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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. 84A

    84A New Member

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    The only viable extension to the current SVR would be north, as illustrated by the lengthy discussions over at 'the other place'. The replacement of a number of bridges along the Tenbury route doesn't help, but one has to ask what would be gained from going to Tenbury? Another mainline connection? Suggestions to relay some of the trackwork in the Stourport direction have also been considered - the only real source of income from this would be charter work, but I can see this becoming a fad after a few years.

    Ironbridge is a world renowned tourist attraction, with notable transport issues. Furthermore, money has been commited to the Jackfield site, showing that there is still funding and backing there for such an extension. I don't believe such an extension will ever happen though - not without a vast injection of funding from an independent source. However, I would have liked it if the SVR had at least tried to perform a feasibility study. Worst case scenario would be that such an extension would be too costly - fair enough, shelve it. However, at least then figures would be available.
     
  2. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    I find myself thinking that the chances of a northerly extension on the SVR are so overwhelmingly remote and a viable business case so unreachable that it is not unreasonably considered that a feasibility study would be money down the drain, and unlikely to silence the supporters anyway.

    The suggestion for Burlish - Tenbury spurs is not for actual extensions per se - jtx wrote an enjoyable 'what-if?' scenario whereby at no cost to the company volunteers restored the Stourport route as far as Burlish and reinstated a halt, and also as far as where the Tenbury route diverges from the SVR. This would provide an added attraction for charters and at galas and other special events to recreate lost scenes. The question is - would that added attraction be worth the extra mile in maintenance (which would inevitably be the company's liability even if it was built for them at no cost).
     
  3. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    As I understand it, the geology underlying the trackbed north of Bridgnorth is very unstable a reinstated line might be very expensive to maintain. I think one has to query whether it would bring in sufficient additional passengers to justify the cost of building and maintaining. I stress additional because I suspect that many of those interested enough to visit the Ironbridge Museum will also visit the SVR. It might take them two trips rather combining the experiences into a single one, but the nett result is the same.

    The Tenbury branch reinstatement is a better bet in my view, as it could be an extra activated at special events and not used on every operating day.
     
  4. Corbs

    Corbs Member

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    Is there something like a vintage bus service (Or a normal one for that matter) already running between Bridgnorth and Ironbridge in the high season?
     
  5. b.oldford

    b.oldford New Member

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    There is a fairly sparse bus service between Bridgnorth and Ironbridge operated by Arriva (route 99). The weekday/saturday frequency is approximately 2 hourly with only three buses on a summer sunday. I.e. No winter sunday service. See ARRIVA - 88,88A,99,99A - Much Wenlock - Broseley - Ironbridge - Telford Town Centre for details.
     
  6. louis.pole

    louis.pole New Member

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    A quick Google search revealed Land instability - Geotechnical and consultancy services - Telford & Wrekin Council which includes the statement "Jackfield Stabilisation Project Following the recent Government announcement to provide £12 million funding towards the stabilisation of the Jackfield landslip area, Telford & Wrekin Council Engineers have commenced the early phases of work necessary to deliver the project. The proposed project is currently anticipated to be completed by April 2016, with the main construction works commencing in February 2014. The scheme is yet to be designed but is anticipated likely to include numerous elements including: extensive surveys and investigations - drilling and grouting to treat shallow mine workings - piling to prevent slope movement - river bank revetment to reduce river bank erosion - earthworks to smooth out levels and regrade slopes - land drainage to reduce high groundwater levels - new highway construction and major temporary works". Provided these new works do not obstruct the original formation or a diversion it would seem the necessary stabilisation work is to be carried out anyway.
     
  7. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    Whether that stabilisation factors in the possibility of 80 ton locos thumping up and down is another matter - and of course, there's plenty of obstructions on the trackbed.
     
