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Bridge that Gap: Great Central Railway News

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Gav106, May 8, 2010.

  1. JMJR1000

    JMJR1000 Member

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    The issue of having to deal with the internal affairs between both railways does not surprise me much. The two heritage railways that will be merging are rather (dare I say) drastically different from one another. Evolutionarily wise, the difference between the two railway is unquestionably notable, which is why I'm inclined to agree with others that it is the GCR(N) that will have more issues to resolve then the GCR, simply because of the hugely significant change it will be for them.

    Certainly the biggest change will most likely be the operational side for the GCR(N), as traditionally they've only operated industrial tank engines, but when the two railway lines rejoin, there may be little if any use for them, though they do have a impressive fleet of resident diesels, so thats in their favor. Then theres the opening times themselves, as the GCR(N) only operates on a select number of days, far smaller then the amount of the GCR operates. So effectively, when the gap is brigded, the GCR(N) will find little need for their group of industrials they've relied on for so long (and have no doubt grown attached to), and will also find themselves dealing with far more operating days too. All these changes are massive for the GCR(N) to deal with, certainly since they've been growing up til now at a very gradual pace, and the changes I've pointed out are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

    By comparison, the GCR on the other hand as already seen it's fair share of major changes, chiefly amongst them the double track project, along with all signalling equipment that came with it. The only big changes the GCR will have to deal with is the running line being drastically extended, and the necessity to relocate their steam locomotive engineering base elsewhere (preferably one that meets their future as well as current needs), but both these issues shouldn't be too difficult for the GCR to overcome, as they have the means and resources to handle both.

    Ultimately bridging the gap is going to be a major change for both railways, which ever way you look at it, but the GCR(N), in my view, ceratinly has the biggest hill to climb, with it's organisation having to change the most. So understandably, its no wonder discussions between both railways has been very gradual so far, with so much to discuss and so many issue to resolve.
     
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  2. JFlambo

    JFlambo New Member

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    I was thinking more of attractions for the general enthusiast, but yeah - I agree with your statement of course.
     
  3. NickPreston

    NickPreston New Member

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    I have visited and hugely enjoyed both railways and have been holding back on this one, but I have to say I can't see the two working as one. As previously stated they are chalk and cheese as far as such similar organisations can be. I am most likely wrong but I can't imagine it becoming one long heritage railway with regular service trains working the full length of the line. GCR(N) as nice as it is in it's own way, is not (and I can't imagine them ever being) geared up for this.

    My take on this is that GCR will gain a main line link, which is HUGE for them as this is a once in a lifetime chance which is due to expire, and GCR(N) remain at the other end of the line as they are with the odd GCR specials and gala's running on their rails.

    I don't want to sound the pessimist here, but all the Leicester side can possibly want asset wise is a main line link. To make continuity on the newly extended line the GCR(N) requires huge investment to build stations for a start, and if the Southern side is loosing the sums mentioned then the extension is not going to raise the revenue, especially if it's not going to be a shared line for all revenue paying services. I can't see GCR going 50/50 on ticket sales as that would be a huge donation to the North. That part is purely an assumption. Actually as a forum post this is of course mostly assumption and opinion. The following is though fact.

    This will be great idea for the enthusiast, but I know that as much as my 6 year old loves steam (just ask her which is her favourite loco and then take a seat), she's bored after 5 miles so the extra length won't appeal to the masses. Her needs are short line, lots of action and stations such as NNR or GCR is now.

    She does think they need a main line link though ;-)
     
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  4. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    A couple of genuine questions:
    1. What is seen as the vital advantage of a mainline connection for the GCR?
    2. On what basis has the business case for funding the link been based? What sort of operation does it foresee? And how changes other than the actual link does the funding package sought aim to cover?
    Steven
     
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  5. Corbs

    Corbs Member

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    But what choice do they have? When the gap is bridged, they are either going to have to work as one long line, or find a new way of working. Re-dividing the lines would seem like such a backwards step after all that has been achieved.

    In terms of stock (Small industrial locos), there's nothing to say that the current GCR(N) fleet will stay as it is, or indeed that the GCR one will. The GCR was originally worked with industrials (Littleton No.5 was there, among others) before they changed to working with larger, ex mainline engines. Indeed, Ruddington may soon have an S160 at its disposal. On top of that, smaller engines incur less cost, which could come in handy for events such as santa special shuttles.

    When/if Loughborough shed gets moved, they are going to have to have somewhere to work on the fleet in the interim, which may involve some of the equipment and locos heading North, to compliment the facilities there.

    It's all changeable, but in my view, both lines will find that they need the other, and in any case, hasn't this (reunification) always been the plan from the start?
     
