Press release 17th October 2021

Battling to save Waterloo – Bristol train services.

Several campaign groups are joining forces to fight plans to scrap direct trains from Bristol to Waterloo. The West Wilts Rail User Group, Railfuture Severnside and others are working together to save the service, which is due to be axed on 12th December. They’ve organised a public meeting this Wednesday in Trowbridge – one of the stations most badly affected by these plans – to prevent the service being scrapped.

“This has all the hallmarks of a Whitehall decision made on poor and incorrect data, news sneaked out in a publication about something else, and not consulted on” said Graham Ellis, who is organising the meeting. “Even Transport Focus - the Department for Transport’s own passenger watchdog - has suggested that the service should be retained until properly consulted and appropriate alternatives provided. “

“Trowbridge, Bradford-on-Avon, Oldfield Park and Keynsham will be really badly affected, losing all of their direct trains to London, and there’ll be just one train a day - at 07:50 - from Waterloo to Warminster”

An online petition at has already gathered over 2,500 signatures since it was launched at the start of the weekend.

Claire Mann, MD of SWR who run the trains, writes: "We have sought to identify areas of duplication across the network where the removal of services would reduce the burden on the taxpayer, while not having a significant effect on services for commuters or school flows. Given the volume of services operated between Salisbury and Bristol by GWR and the large proportion of leisure travel on the SWR services, we are confident the withdrawal of our services between will not materially impact key flows of commuter or school traffic and agreed with the Department for Transport to realise the cost savings as soon as possible.”

Mr Ellis responded: “No thought, then to the leisure traveller, the person going to medical appointments, to business meetings, to court, to visit family or shopping?No thought to the majority of people who use these trains across Salisbury at present (that’s the majority of people on board), who on the new timetable will have to change trains in Salisbury … where the remaining hourly train from London will arrive (I kid you not) one minute after the hourly train to Warminster, Westbury, Trowbridge, Bradford-on-Avon and on to Bristol has left. A 59 minute change is not a “connection”. No thought to the effect on the business in towns that loose their London services?”

The meeting will be held at Bethesda Baptist Church, Trowbridge, BA14 0AA on Wednesday 20th October 2021 at 19:00, and streamed via Zoom.

Notes to editors:

For further information, please contact meeting organiser Graham Ellis - graham at wellho.net
01225 708225 or 0797 4 925 928
48, Spa Road, Melksham, SN12 7NY
  • Well House Consultants Ltd
  • Webmaster at Coffee Shop forum
  • Melksham Town Councillor for South Ward
  • Vice Chair Melksham Transport User Group

Or Bruce Williamson, Railfuture Severnside press officer:
0117 927 2954, 07759 557389, media at railfuture.org.uk

The groups supporting this meeting are:
Railfuture (Severnside Branch) https://www.railfuture.org.uk/Severnside+Branch
The Two Tunnels Project http://www.twotunnels.org.uk/waterloo/index.html
Great Western Coffee Shop Forum http://www.passenger.chat/25503
West Wilts Rail User Group http://www.wwrug.org.uk
Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways https://fosbr.org.uk
TravelWatch SouthWest http://travelwatchsouthwest.org

The petition can be found at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/598397

The terms of the Minister's decisions and can be read at http://www.passenger.chat/25503

The Zoom link for the meeting can be found at http://www.passenger.chat/25522

“The Waterloos” – some background:

  • South Western Railway have been running up to five trains a day on their Bristol - Bath - Salisbury - London (Waterloo) route. They provide a much loved and well used service from Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa to South London - Clapham Junction (busiest UK junction) and Waterloo (most passengers of any UK station). They provide the only through services from London to Trowbridge, Bradford-on-Avon and Oldfield Park, and all but one services (which leave Paddington before 06:30 in the morning) to Keynsham. They provide the only direct trains from Woking, Basingstoke and Andover to West Wiltshire, Bath and Bristol.

  • In spite of the clear strong love of these trains, and their heavy use in a growing rail leisure market, we have learned that they are to be withdrawn from 12th December 2021.

  • These services are busy. On days when they are cancelled, other trains on the same line can overcrowd to squash levels. To make the same journeys "across" Salisbury without these trains means a wait of 50 minutes in one direction, and 59 minutes in the other direction. There are no alternatives that connect. They are not "duplicate" trains. They do not provide excess capacity.

  • There was no consultation on this. Even with the Department for Transport's own "Transport Focus". They write "We believe you should carefully consider deferring this proposal to December 2022, to give time for proper consideration of passenger feedback and how needs can be met in future."

  • A Freedom of Information request to learn how the decision came about has told us that data is being withheld for a further period while a "complex public interest test" is applied - the effect of which will be that the data is not available until conveniently too late to do anything about it. These are not little local services - they are long distance trains that provide key connectivity. Rail User Groups from along the route are coming together to raise awareness of the big difference these services make. We ask for them to be retained for 2022 at pre-Pandemic levels, with a view to providing a well tuned and appropriate service in future years. Please do not kill a successful service and lose passengers and goodwill for a year in which the rail leisure use is growing.