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Extensions - a snare and a delusion?

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

    Ah, I see now why your view is so narrow. A "heritage railway" is not necessarily a "steam railway". Now if you are referring to a "trip on a steam train" then maybe your quote above may be true, in part.

    I refer you back to my earlier post where I described what "heritage" actually means. No-one can ignore the fact that a commercially-viable chunk of annual visitors to our "heritage railways" use the railway as part of the day out.

    I will give one example. The WSR run several trains from Bishops Lydeard to Dunster and Minehead on two evenings in early December specifically for the Dunster by Candlelight event (run by the village). The trains leave at or after dusk so almost all of the trip is after dark so there is no "beautiful scenery" to be gazed at during the journey. Passengers either get off at Dunster and walk the mile to the village, or go on to Minehead for special buses to the village. My point is that the railway provides the means of transport and a novel experience of travelling by steam through the night. The journey takes around one hour each way. The trains are always fully booked with up to three trains per evening. There are other examples to illustrate my point but I'll not bore you further :)

    Thus, if you must, the railway is indeed part of the "public transport system" but not in the more mundane way as perhaps you see it. Until you acknowledge that, I fear your narrow view of things will perpetuate this discussion ad nauseum.

    Steve
     
  1. domeyhead

    domeyhead New Member

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    I must take issue with one thing Steve and side with PaulHitch. "Public Transport" requires the operator to (a) run and operate a predisclosed, regular and scheduled service and (b) the service must be available as an open access turn up and go offering. The kind of operation you are describing is no more public transport than booking on a coach or even a taxi. It is shared but it is not "public" - the key word is "booking". It sounds like hair splitting but it isn't, which is why many people have been decrying the slow erosion of the turn up and go railway thanks to the antics of the Trainline and other airline style reservation systems.
    The operational costs of any private railway trying to run a truly public transport service would be prohibitive - this may be in part what PaulHitch has been trying to educate us with, (albeit in a rather didactic style).
     
  2. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Not narrow I hope but realistic. I think you are actually agreeing with me did you but realise it. What you are describing is an excursion for its own sake. It could be by narrow boat or jaunting car for all it mattered and the length is immaterial. I'm glad these are successful and long may they remain so. Just don't think about returning to Taunton thought!
     
  3. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Thank you, absolutely so. (Apologies for any didacticism!)
    PH
     
  4. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I think we're going off at a tangent making narrow distinctions about whether a service is "public" or not. What matters is whether a railway has a big enough market to operate profitably (when taking into account the other sources of income available, viz fundraising and the hidden financial subsidy from volunteers - it's naive to talk about passengers without considering those two). Then, as far as extensions go? The only question is whether the extension makes that financial equation more or less viable. A small, but not inconsequential, benefit I suspect is of value to many on the WSR loco department is getting off the M5 and not having another thirty minutes extra drive to do!

    Tom
     
  5. I understand that. My example - and I did say it was just one example - does not rely on booking although most do. And I did say it was not a public transport system in the more mundane manner. What I was trying to say was to link the benefits of travel on a railway (any railway) as one part of an overall experience. That happens every day on many "heritage railways", even today most passengers on the WSR will be looking to do "something else" at the other end. They don't all want a "there and back" experience but those that do can do that too. Paul has too narrow a view of things and if we all took his advice we'd be closed within five years.

    Steve
     
  6. It was, as I said before, just one example. But you don't seem to realise that kind of trip/excursion (albeit at different times and with different destinations) is happening all the time - even today. Again, I think your view of things is too, too narrow.

    I note you are advising the WSR not to look at going back to Taunton. It already is, in a manner of speaking. Don't you think, by now, those who run the WSR, and those who support it, are well aware of all the issues? Your simplistic argument seems to be based on the additional length of the journey but you have not provided any evidence (other than a personal one) to argue against the possible commercial benefit and possible improved passenger experience might be.