  6. 46118

    46118 New Member

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    The GCR needs the mainline connection at Loughborough to safeguard future development, for instance specials working in off NR, as is already happening on the Bluebell, and may well be more of a feature on the SVR, North Norfolk and others. The NRM development if it goes ahead at Leicester north will be a big draw for incoming traffic.
    Wasn't there also talk at one time of the Lafarge Mountsorrel traffic coming down the GCR if a mainline connection was in place? Could bridging the gap open up land north of the MML somewhere for moving the shed/works from its present site?

    Whether in fact the GCR and the GCR(N) are unified train service-wise is something they will have to address, because they are different operations, or at least are at different stages of development, but they cannot pass over the chance of bridging the MML. As others have said, it is a one-off opportunity.

    46118
     
  7. Flipper

    Flipper New Member

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    The only way that "bridging the gap" works to the benefit of all concerned is with a full and complete merger between the two lines. Not two distinct societies working in what would inevitably become an uneasy (probably at best) partnership. I refer you to my previous analogy of the reunification of Germany. Despite strong feelings on both sides, they gritted their teeth and fully committed themselves to an often painful merger. I suspect that Germany would not be in the eminent position it currently enjoys had the East and the West retained their own organisational indentities and rivalries.

    If distinctions remain the GCR(N) will most likely end up stagnating, hosting dozens of diesel locomotives that they can't make any proper use of due to the rudimentary operating procedures they are complelled to adopt due to their lack of operational infrastructure. And how long will some of those locomotives hang around once their owning groups realise that there is no realistic prospect of full access to a railway, as opposed to the very long siding they currently have ?

    Consider the situation even if the stop blocks do not go up in a fit of pique, as another poster suggested might happen, and the GCR can run trains through to Ruddington (and vice versa); without significant investment in their infrastructure by an independent Northern section those trains will be infrequent, and dare I say it unremarkable - observe the operational bottleneck that is currently the Rothley - Birstall single line section, and then multiply the length fourfold ! Many passengers on the GCR already eschew the "Leicester branch", and reverse their journey at Rothley !

    Equally the GCR will end up largely throwing away what will be a massive financial, physical and emotional investment in the scheme if they cannot make full use of the new opportunities opened up by it. And I do not consider that the main-line connection will be considered to be chief amongst those opportunities - at least as far as the staff go - as the urge to grow the existing line northwards will be a very compelling one. "New" stations to restore, new track to lay, new signalling schemes to install, new signal boxes to work.

    Preservationists tend to be pioneers by nature, and are predisposed to restore, to rebuild, to recreate - and the fact is that opportunities to do so are steadily running out to the south, where the emphasis will be slowly shifting to maintenance and operation. With the experience and resources available to the existing groups on the GCR - not least amongst which will be those keen and dedicated individuals to the North who share an interest in infrastructure - I suspect they would quickly start getting their teeth into the reunification challenge.

    As for any operational losses made by the plc, it is worth mentioning that the money made by the plc appears to be largely used to support many scores of paid staff, and an apparent cafe addiction, although it does meet the cost of day to day staples such as coal and water. The vast majority of the operational and infrastructure staff are unpaid, and the cost of capital projects, maintenance of stations, signalling, &c. is not carried by the plc., but rather by grants and charitable donations. There is no reason why any loss made by the plc would have any significant impact on the ability of the GCR to continue to build a railway.

    Flip
     
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  8. Corbs

    Corbs Member

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    Lafarge is off the table now as far as I know - there would need to have been substantial infrastructure upgrades to the route to Loughborough, and the installation of a North-East chord at Swithland to avoid reversing there, plus associated wear and tear.

    The original plan for moving the shed/works was to land in between the north and south sections, but I think the ground conditions meant an alternative is to be sought.
     
  9. Flipper

    Flipper New Member

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    Indeed, I am informed that there are currently no plans for Lafarge to move stone traffic along the GCR. Thankfully.

    Flip
     
  10. stevegcr

    stevegcr New Member

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    Proposed site was on the former refuse tip site east of the MML. Ground was found to be too 'soft' for building on.
     
  11. 46118

    46118 New Member

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    Flipper: What is the situation now at East Leake? Where some private houses built very close to the running line, and does this pose an issue in the future?

    46118
     
  12. Flipper

    Flipper New Member

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    So far as I am aware, the relevant clauses in the statuory instrument under which they operate the section of the GCR London Extension between 86m 71.5c and 92m 31.25c (The Great Central Railway (East Leake Branch, etc.) Order 2000) still apply.

    These clauses were included in the Order following representation from some of the residents living in the properties developed on the site of the goods yard, and state that:

    Flip
     
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  13. JMJR1000

    JMJR1000 Member

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    Well said, certainly I agree with you on the subject of the southern section running out of challenges to get stuck into, the only real major development they have scope to do there is reinstating the double track between Rothley and Leicester North, and beyond that and the museum they hope to have built, there's little space left to work on. To continue their development, and ensure the reunified lines can reach their fullest potential and prosper, all sights are inevitably going to look northwards, whether if its considered wise to do so or not.

