Train services from Melksham could be drastically improved next year if a rail co-operative is successful in its bid to launch a direct service between the town and Oxford.

The Go! Co-operative wants to operate a service between Yeovil and Oxford, which would call at Melksham, as well as Trowbridge, Westbury and Chippenham.

If the project goes ahead, it would increase the number of trains passing through Melksham station, which at the moment amounts to just two a day.

The news follows Network Rail’s verdict that there is scope for more services, possibly running every hour, between Westbury and Swindon, which would include a stop at Melksham.

In addition, land next to Melksham Railway Station has been bought up by Wiltshire Council with an eye to expanding the station if more services stop off there.

Chris Phillimore, business development director at the Go! Co-operative, said: “We are aware of the situation in Melksham, and as an indication we would be looking to run peak period services in the morning and evening, as well as a couple of services in the middle of the day.

“We know about the low level of service in Melksham, which is a ridiculous situation.”.

If the Co-operative, which needs to raise about £500,000 in capital, succeeds the new service could start up by December 2011 and would be the first such community-owned rail company in the country.

In order to move ahead with the plans, the Co-operative would also need to negotiate a track access agreement with Network Rail, and become a licensed train operator with the Office of Rail Regulation.

Graham Ellis, who helped set up the Transwilts Community Rail Partnership and who is chairman of Melksham Chamber of Commerce, said: “When I first saw this proposal I thought ‘this looks a little odd’, but it’s actually remarkably serious, and possibly a very good proposal.

“I would say I am cautiously positive and it certainly looks like a step in the right direction.”

Mr Phillimore added: “We’re not under any illusions about the issues that we face, but we think this is a model that could be applicable across the whole country.

“We are a business, we’re not a charity and we will have to make a return.

“Our service is about filling in the gaps.

“So far we’ve had a very positive response from all parties, and we are encouraged.”