The Railway in Marlborough: David Chandler joins MNO’s squad of columnists
The idea of reopening the railway in Marlborough has brought back many childhood memories for me of the railway in the town before it closed in 1961 (the line stayed open to freight until 1964).
Marlborough’s station (known as “Low Level”) up until this time was off the Salisbury Road on the east side. The remains of the railway bridge over the Salisbury Road can be seen just before the Business Park roundabout.
There was a single track line between Savernake Low Level Station (which was close to the canal bridge at Dursley) and Swindon (the old Midland & South West Railway). There were direct trains to Gloucester in the north and Andover in the south.
Pupils at Marlborough Grammar School used to come by train daily from Tidworth, Ludgershall, the Collingbournes, Grafton and Savernake.
On weekdays there were three trains in the morning from Marlborough to Savernake which connected to the London trains. These trains consisted of two coaches and the locomotive pulling them was called the “donkey”. On a busy day there would be three passengers and usually there was only one or two. With so few passengers the trains were very uneconomical and there was no surprise when they were withdrawn.
I think therefore it is very unrealistic to consider reopening the railway line to Marlborough (the proponents of the scheme refer to connecting Marlborough & Bedwyn but there was never a direct line between those stations). There are probably no more than a few dozen people travelling from the Marlborough area and for this tens of millions would have to be spent on rebuilding the line.
There would have to be two new major road bridges. The rather bucolic idea of everyone cycling to the new Marlborough station is also unrealistic. People would want to travel by car and for this there would have to be a large car park provided. This would be a major eyesore on the edge of town.
The tens of millions required to reopen the line would be better spent on improving car parking at Bedwyn and also improving public transport to that station. However, the use at the moment by the public of buses to and from Bedwyn, is not great, with many buses meeting only one or two or no passengers off the trains.
The demand by a very vociferous group for a railway in Marlborough has, I believe, little general support and there are far better projects on which to spend such a large amount of public money.