  8. louis.pole

    louis.pole New Member

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    I think such an extension is worthy of further study. However, to deal with this one point. Don't you think, in the grand scheme of things civil engineering, the addition of such a small load is trivial? Here the engineers are stabilising hundreds of thousands of tonnes of material. If the scheme is similar to that carried out on the other side of the river they will be sinking hundreds of ferro-concrete piles 600 or 900mm diameter many metres through the unstable ground into the bedrock.
     
  9. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    I don't know. I'm not an engineer.

    Personally, I think a northern extension is a non-starter. Before you're even north of Bridgnorth you've taken on another X-hundred yards of tunnel with the commensurate maintenance costs.
     
  10. domeyhead

    domeyhead New Member

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    THis has been a worthwhile thread, though reading it from the beginning I don't think anyone has fundamentally disagreed with PaulHitch's original caution! Twenty years ago many preserved lines were ramshackle, disorganised bodies, with confused objectives and strategies, poor governance, run by volunteers, often with factions and even infighting behind the scenes hampering progress. Today the picture is very different, and the leading lines compete with major tourist attractions such as theme parks, employing experienced professionals and with good local authority support as revenue generators. The key to further success though is inter-line collaboration.
    I am interested in whether the preservation movement collectively and in totality makes good rational decisions in terms of refreshing its combined product, increasing its customer base, its revenue, and most importantly, collaborating to the overall benefit of the preserved railway sector. In this regard, only two planned events are usually able to get space on national media channels:-
    a) Extensions, such as the Bluebell's, and
    (b) New or restored marque locos, such as Tornado, Flying Scotsman etc.
    ....and when they do, all railways benefit to some extent from the increased customer consciousness, so these events sometimes justify themselves not just locally and not just through their own profit and loss but through their overall impact on the business as a whole going forward. Like many large corporations in the UK, the philosophy therefore is sometimes to find the capex to build it, and let the subsequent opex look after itself. Expansion is not quite as irrational as it appears.
    At the risk of a bit of scope creep, the UK rail preservation movement is now (I think) the largest, most advanced and diverse in the world, and may eventually tap into a larger multinational customer base (remember the "Great Little Trains of Wales"? - Visit one a day for a week on an organised tour....). Withi this is mind is the sector able collectively to resource its own needs in terms of engineering? Some railways are getting reputations as specialists in certain operations (eg wheel turning), but are we getting to the stage where for instance the sector could sustain a foundry dedicated to the manufacture of large castings or a rolling mill able to produce boiler barrels, fireboxes and so on?
    And if we are, is the sector organised enough to work collectively to ensure it pays off? If some lines or groups break ranks to rush off to China or wherever to get cheap castings then such cooperation would be doomed to fail.
    Perhaps this should be a new thread.
     
  11. flaman

    flaman Well-Known Member

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    Certainly one of the most meaningful threads that I've seen.
    Several lines had serious financial difficulties in the '80s and early 90s, mainly due to extensions, but all survived and better management and increasing earning capacity make such problems less likely in future. One factor is that railways, or at least their managements, view extension proposals much more critically than was the case back then. I recall being told, by the professional manager brought in to sort out the Mid-Hant's problems at that time, that the need to get to Alton had become regarded as a sort of Holy Grail, with all dangers, financial and otherwise, being ignored in order to achieve the ultimate aim. The result was that the railway came within days of financial disaster and after all that, the financial advantage gained by the longer line and connection to the national network turned out to be negligible. That should still be a lesson to us all.
    I find the question of what is the optimum length of a preserved railway interesting. In my view, after over two decades of involvement in preserved railway management, length is not all that important. It might matter to the adult enthusiast, but to those accompanying small children, as much as 50% of passengers on many lines, being confined in a carriage for more than 15 minutes is not something to be looked forward to! To those who doubt this, I suggest they try dealing with a 3 year-old in a carriage toilet or, worse still, a carriage without a toilet at all. When on platform duty on a 1 mile long line, I am often asked "how long is the ride?" In most cases the reaction to being told "about 10 minutes" is one of relief.
    Another interesting question is "what makes people visit a railway?" I've puzzled over this for years, but can't provide a definitive answer. Looking at the situation of individual railways is no help either. There is a line, about 2 miles long, ruler straight, running through unattractive country from nowhere to nowhere, but with ambitious plans to extend. The interesting thing is that, in spite of these apparent disadvantages, it appears successful. On the other hand, another line of similar length, in attractive countryside, with various interesting features and close to "civilisation", seems never to get off the ground. I point these examples out simply to illustrate that there are many factors that affect the success or profitability of a preserved railway and, in my opinion, length is not necessarily the main one.
    On one issue I totally agree; preserved railways do not compete with one another, except when running special events such as "Thomas". Generally, if a new railway is established in an area, or an existing one do's something that generates publicity, the spinoff benefits the other railways in that area- I think I can actually prove that one!
     
