Town Council have an appetite to apply for the funding available through Wiltshire Council and Central Government to enable the Town Council to provide Electric Charging Points at various, agreed, and approved locations in the Town."
The Town Council has pledged to do all it can to reduce its carbon emissions in the bid to tackle Climate Change. The Council has a 74-point Action Plan to promote biodiversity, which the Council has a duty to consider and take mitigating steps to reduce carbon emissions to tackle the Climate Change crisis. See (here) where I have mirrored the report written. It refers to the Wiltshire Council strategy mirorred (here)
Published Saturday, 12th November 2022
Town Centre Masterplan - draftFor the next neighbourhood plan, through which Melksham Town and Melksham Without can help guide the town's spatial developement, we require a vision for the Town Centre - and that's where the Town Centre Master Plan comes in. A draft of ths is coming before the Economic Development and Planning Committee on Monday evening ... members of the public welcome to come along and comment in the public participation at the start of the meeting (7 p.m., Town Hall, also on Zoom and broadcast on Facebook). I have mirrored the draft (here)
Our agenda item reads as follows: "To receive the draft Town Centre Masterplan produced by AECOM (see attached). Members are requested to decide how the Masterplan should move forward in the Neighbourhood Plan review."
1. The funding for this report comes from neighbourhood planning grants available from Central Government, and not the local taxpayer
2. The Town Council is very very much aware of the end of production at Copper Tires and the 'brown-field' site left very close to the Town Centre, and is mindful that future strategic planning should include that site. At the same time, the Town Council is mindful of the sensitivity in considering this at the very time that the shock of job losses and the effect of the people concerned is of top concern.
Published Friday, 11th November 2022
About me as a councillorIn answer to a public comment that said:
"All the Councillors living in their large detached houses with absolutely no respect for the general community that struggle day after day. !!!!!!"
Ah - I noted your comment, Liz, but felt it pragmatic to simply let it stand. I changed my stance and added an answer when Lisa, my wife, felt drawn in. But nothing in my answer should come as any surprise - nothing new here.
I have been asked (as, I think a one-off) to "check my moral compass" in the past, have done so, and found it to be pointing in the right direction. Sure, we live in a detached house and it IS large. It's home to Lisa and myself, who share a bedroom, and the other three bedrooms are currently the homes of guests from Ukraine. I am fortunate to have worked without significant break from 1971 until the 2020 lockdown provided a natural final retirement, and has allowed me to take up activities which I find fulfilling and enjoyable.
There is a big danger in me saying I do the councillor thing for "enjoyment" when the effect of the work we do as councillors is far, far beyond "enjoyment" for everyone else involved. Of course, if the system was different and I was paid (town councillors are not) you might be happier with my position, but then if I and the other 14 volunteer councillors were paid, it would add somewhere around £100 per annum to each Council Tax bill. Anyway - my choice to be a "muggins" and do it for free, when I could be spending my retirement playing golf, fishing, gardening, cruising around the world, or being a professional complainer!
I have faced (and been made) redundant twice. I have had to tell my wife and kids, packed to go off on holiday in the car for a week in Devon, that we are not going because of changes at work and that I'll loose my job if we go. If you ask if I have ever had to choose between keeping warm and eating, then, no, I haven't. To some extent, that's luck - but then I hope I have helped make my luck by being prudent and making appropriate choices. Just this morning, no trains in Melksham and a rail strike, I opted for a series of buses to my destination and not a taxi.
Every Councillor is different. These are just my personal comments, and I whilst I look at what others to and sometimes emulate them, that is far from universal. I spend, probably, much more time than most in communicating, but I try to make that communication be realistic and consistent, and not just what you want to hear. My story will be the same for everyone, though it will be presented as appropriate for the audience. And I learn; I'm not afraid to say "I don't know", nor am I afraid to change my stance as I learn more, or circumstance change, and to admit to those changes.
Every Councillor is different. So you cannot read the approach I describe in the previous paragraph to everyone. But I can tell you that in the 18 months I have been a councillor, my respect and admiration for the vast majority of them has grown hugely and as a town you are so fortunate to have this majority working for free on your behalf. I do have concerns where individuals have other interests such as being a Unitary councillor, for which they receive money. That makes it very difficult for them to take a view in the Town Council's interest where it may differ from the Unitary Authority's interest. For the most part, the interests are parallel, mind you.
