COMMUTERS using Melksham railway station are backing plans to extend its car parking facility and provide a new café with toilets.

The investment by the TransWilts Community Interest Company and Community Rail Partnership is likely to be paid for by the introduction of daily car parking charges.

Smart Parking, an Australian-owned company that already operates a car park in Trowbridge, has been asked to manage the car parking and is likely to bring in a daily charge of £4 to match nearby station parking charges.

Graham Ellis, vice-chairman of the Melksham Rail User Group, said the work was a “necessity” for the station to accommodate a forecast rise in passenger numbers.

Speaking on the station platform before catching a train to Westbury, he said: “We appreciate the need for the improvements and the need for a parking charge to pay for them.

“We would rather TransWilts used a different economic model but we appreciate the necessity for it.

“Passenger numbers at the station have risen from 3,000 to more than 75,000 over the past few years and somehow it needs to expand to cope with a forecast 250,000 passengers.

“We need more resources and more facilities and that means an extension to the car park and the café.”

He is calling for TransWilts to create a new through-route for buses to bring passengers to the station from the Bath Road and then exit towards the Aldi and McDonald’s.

“If they can put in a new route for the buses it will encourage more people to use them,” he said.

Philip McMullen, a consultant working on a new Neighbourhood Plan for Westbury, was commuting from Melksham on the same train service.

He said: “I am using the station three times a week to go to Westbury.

“The improvements are much-needed.

“We need more facilities at Melksham station and paying for parking is one of the ways to cover the investment required.

“A daily charge of £4 is quite reasonable and is in line with charges at other local stations. If it forces more people to walk to the station, then great.”

The daily charges are likely to be introduced in the summer by Smart Parking, which already operates the Cradle Bridge Retail Park car park in Trowbridge.