    As I heard someone once say, a heritage railway is never completed, as us enthusiasts by our nature look to work on something that will improve, develop and expand what we already have, whether people deem it to be really necessary or not. The northern section is just prime for development and, like it or not, their not going to just leave it as it is indefinitely, that's just not what we enthusiasts do, it goes against the very principles our movement was built on.

    Having said all that though, my personal view of what they should do once the gap has been bridged is, by all means develop and work on the northern section to their hearts content, but before they do persue that, finish off the southern half first. That means getting the double track between Rothley and Leicester North reinstated and, perhaps most importantly, develop Leicester North station itself further and make it a terminus that befits the railway (plus the possibly to be built museum.)

    I've never liked that station much, sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the others along the route. To me, for the future it need to be a grand and expansive terminus, thats why I was hoping the London Bridge canopy would have ended up at Leicester North, so that they could use it to build a proper terminus befitting a mainline heritage railway. Think of my ideal vision as a miniaturised King's Cross...
     
  14. Corbs

    Corbs Member

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    I think that was the plan, but the discovery of a high pressure gas main beneath the site meant that the construction would have been prohibitively expensive.
    Possibly, the funding application for the museum takes into account moving this main, since the museum is set to incorporate part of the station*

    * BUT expect steel and glass like the proposed Bridgnorth redevelopment. I think the plan is to have stock in the current 'platform 2' - Butler Henderson, Green Arrow and the APT-E are mooted to be displayed, with a large glass wall facing platform 1 so visitors can view trains coming in from ground level.
     
  15. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    In business life, what is usually presented as a merger is in reality a takeover of one company by another, and the there tends to be winners and losers among the Directors, management and staff. More often than not one side prevails. That's what I see happening once (if?) the gap is bridged. I see a lot of enthusiasm on the GCR side, relatively little on the GC(N) side because they probably realise what is coming - I don't think there is anything in prospect for them but upheaval.

    As for the GCR, they may get their main line connection but it is coming at huge cost. The twin track Nottingham-Leicester railway is a myth because there's going to be a substantial pinch point in the middle, and they are going to have to relocate their loco works at a serious cost. Moreover, despite being in easy reach of several major population centres, their passenger traffic has never been particularly great. Much of the extended line will run through suburban hinterland and is not that attractive. On the whole, it's not a development I can feel enthused about.
     
  16. jnc

    jnc Part of the furniture

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    This is just my personal guess, but bringing in engines for galas, testing (they do offer that testing capability), etc has to be a big one - especially now that some engine owners are getting a bit wary of having their prized possessions loaded on and off haulers.

    And the real reason for my post: what's the latest word on the Bridging the Gap Project? I'm very excited about this one, can't wait for things to start happening! :)

    Noel
     
  17. pmh_74

    pmh_74 Member

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    The next Main Line is due imminently, so I doubt we will get a revised figure or any news until that comes out.
     
  18. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    The thing is, this is a real red herring in my opinion. What you would be potentially saving is any difference in the cost of a road versus rail movement and that is probably at best going to be a few hundred pounds per go, a few times a year - bearing mind that only a relatively few locos are capable of being moved by rail. Even a few incoming railtours a year would not justify the investment. Basically it is all about ego!
     
  19. Alan Brader

    Alan Brader New Member

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    I have been an observer of both this thread and the GCR over the years and I would just like to ask a couple of questions that are relevant.

    Where is the money coming from to make up the shortfall in donations towards the quoted £1,000.000, which in my opinion could easily go up massively. I am assuming this does not include the reinstatement of the embankment, possible upgrade to the existing bridge at the rear of the MPD and the associated costs of the rails ballast etc. Not to mention the cost of relocating the MPD, which does not even seem to have a home in this grand scheme of things.

    The merger between both lines cannot be swept under the carpet as appears to be the case at the moment as it needs to be clear and upfront.

    I think the additional cost of a ticket to cover full line running ( which has to happen to cover maintenance and running costs etc) may be prohibitive to a lot of people other than enthusiasts, it is hardly comparable to the scenery of the WHR who went through the same decisions re fares etc.

    There is often discussion about heritage railways running from nowhere to nowhere and if the full line does go ahead, is this going to fall into that catergory even further?

    I apologise upfront if all this sounds negative, and I would like to see the railway evolve and prosper, what I dont want to see is it taking on too much debt and not having a clear and concise business plan and end up folding.
     
  20. Paul42

    Paul42 Well-Known Member

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    But I cannot see them hiring Riley's 5's since they are not keen on Black locos, and Tyseley do not hire their locos to preserved railways. The 5305 loco association will be the main beneficiary of the mainline connection.
     

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