A further though - I have massive time and respect for those who have themselves stood for Town Council (whether last time or before, elected or not) as they have being willing to put their time to the town and not just throw out word. Next elections are in 2025, and I would love to be there as part of a strong field, even if that lessens my chance of continuing. I also have huge time and respect for those who help the community in other ways without our groups around the time, and also a big understanding for those who don't find themselves in a position where they can help.
Sure, I live in a big house. In the middle of the ward I help represent too. You have 4 town councillors in south ward, 2 of us living here in the ward as well. My door is "always open" - but, please, that's in a virtual / electronic way. I can be reached by email or on Facebook any day, I can be phoned on my mobile, I can set up Zoom session and, please with an appointment, you are welcome to call round. That "with appointment" helps us plan to meet rather than suffering the frustration of guessing when I'll be home. Some of you may have noticed I have a public transport campaigning "hat" and I'm sometimes away - Indeed I'm not in Melksham as I write this - I'm awaiting transport that I'm learning about, but still "here" for Melksham.
- Illustration - helping at the Ukrainian and others clothes give away in the Assembly Hall this summer
Published Saturday, 5th November 2022
Planning for next year - Ecomomic Development and Assembly HallSome of the most important meetings of the Town Council are taking place this month - the budget working group which is looking forward to next year's anticipated spend and going through each committee's spending projections for the year 2023/24, informed by the expenditure we saw in the six or seven months from April, and what we know is coming up in the next few months. We should also be informed by a vision or a strategic plan, but we don't have one; early work was done on this when the council was new in the summer of 2021, but sadly the resource that should have been used for this important and long term stuff has been focused on immediate and more urgent issues.
Last night, we took a look at the budget for the Economic Development and Planning committee segment - of any of the segments, that's the one that needs a strategy, and expert inputs which we've sadly lacked. The "Econ Dev" committee comprises seven members only one of whom was on the previous council, and there's no longer a business development post at the council which informs us. With those concerns in mind, I do believe that the budget committee, with three Econ Dev members on it, has come up with budget proposals which are prudent, but at the same time allow us to access experts to help us get it right for the future, and allow us to take in the very uncertainty of forecasting. Details will be written up over the next few days and should be in the public agenda pack for the committee meeting itself on 14th October, at which point I can explain further, and also fill you in on developments which are funded from other sources so appear elsewhere in the accounts, such as our earmarked reserves.
The Assembly Hall budget for 2023/4 was also looked at last night. That's with the Assets and Amenities Committee remit, but had been left off the working group meeting that met for that committee. There were changes to the charging regime structure, and thus the operating model, in May. And that's resulted in some massive movements of elements around for next year. Considerable discussions last night on those movements, and on the wider aspects of the overall balance sheet for the hall, bearing in mind that there are general budget things which benefit the hall, and there are hall resources used by the council which do not appear as income. It was suggested that these elements may balance out, but unless we accept that speculation as being correct, the Assembly Hall budget cannot be taken as being a correct operational balance sheet for the hall. What was positive from the discussions was a desire to make the hall work, and with more and better planning and community help coming into play in areas like marketing, promotion and assistance.
Published Wednesday, 2nd November 2022
Learning for MelkshamThis month (October 2022) I have spent much of my time away from Melksham, taking a "this year only" opportunity to travel around by public transport - 50% off Interail passes to celebrate their 50 years, and now that I am longer working (for payment, anyway) some time available to do so. As a 2 month pass was only a few pounds more than a one month jobbie, I carry on for much of November, leaving Melksham again on 5th. I am online daily, and indeed I have done media inteviews by phone from Regua and Westport! And I am around for most key council meetings, though with late changes and addtions, I have to send my apologies to a couple of them.
A change is as good as a rest - and these journeys are not rests. They are showing me not only public transport but other town and cities and letting me get at least a surface view of how things are done there - some things better and some things worse than in Melksham. Seeding ideas - little things like "why don't we do this" and "thank goodness we don't do that".
The picture illustrating this could almost be Melksham - a 2 carriage local train drops a mixed bunch of passengers on quite a bleak platform. I happens to be Cork, with the arrival of the train from Midleton which, like the station in Melksham, lost its rail service for a number of years. There are differences - this service runs 4 times as frequently as our in Melksham and is very well used, and there's a late train that we lack. Midleton has a population of around 13,000 so its significanty smaller than Melksham.
