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Extensions - a snare and a delusion?

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by paulhitch, Apr 13, 2013.

  1. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    Ah, fair point, you are right there.
     
  2. John Stewart

    John Stewart Well-Known Member

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    A cross-platform interchange with national rail services is never a "nowhere" Additionally the ability to accept incoming charters, move main-line certified vehicles by rail, hire the big railway's super-tamper for a day or two must have advantages.
     
  3. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    Whilst you are right, visitors are very often taken with the Teak set, I wonder if there are a sufficient number who would be moved by this in marketing to make it worthwhile.
     
  4. Corbs

    Corbs Member

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    A large portion of that might be different expectations/cost of living in NZ though (If it's anything like Australia)
     
  5. John Stewart

    John Stewart Well-Known Member

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    Sit on the correct side of SVR carriages and you can see the animals in the Safari Park free!
     
  6. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    It's all about currency exchange rates. Norway is to us a ferociously expensive country, but the locals seemed to manage OK with their prices, when I was there.

    John
     
  7. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Didn't get there! Glenbrook was $NZ18 for a 5 mile each way round trip - about the equivalent of £1 per mile, or twice what the NYMR charges!

    But, coming back to Britain, I guess my point was that there are certain fixed costs, or ones that aren't mileage dependant, which mean that shorter lines will have proportionately higher fares. If the NYMR is assumed to be a fares benchmark, then the ESR should be charging £3 for a day rover! That's clearly impractical, but means that very short lines run the risk of not looking like good value for money. That's not a good position to be in: looking to create an extension is one obvious mechanism by which such lines can both increase their attractiveness to volunteers and, ultimately increase their attractiveness to the public. Of course, there is an upper limit: I suspect that if (for example) the SVR ever extended to Ironbridge they might find they have increased infrastructure and running costs by at least 50% only to create a line that is too long for comfort, causing many visitors to just take partial journeys: clearly there is a balance to be struck. Hence my earlier comment that about 1.5 - 2.5hrs for the round trip is about right (whatever that translates into in terms of distance: probably about 7 - 15 miles, depending on the number of stops etc).

    Obviously there are successful exceptions to that figure (notably the NYMR, WSR, WHR on the long side; Swanage and the IoWSR on the short side) but not many, and generally those lines have other strengths they can play to, either on the railway itself or the area/town it serves or both. <enthusiastFantasy>And on the IoWSR - how cool would it be if they could extend back to Ryde?</enthusiastFantasy> :smile:

    Tom
     
  8. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    It is very simplistic to say that Whitby has caused costs to rise. Quite apart from the fact that extra Gross Profit generated was, as 61624 acknowledges, always intended to be spent maintaining the NYMR and hence would be bound to result in extra expenditure as it was spent, the actual Steam mileage has remained pretty constant thanks to other efficiency initiatives. Looking at the overall increase in costs since daily running started to Whitby, nearly 2/3 are fuel and hire - the former part of a decade long near tripling of the unit cost and the former due to lower availability of owned steam locomotives (in fact, the last year of only occasional Whitby operations was the lowest hire charge for some years and was thus not typical. It is true that more crews are required and some turns are longer but I am pleased to say that the level of volunteer input has also reached record levels in many of the key areas, which is great tribute to both the crews and those who have been working hard behind the scenes to train up more people passed at the relevant grades. For the first few years, a separate "Profit & Loss" account was kept allocating proportions of income and expense to Whitby, which always showed a 6 figure surplus that was invested back elsewhere in the NYMR.

    One thing that is true no matter what the length of a railway and whether it extends at all is that there is a high cost just having an operable railway between whichever 2 points it runs. There is another level of cost to ensure the "assets" are available to operate a given level of service (e.g. 2 sets of coaches and associated maintenance and storage facilities for a 2 train service), no matter how frequently that maximum asset requirement is actually operated, and there is cost per day of each timetable variant (actually driven by the number of sets/diagrams in use). No-one should operate empty trains for the fun of it, but if you try running less days, that fixed cost of track, structures, bridges, signalling and buildings just get spread across fewer days of potential income. The geography of many lines means that first and last trains can often be pretty quiet, and the length of track they have to run before accessing a potentially lucrative market can be a factor in the viability of extensions, as can passing a point for a "one engine in steam" line at which a second set, and hence a fully signaled passing place, becomes a necessity, at least on some occasions. (Sometimes, an extension may make stabling facilities available at a new terminus that previous didn't exist at the old one).

