Rail campaigners were furious with Tony Blair yesterday after a transport petition delivered to No.10 was snubbed.

The protesters are also claiming the Prime Minister used out-of-date figures to reject their argument.

Two West MPs have already branded the response a "waste of time" after Mr Blair's office rejected the idea of creating a better service on the West's 'Cinderella' train line.

It is now feared the next round of reviews in December will see even more trains and services cut.

Cross-country services around the West were savaged in December, at the same time as services into Bristol were also axed.

And while politicians and campaigners highlighted overcrowded trains in the Bath and Bristol area, it was the axing of entire trains at less high-profile stations such as Melksham and Warminster that sparked the largest public transport petition on the No. 10 website.

Almost 2,000 irate passengers signed it in just a month, demanding a reasonable service connecting West Wiltshire to the mainline services to London, along with other cross-country services, after 80 per cent were cut.

The petition demanded the Government "provide a reliable train service with adequate capacity at times that travellers wish to make journeys from Swindon to Westbury, Bristol to Severn Beach, Portsmouth and Weymouth to Cardiff, Taunton to Cheltenham, Swindon to Cheltenham. This includes all intermediate stations and journeys in both directions".

The petition was signed by more than 1,700 people, including eight West MPs and dozens of councillors and mayors from towns left with a skeleton rail service.

But last night it appeared hopes of Government intervention with train operators First were in vain.

And what has angered the campaigners the most is that Tony Blair's office used out-of-date passenger numbers to justify not saving the service - figures that had been accepted as incorrect by First itself during previous lobbying.

The figures came from passenger surveys as long as five years ago - and have risen considerably in the years since.

Campaigner Graham Ellis said: "It's sad to see that the Government is still quoting a franchise specification based on data from 2002-03, which assumed almost no growth.

"In practice, there was very strong growth in train usage over the past five years - growth rates as high as 35 per cent a year, so we've been presented with - and looks like we're stuck with - a totally inadequate service that's driving passengers off the trains and into their cars."

The response from No. 10 appeared to blame train operator First for the cuts. It said: "Ministers have raised the issue of improving train performance, including cancellations and short formation of trains, directly with First Great Western, which operators the train services in the greater Bristol area.

"First Great Western have given assurances that appropriate measures are being taken, including bringing in additional rolling stock, and have accepted responsibility for underestimating the capacity requirements of the new timetable introduced on December 10."

The Government's gaffe on passenger numbers specifically related to the Cinderella line through Melksham.

"In planning the new franchise, the former Strategic Rail Authority found that usage of most trains on this route was very low, and set a minimum specification in order to achieve best value for money."

Last night, the Prime Minister's petition idea was slammed by two West MPs.

Tory MP Andrew Murrison, whose West Wiltshire constituency has borne the brunt of rail cuts this year, said: "The Prime Minister's response is completely useless.

"I've got a big gripe against sham consultations and pretend listening, of which his appears to be a prime example."

And North Wiltshire MP James Gray was also scathing. He said: "The response is nonsensical, and these petitions are, people are realising, a waste of time."

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