Published Monday, 31st October 2022
Away and homeI am reporting on 10 days, 40 trains plus a ferry, a coach, and 3 bus journeys.
Also commenting on events in Melksham while I have been away - jump (here)
In a fit of some madness, I purchased an Interail ticket earlier in the year at 50% off to celebrate 50 years of Interail. As I grow older and the body and mind start to give way, it's an opportunity to travel in a window of opportunity between retirement and senility; the window is open and I don't know when it will close, so I am taking full advantage.
11th October 2022, from home in Melksham by public rail transport down through France, Spain and Portugal, taking in a selection of railway lines than had caught my fancy or intrigued me on a map all the day to Faro on the Algarve. Then back in "Race Across the World" mode to arrive home on the evening of 20th October.
Booking hotels a day or two ahead and planning the trip at short notice at each stage - grabbing train reservations where necessary. A trip to experience the travel rather than the destination, and to be nourished rather than have a gourmet experience.
The furthest north I got was Swindon, the furthest south was Faro (pictured further down). The furthest west was Lisbon, end the furthest east was Lille or Lyon - I'm unclear from the map projection which of those two it was. But this was primarily a public transport (rail) experience and of those places named, I only left the station in one of them, and changed trains in only one other.
I have slept in 9 different beds in 3 different countries - France, Spain and Portugal, in 7 different towns or cities. 2 nights, bracketing my visit to western Spain and Portugal, were spent in Barcelona but in very different hotels. And one night was travelling in a couchette.
* The longest train journey on a single train was from Paris (Montparnasse) to Latour-du-Carol high in the Pyrenees. The Shortest was from Farringdon to St Pancras International.
* The smallest station I used was San Xoan and for the largest, well it could have been Paris St Lazare or Kings Cross St Pancras International, in both cases the measurement of "size" is complicated by which of the associated suburban and underground / metro lines you include in the count, and whether you count passengers getting off or or, or include those going through, or number of train movements, or platforms. Do you even count Paris Metro line 14 which runs on rubber tyres - a sort of cross between a guided busway and a train - in the figures for St Lazare. Come to think of it, Paris (Gare du Lyon) may also be a contender for "largest" - crowded, picture later in the article.
* My longest walk to a hotel was in Barcelona early in my trip (that's why I went somewhere else in the city as I passed back through) and my shortest walk was in Caen, where I crossed the road by the Zebra just out of the station doors, and instead of turning left or right onto the pavement carried on straight ahead into reception.
* The high point of my trip was Nuria, some 2000 metres above sea level (pictured to the right), and the low point was perhaps 50 metres (a guess - I don't know how far down) below the English Channel in the Channel Tunnel. It may be a guess, but in any case is "Sea Level" measured at high, median, or low tide?
* The trip had high and low experience points - more on those later - but again I'll name Nuria as a contender for the high point, and the Eurostar trip under the channel as the low point.
* The most helpful railway person was the young lady at Aviles, and the least helpful was the reservation clerk at Barcelona Sants who turned me away at 20:30 because he was closed for reservations for the following day. Mind you, he was polite. And mind you again, neither the lady at Aviles nor the gent in the ticket office where she took me was able to issue what I was asking for.
* The best food - Leon, Regua and Barcelona. The worst - Caen and also Barcelona.
* The fastest train - Lyon to Paris, at up to 300km per hour. The slowest - Ribes to Nuria, which has the excuse of being a rack railway.
Some superlatives and extremes, and their stories
* The most beautiful Station - Porto San Bento. What can I say - I'll not write 1000 words - I'll give you it as lead picture.
* The quietest station for its size - Ferrol. Just 3 departures on Saturday on the board gauge. Big terminus substantial town. But so many lines in Spain (especially) seem to have very, very thin services. Probably because distances are so great that there isn't the intersection of local and long distance traffic on the same trains, and Ferrol has little local.
* The most disappointing train - Vigo to Porto. International train, right? Well - it's a 3 car suburban-ish diesel multiple unit that runs services in the outer 'burbs of Porto mostly and extends International just twice a day. And as far as I can tell, these are 2 of just 3 international trains running between Spain and Portugal each day. The third crossed the border inland then runs out with a change of trains required and timetable helpfully say "connection not guaranteed" - never mind, there will be another train tomorrow.