    But as one of preservation's senior figures said at a meeting I attended this afternoon "no-one should think running a steam railway is ever going to be anything but a challenge".

    Steven
     
  9. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Though you won't know unless you try!

    Ten years ago, our regular weekend two-train service always had one set marked as "Vintage Branch Train" in the timetable (in those days normally comprising the two SECR 100 seaters, the LBSCR bogie first and a Van C brake). These days, we still invariably run at least one train on our two-train service using pre-war stock (these days more often the Maunsells with the 100 seater, LBSCR 1st and Birdcage brake as strengtheners; and frequently the LNWR Obo on the other set) but never seem to advertise it!

    Last weekend, the train I was on had seven carriages and the youngest vehicle in the train was actually the engine, at a mere 107 years old. (The carriages ranged between 1880 and 1900...) yet unless you looked at our (slightly geeky) Public Train Info page, you would never have known it until you arrived at the station!

    Tom
     
  10. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    The point where I come from is not that shorter lines have proportionately higher fares because they have to but because they can "get away" with higher fares without the total expenditure getting excessive. Longer lines have to keep the rate per mile down or else get the tighter fisted passengers cherry picking which bits they are travelling on. For instance there is a certain longer line that I have no intention of travelling on from end to end ever again; it has far too much less than entrancing scenery! The railway concerned has to run its whole length though and with more locos. and carriages than would have been necessary with a shorter run.

    P.H.
     
  11. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Tom - the point on price per mile is that we compete usually not with each other but with attractions of a very different type - John Leech always said the SVR's main competitor was the local shopping centre! The "rate per mile" is actually an incorrect argument - I have recently had it effectively put to me that promoting part journeys would be a good idea because, even on a longer line, the rate per mile is higher - but unless there is a market of new people to refill the seat at the part-way point, then the costs to be set against that lower overall income are the same!

    The issue facing the longer lines is that certain costs are proportionate to length but there is still an "ouch" factor if you tell a passenger "2 returns - £50 please". The NYMR scored very well for value for money in an independently conducted survey last year but that was from those who hadn't been scared off at the Booking Office window (or on the internet!) by the sum required for the journey. As has been well documented here, the longer lines need to make clear the "product" they are selling. £24 All Day ticket from Pickering to Whitby does genuinely and readily give the basis of a full day (09:00 to 19:00 or 19:30 if you want!) but if your past experience is short line that takes at most 1 1/2 for the whole journey there and back must seem steep!

    It is actually a reality that, once a timetable has been published, it is total revenue that makes a profit or not - i.e. pricing to demand. 150 passengers paying £15 gives more than 50 passenger paying £35, so which pricing strategy can more readily achieve overall revenue targets, assuming that you don't have to push the number required to make the target beyond the capacity you have available!

    Where longer lines can make savings is that the depot facilities needed for a 5 mile line will not cost 1/4 of those for a 20 mile line, so not all costs are proportionate but many are.

    Steven
     
  12. Harleyman

    Harleyman New Member

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    Another point to remember with vintage rolling stock is that by and large it tends to be non-corridor. All very well on a short trip but not so good for families with small children, any parents on here will know as well as I that Junior only ever wants to pee once he's on the train! Plus they're by nature more time-consuming for staff to clean and tidy between trips.

    There's also the undeniable fact that if a buffet car isn't included in the rake then a useful source of revenue is being lost; and of course they only work with corridor stock.
     
  13. HowardGWR

    HowardGWR New Member

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    There are some lines, the reasons for their existence passes me by, let alone any talk of extensions.

    Among those, I would class the ESR, Cholsey-Wallingford and Chinnor. I could have nominated many more, on the same reasoning, including most of the North Wales NG ones. The one at Brownhills has me mystified but I perhaps should not have picked on specific examples. What's the Epping - Ongar for, with a GW hired-in engine wheezing up and down? A mainline engine on a tiny branch line.

    It just seems to be grown men playing trains.

    I just don't see the point of what they are trying to preserve, that is not being preserved elsewhere. Wasn't the Talyllyn enough in NG, for instance?

    I think I had better duck down, as the familiar chat site expression has it.
     