    I'm not sure why you think you have suddenly become the heritage railway "guru" to follow :)

    Steve
     
  7. gwalkeriow

    gwalkeriow Well-Known Member

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    There was very good reasoning behind the IOWSR extension to Smallbrook back in the early 90s, Havenstreet to Wootton is too short and Smallbrook gave an alternative method of reaching the railway.
    When the time comes that the IOWSR is offered access into Ryde St Johns I am sure that the offer will be taken up. It will give a much higher public profile as the present Railway is almost hidden away
     
  8. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    No more than you have fallen into the same trap when you posted that because you found a particular journey too long then so would others. I happen to think the extensions to join with the national network are worthwhile. Not everyone has a car so making it easier for such people to visit is a worthwhile exercise. Also not everyone travels as a family group so travelling by train to a heritage line can be a better value option. I certainly don't believe everyone's habits are identical to mine, no more than they are identical to yours although you do seem to give the impression that you think you're the only one in step and everyone else isn't. Yes, extensions bring their problems but I doubt the lines that have undertaken them have done so without adequate market research.
     
  9. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    You may be right of course, how can I tell! However I think it more likely the crunch point will come in ten to fifteen years time if my thoughts aren't heeded. An ageing workforce with an uncertainty if a new generation will follow, an "offer" to the public greater than they want or need and increasingly expensive civil and mechanical engineering issues all combine.

    It would be an irony if the same "wouldn't it be nice" sentiments which brought these organisations into existence also brought about their end because they were not held in check.
     
  10. Neil_Scott

    Neil_Scott Member

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    I'm sure you'll join the list of voices who have frequently forecasted the demise of the heritage railway sector but been proven wrong. I have no doubt your beloved WLLR will still be in operation as it seems to be the 'perfect' heritage railway but the rest of us will just struggle on with our doomed projects and wasted efforts etc etc etc.
     
  11. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    It has exactly the same uncertainties as to the future as any of the others but at least, as of now, it owes no money and has no unpredictable body of body of shareholders to worry about. There is a handful of others in a similar position.

    P.H.
     
  12. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    The problems posed by an ageing volunteer force with insufficient new blood coming into the movement will affect lines whether they have extended or not IMO. It could be argued that the longer, more "glamourous" lines will attract more new blood than smaller lines. Time will tell.
     
  13. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    "Unpredictable body of shareholders" - another phrase that you could use would be "democratic oversight". Without wishing to rake over old wounds, one reading of the tizzy that the SVR recently got itself into was that the management wanted to embark on the kind of unsustainable vanity project (not an extension, but the principle is the same) that you are so keen to avoid, but were stopped before things went too far because, belatedly, the shareholders and members said "no". That looks like the right sort of unpredictability to have to worry about!

    tom
     
  14. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    As ever Tom, a most thought provoking post!

    Getting finance through a share issues in Holding Companies and the like seems like "free money" and enables rapid progress seemingly to be made when things are well. The problems start when things go wrong and those who give the free labour find it very difficult to get their views heard without a great rumpus being created. The reaction of shareholders is unpredictable. Simpler structures mean it is "merely" a matter of electing/booting off members of the Board/Council. Sadly nowadays it is virtually impossible to start anything cheaply or simply and people are not prepared to wait years for things to happen.

    This is not quite the same thing as we have been corresponding about but it is allied. All the more reason to keep things simple without Holding Companies etcetera etcetera. I was going to say extension projects as well but that would be mischevious!

    Paul H.
     
  15. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Given the propensity of enthusiasts to argue amongst themselves, even progressing down the "democratic" route is not without its pitfalls. Yes you can boot out people but it's not always the right ones who get the boot. All you need is a vociferous minority pursuing their own agenda to derail things.
     
  16. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

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    I first got involved with railway preservation in 1968 - the Cassandras were making these sort of doom laden predictions even then. Happily they were just as wrong as you are now.
     
  17. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    I accept that I have no idea if my predictions will be right or wrong. But then neither can you! Pray I am wrong although I fear I am not.

    P.H.

    (By the way Cassandra was endowed with the gift to foretell the future with complete accuracy but for no-one to believe her. I know the feeling.)
     
  18. louis.pole

    louis.pole New Member

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    paulhitch. You've repeatedly criticised those that believe a line extension is appropriate for the particular circumstances of their particular line. What gives you the wisdom and foresight to reject these out of hand? I believe it was Michael Draper (a former GM of the SVR) that said there was far too many heritage lines. Perhaps he was right, but there is still an awful large number of them about. We've heard you going on about the optimum length of a line, What real railway/business knowledge do you have that the others don't?
     
  19. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    I'd also like to ask if extensions are wrong, why he supports a line that has done just that, extended. What makes the W&LLR's extension back to Raven Square different to the rest? I happen to think that the W&LLR is a better line now than it ever was when it only ran between Llanfair and Castle Caereinion.
     

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