* The least good company. The bloke who I sat beside on Eurostar. I sat in one of a pair of seats - wasn't sure of the numbering and chose the window. He turned up and insisted on the window, precoded to put the (single) intermediate arm rest down and fully occupy it, indeed spilling into my inner seat as he was clearly oversized for the seat he had demanded. Totally impervious to his occupying a portion of my seat as well as his own, and wriggly!
* The latest trains ... 40 minutes delay on arrival in each case (each set off on time)
- London to Paris
- Latour-du-Carol to Risel
- Barcelona to Leon
- Porto to Faro
None caused a problem, although I was concerned for my connection in Paris - I made the night train by 15 minutes!
* The best company. (1) Special mention for two people in the Douro Valley. Across from our train to another, chatting with the steward on the 100 year old presidential train, on its last run before going back into the museum. Learned a lot of Portuguese history that we were never taught in school, and sampled (passed across between the trains in a plastic cup) some local 10 year matured port. (2) A tourist doing similar in that he was exploring on his own. Not sure that we chatted much, but company was nice; sad to say he also reminded me in some aspects as to why the locals may not be all that keen on tourists. Texans!
* Best hotel - Leon. Near the station, neat, modern, convenient - and with enough soft furnishing to avoid it feeling like a prison cell as so many hotel rooms did. Not that I have any personal experience of a prison cell, I hasten to add.
* Best hotel breakfast - Regua. Excellent continental buffet, overlooking the scenic river. Pictured just above. The rooms, though, were dated.
* The biggest surprise - Leon. A wonderful old city which I had selected as my overnight stop purely because of the railway geography.
* The best scenery - Nuria, Leon to Oviedo, North Spain Coast (Picture just below of one of the many towns along there)
* Where I want more time. Gijon, Guimares, Porto, Faro, Caen ...
My laptop (I was writing this up on my laptop on Brittany Ferry's Salamanca, and am now posting while I wait just short of an hour on Westbury station!) and iPhone. Continental power adaptor (yes, I have UK one too) and cable to connect the two has proven perfectly adequate. Most trains have charging points, and a Go-Roam and Daily Data Passport have kept me pretty much in touch.
I did download a backup of the Coffee Shop forum databases when in McDonalds in Seville; other data areas on our server change little day by day.
The Maps app was a godsend in finding my hotels each night.
The Interail journey planner includes an excellent international timetable that I have been using to track / test journey options; it has a reservation facility which is less useful - often telling you to reserve locally (and sometimes as in Normandy where it turned out there was no need to reserve)
I need to research transferring a .pdf onto my iPhone. To do at home, not on the road
I would dearly love to find an earpiece that works for me; being totally deaf in one ear, such things tend to be a problem but I could really do with being able to listen in when on a train without sharing with the whole compartment!
Damage ... or is that wear and tear?
* My pass, which includes a logging sheet, has run out of space and I'm onto a continuation sheet. It's also torn apart and looking well used, probably because it IS well used
* I'm wearing boots that are supposed to be tough - but actually they'r not that tough - laces have failed and the soles are disintegrating. Will need a new pair for next time
* My USB-c to USB-c (power for Mac) cable is frayed, insulation gone at one end and I need to get a fresh one.
* I left a shirt in a hotel somewhere ... pity, I liked that shirt.
* There's a hole in one of my socks
Take - next time
Cutting my weight down - map and timetables vital, other reading material, newspapers, clipboard utterly not needed. Too many layers of clothes to lug around. One face mask plus one spare should be enough.
I was persuaded to take some medical 'necessities' which were proven unnecessary; thinking about those for next time.
I carried few clothes and was alternating day by day and washing overnight (so 2 nights to dry where rooms were not naturally good for drying). 3rd set unused, but good as a safety next.
Change boots to strong trainers.
Instant coffee sachets. 2 x ring bound notepads
News from home
* Cooper Tires - have announced they are to cease production in Melksham next year. Sad news but not really a shock. Huge sympathy with those who work there and some who have done so for many years. However (current government chaos allowing) we are in a time and area of job opportunities and we need bus and lorry drivers, care workers, shift production works at at least 3 other places I know in the area - so there's opportunities there and the 3% of people made redundant should be absorbed by the local community.