  12. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    I had intended not to refer to any specific instances but this reminds me that I was told at the time by a friend, now sadly deceased who was a senior banker, that had the M.H.R. been with his bank he would have put in a Receiver! This shows that it should not be assumed that having a railway enthusiast banker is necessarily any kind of cushion against reality!

    Yes he proved to be wrong at the time but the Mid-Hants Railway still relies to a large extent on equipment it does not own and has liabilities for maintaining such equipment
     
  13. I agree this thread has been an interesting debate.

    The optimum length of line is a recurring discussion point. It seems passengers who make the c40 mile round trip on the WSR seem to a) plan their day with the journey times in mind and b) make good use of the train whilst travelling (bring picnics, buy from the buffet, play games line 'look out for the sea' or the castle). Most go from Bishops Lydeard down to the coast and, again, plan their day with that in mind - shopping, walking, beach, visit other attractions. The railway journey forms an integral part of a day out. So it works fine.

    Whilst the WSR is unlikely to extend beyond Minehead (!), it does have a three mile track in place at the other end which does not have regular services. That stretch ends on the edge of a unremarkable, not-pretty village which has no special attractions (sorry, Norton Fitzwarren!) so the WSR has never considered extending its main services to that location. Other than a four platform platform devoid of shelter (it serves the Steam Rally) there is no station infrastructure thereabouts, no car parking area and so on. Folks might as well motor up the three miles from Cross Keys to the fully developed Bishops Lydeard Station, as drive the mile or so to the WSR's "desolate" southern extremity.

    Likewise, many people call for the WSR to extend its services into Taunton. But here the costs are high and the commercial prospects are limiting and thus it is likely to make a substantial operating loss. Bearing in mind the passenger flow is mostly towards Minehead, we are looking at offering Taunton Station as a starting point (so it's not like the situation at Whitby). Considerations such as where next to Taunton Station WSR visitors would park immediately cause furrowed brows. Again it seems much better for most WSR visitors to start and finish at Bishops Lydeard (given Taunton's chronic traffic problems it might even be quicker!). Yes, there is likely to be a small number travelling to Taunton by train who would be advantaged by WSR services starting at Taunton - and the WSR is encouraging mainline TOCs to plug that gap by running out to Bishops Lydeard but so far no takers.

    I think the wise heads at the WSR who chose and continue to choose to wait until the time is right for the "Taunton Link" have been proved right. That "dream" could be delusional and a snare. So far, common sense prevails...

    Steve
     
  14. 84A

    84A New Member

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    My point exactly - why has the SVR never looked into a feasibility study, even just to rule it out directly? The obstacles are well known, but like I said, while there is funding and impetus to achieve it, it shouldn't be ruled out.
     
  15. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    I think the point is that there may be a lot of people saying "it's a nice idea" - impetus, if you like - but you don't know how that will translate into financial and physical support, and I reckon the chances of getting the funding are exceedingly slim - £30,000,000 grants don't seem to happen anymore, the WHR I think is going to remain a unique example of a grant for a heritage railway on that scale - and bear in mind that had the Welsh Assembly Government behind it. No such luck for the SVR!

    And then, once the unlikely has happened and the SVR has a fully restored extension to Ironbridge, a turnkey build that has cost the railway nothing, it would need to work out new means of operation that take into account shift length, extra mileage on locos and rolling stock. Headaches.