  14. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Steven - I'd certainly defer to your greater knowledge of the intricacies of railway pricing! I think the point I was trying to make in using "price per mile" as a comparator was really to demonstrate that some short lines can look expensive relative to what you get. In other words, the opposite viewpoint to the one you make. If you are used to an "all-day" line like the NYMR charging £24, then £10 for an hour on a five mile line suddenly starts to look like poor value - a counter viewpoint to someone who is used to the five mile line charging £10 and therefore thinking £24 looks a lot of money, without realising quite how much more the extra money buys! Perhaps a fairer measure would be "pounds per hour" :)

    I suspect every case of extension ultimately is a unique case. For example, in extending from Kingscote to East Grinstead, we have added two miles to the line. We have kept the ability to run a service with two trains (so no extra cost of maintaining an extra set and loco available), but only at the expense of slackening from an hourly to a 75 minute interval service (our passing stations are inconveniently in the wrong locations relative to the ends of the line!). If traffic justified it, maybe we could run an hourly service, but only by having a daily requirement for three, rather than two, trains, with all the attendant costs. And as you say, once you publish your timetable, you have to stick to it for at least a year and have relatively little scope to reduce fixed costs in-year.

    Every extension will also have a different long-term cost. Again, to take our whole NEP from Horsted Keynes to East Grinstead, it extended the line from about 4.5 miles to 11 miles, but added seven underbridges or cattle creeps, almost half a mile of tunnel, a huge viaduct and several very large embankments to the line, not to mention the extra stations, signalling etc - I suspect the ongoing maintenance liability of the northern end of the line is rather more than the proportional increase in length would suggest.

    Tom
     
  15. Harleyman

    Harleyman New Member

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    Or keep digging! The logical extension of your argument would be that in standard gauge we'd just have the Bluebell, SVR and KWVR. If that.

    There have always been more hare-brained schemes in preservation than actual viable railways; MLST started off with grandiose visions of saving Nottingham to Leicester IIRC but that quickly became Loughborough to Quorn. Some ventures have died off through rank bad management (Buxton) and some by bad luck (Ashford) but the majority have survived in some way, shape or form. For that we must be thankful; and if indeed some of the preservation is duplicated in the smaller schemes, it does no harm and keeps those grown men happy.
     
  16. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Actually Tom, I think we are making the same point and I like you "£ per hour!!".

    I think you have grasped the points I am making spot on - shorter lines can get away with being "more expensive" per mile without the total being asked being so "sharp".

    You are spot on about each case being different - as each line is. Some have little in the way of major structures, others may be shorter but have lots of big metal bridges. These are the sort of issues that will question the long term existence of individual heritage lines. We have spent £1.1 million on just 2 bridges on the NYMR in the last 4 years. One is Bridge 7 (the first under-bridge) and one Bridge 30 (NOT the last under-bridge!). Fortunately, some of the 22 in between have already been renewed and some are stone, as are a number of the 10 or so north of bridge 30, but the Civil Engineer does tend to be gentle and only remind me how much needs doing at them over the next 20 to 30 years about once a year!

    Steven
     
  17. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

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    So, I take my family for a ride on the Glos Warks from Toddington or Winchcombe or Cheltenham Racecourse - what's the point of going to Honeybourne? I think that when we got there it might look remarkably like nowhere
     
  18. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I think the point about Honeybourne isn't that is a destination, but rather a starting point.

    Though it begs the question - if you can get a mainline service to Honeybourne and cross the platform to the GWSR, what is the attraction of going beyond Broadway, or maybe Winchcombe, both of which are honeypot tourist villages? (Broadway more than Winchcombe). In that scenario, when / if the GWSR get to Honeybourne, it is Cheltenham racecourse that looks like a "nowhere" kind of place (race days excepted), not Honeybourne!

    Tom
     
  19. jnc

    jnc Part of the furniture

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    Well, to a certain extent, that's what the preservation movement is!

    I mean, if you had some capital and were trying to invest for maximum ROI, a heritage rail system is just about the last place you'd put it to achieve that end!

    I think the point of the thread is that while there's nothing particular wrong, in any large-scale sense, in playing with trains, one has to do it in a way that's practical, and covers its costs. The only question is how to balance the 'fun' part and the 'practical' part...

    Noel
     
  20. Fireline

    Fireline Member

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    Neil, the thing about the KESR extension is that it is being built by a different company. The RVR have all the financial outlay, so there is nothing for the KESR to recoup. Yes, there will be added maintenance costs, but with the increased membership we MAY get if the RVR groups stay on (and I hope so, they're a great group), plus our OTM equipment, jobs are less arduous than they were in the past. With REGULAR tamping and maintenance, we might avoid the problems that plagued us in the early days.
     

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