By my measurement, the Cooper Tires site is 11 hectares, and that's potentially prime river frontage in the town. I do not wish to appear to be a vulture waiting for Copper Tires to die before picking over the dead land carcass, BUT consideration needs to be given. Cooper Tires as a business will have considered this, I'm sure. As chair of Economic Development and Planning committee on the Town Council, I need to help guide what we look forward to for the future and how we steer it. I am hampered by the council deciding a year ago to declare the business development manager / expert redundant, by it overloading our clerk (who has some expertise in this area), and by certain individuals seemingly throwing rocks in the way of the "Priority for People" work which generated much useful thought and data for the previous council.
My trip was scheduled to miss minimal meetings. Monday's "Assets and Amenities" was the only one I missed (OK - I watched online as best I could, but councillors are not allowed to contribute remotely!) and I felt - as did others who missed it - that it was a disappointment in that the small group that actually attended (5 councillors, with 4 apologies sent) seemed to move very little forward - general concern amongst councillors shared on our WhatsApp group. Astonished than no-one - officers, councillors or public, chose to mention the Copper Tires news if only to indicate that the council was aware of it!
Wednesday - "Environment and Climate working group". Was to be a wash-up meeting to review Climatefest, and I sent in a travel and transport update in good time. Disappointed this didn't make the agenda pack to inform members, and no doubt I will see meeting notes from ECWG in due course.
Disappointing news that the "temporary" reduction of Melksham's town bus, due to driver shortage, is to become "permanent". With just one vehicle instead of two, it will struggle to provide anything except a "distress" service of use only by those who have no alternative, with some parts of the town having only 2 or 3 services per day - want to go shopping, and you have just the one round trip option left. Scarcely an encouragement to be climate friendly and use the bus! There is, though, a potential window of opportunity here, to be addressed over the first days I am back.
Also to note - potential storm cloud on the horizon for the direct bus link to the Royal United Hospital (service x76) which is not seen as "core network" and has been noted by thems who plan services as a potential cut when they look to save money next year. Which is far from what the people of Calne and Marlborough in particular want which is a much better service than the one per day.
And finally for those of you who have asked about live departure information at bus stops - we have an estimated price for installation per bus stop of just over £6000 if the bus stop already has electricity, estimated twice that if the bus shelter does not have electricity, and goodness knows how much if there isn't even a shelter. Price includes data and maintenance for a four year period, and I don't know about VAT. Wiltshire Council is putting in a new system across the county where the old systems are being replaces, and this price if for "piggybacking" extras onto the new system.
* Assembly Hall
Almost all of the October to December leaflets produced and distributed by the Assembly Hall friends with the help of the Town Council team have now gone - we just have a few left.
I await to hear from the Town Clerk about the survey of users that was due to go out - I have been promised an opportunity to review the questions.
Assembly Hall working group was told to reconsider its terms of reference by full council; the discussion was filibustered at the start of the month, and I can't help thinking it looks as if certain councillors and perhaps staff don't want to hall to succeed. Purley a personal feeling, of course ;-)
Lisa and I will be at "Majesty" tomorrow night. Looking forward to it!
* Home life
I understand there's been a lot going on - but you wouldn't expect me to break confidences here would you?
Would I do it again?
Yes, but that's a qualified yes. It's lonely on your own (eating alone, and seeing happy groups such as the final picture in Barcelona bring it home) and I would loved to have had Lisa with me, but rather than impose that would have meant a dramatically reduced itinerary (not that I had one!) or elongated schedule. I would love to have shared the experiences with someone - someone special and not just a friend I had linked up with for the trip. I'm minded of our cruises - with Lisa and me it's just a natural and enjoyed time, but with others (and in groups pre-cruising) having others along has limited rather than enhanced the pleasure. But I'm aware I tend to push - very hard - to maximise activities on trips (you will have noted this from my 10 day report) and that's far from easy on Lisa. I would consider qualified other company from someone who had the same interest and "zip" as me, but that's a rare beast, and I suspect I would still look for the odd independent day from anyone except Lisa (and certainly my own hotel room!)
WILL I do it again?
Yes, and that's pretty definite! My pass carries on through November and be prepared to be bored, if you might, by further logging of exploits. The window of opportunity remains open for the next month.
There's no place like home. It will be really good to rest a few days, catch up with partner and friends, see the streets of Melksham and hear and smell the town.
Published Thursday, 20th October 2022