    Then it needs to find volunteers to staff it and funds to maintain it. To me, that's the killer on the idea.

    I do not know what the railway has and hasn't considered over the years. But I am sure that close consideration was given before the idea was ruled out. There's recently been a lot of criticism on here about the SVR and Steamworks, spending money on consultants and the like. If £X,000 was spent on a feasibility study to assess an extension to Ironbridge, the net result of which was "don't even think about it", how many would lambast the railway for spending money on an idea that even without a feasibility study looks exceedingly dodgy?
     
  16. 1472

    1472 Well-Known Member

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    I don't think anbody has suggested that the SVR itself should spend money on a Bridgnorth - Ironbridge railway reinstatement feasibility study. That however does not preclude such a study being done either by consultants or suitably professionally qualified volunteers by/for another body. It is a strange view that the idea should just be written off by quoting a few "problems" (yes there are quite a few) without informed analysis of the potential traffic (and therefore income) which might accrue from such a link.
    The SVR itself, if I understand correctly, currently has a policy of sitting on the fence re such an extension & has not ruled out the concept outright as you suggest.
     
  17. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    True, they haven't and I was in error for implying that they had. But nor are they actively pursuing it. I don't know what the SVR would do if someone came forward to fund a full on, impartial study.

    Another factor that would have to be borne in mind would be potential traffic variation and whether that would actually have a negative impact on income...
     
  18. louis.pole

    louis.pole New Member

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    Actually the SVR issues very mixed messages. At the other place walton_cw has previously asserted the the SVR has taken the "watching brief" stance yet at The Future History of the Severn Valley Railway the prospect of an extension is utterly rejected. Such division is not new. Regular followers of postings here may recall reading of the dichotomy between an SM and an ASM (both being directors) regarding the Bridgnorth development/ share issue.
     
  19. SR-Simon

    SR-Simon New Member

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    The Epping Ongar is by no means tiny being a 6 mile railway and is ideally placed on the outskirts of London, yet runs through beautiful rolling countryside and forest. Epping is closer to Fenchurch Street than SVR is to the middle of Birmingham, so has a lot of potential. Epping station has a train going through Central London, Bank, Liverpool St and Stratford etc every 8 mins, and our inclusive frequent buses pick you up from the front door - given the rails are all still there for the last 800m and we just need access and a platform, we hope in the future our trains will be able to connect at this station.

    EOR can access a new audience, more people can enjoy the opportunity to travel on heritage transport, getting more people interested/volunteering, more awareness of their past and understanding of how we as a whole movement do excellent work at preserving it.

    While I agree that GWR engines are not native to EOR, we all recognize that if Barry had been in Kings Lynn or Tilbury, we would now have a mainly LNER (or LMS?) heritage collection rather than a GWR bias! If there had been a similar medium and large sized LNER engine available for sale at the time, we probably would have purchased them! There are many similar examples of non-native engines as a result of history, circumstance or luck. Before or on arrival many of our visitors inquire if it is a "steam" locomotive and are pleased to see them preserved and in gainful work.

    Within our extensive passenger survey during our first 6 months we received an average of 4.19 out of 5 for authenticity.

    We have a rather challenging and long 1 in 65 gradient (see our guidebook for a full gradient profile), so there is a chance to see even the larger engines still working despite the engines/coaches/line/stations/signals being declared no longer required many moons ago... and isn't that why we devote so much time and energies to this movement? :eek:)

    Simon, GM, EOR
     
  20. flaman

    flaman Well-Known Member

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    EOR-Simon makes a valid point- do's it matter, at least to the majority of punters, how long the line is, whether it's connected to the national network or whether it's locos are historically relevant? I don't think so. There are many other factors that make a railway successful, most of them cheaper and easier to achieve than line extensions. Length of line tends to be an obsession of some committed enthusiasts and they do not exist in sufficient numbers to make a railway that is over-extended, both physically and financially, viable.
     

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