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FR & WHR & WHHR News

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by AndrewT, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Edited vesion: To avoid further thread drift [discussion in posts 2535-2540], I've posted my response on:

    "General Railway Chat / Coal, What is the Future?'

    For conflab on 'coalternatives', see y'all over there? :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2021
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  2. RedDragonofLondon

    RedDragonofLondon New Member

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    The through services from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog appear to be booked up for several weeks. Quite impressive, and bodes well for the season as a whole.
     
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  3. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    At last! The FfR management must be heaving a collective sigh of relief. :)

    Any idea if they be using the main sets for the full line, or the 3 heritage sets please?
     
  4. RedDragonofLondon

    RedDragonofLondon New Member

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    Main sets are being used for all services except those which go to Tanybwlch. The WHR set is working out of Caernarfon, and I believe that two FR sets are working out of Porthmadog: one to Caernarfon, and one to Blaenau.
     
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  5. pgbffest

    pgbffest Member

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    Blaenau set should be as follows

    100, 122, 116, 112, 113, 110, 104, 14, 106

    Although 107 will replace 116 as a starting point whilst we wait for a new window.

    If you're bored with nothing to do, the shunt to form it up should take place tomorrow from about 1330ish - just find the link to the webcam to watch
     
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  6. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Interesting formation, is the use of the older corridor stock for a reason ie do they suit social distancing better than the more recent stock?

    ~~~~~~~~

    To return to the discussion of intensive timetables. Looking at the history of the old 103 it says that:

    Most mileage in one year was in 1979, where it ran 17,525 miles.

    If my maths is correct that would be about 700 or so round trips which when you consider that there was virtually no service between october and march shows how intensively stock was used during the running season.
     
  7. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    During it's first summer in service, 116's passengers would've paid 'em to leave the glass out ..... in it's earliest incarnation, that carriage was like a damned oven!

    Saw a nice spot of Upnor Castle related activity on the Harbour webcam this morning. :)
     
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  8. RedDragonofLondon

    RedDragonofLondon New Member

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    All FR superbarns are already committed to the WHR services out of Porthmadog, so it's simply a case of them being the only available corridor carriages. The Superbarns are actually better for social distancing as perspex screens have been fitted between bays.
     
  9. pgbffest

    pgbffest Member

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    Bringing Tourist Carr 38 back in to traffic and in the correct set. Getting 39 in to its normal home was a little more difficult!

    Harlech may be doing the honours for the shunt tomorrow due to Upnor having a battery fault.
     
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  10. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Any idea when Funkey VoF will be back? (BTW, that's a vote in favour of a Thunderbird, rather than a plea for diesel haulage!)

    Nice to see reports that tickets are selling (somewhere north of) well, especially that the Glaslyn Venturer looks to have picked up very nicely.

    I wonder, has the wretched lurgi forever changed notions of hop-on/hop-off timetabled services? Current arrangements, still fairly alien to this old fart, look to resemble coach trip bookings, more than they do 'traditional' rail operations. Whatever, Mr & Mrs J Public certainly seem to be responding to marketing well enough.

    Thinking out loud, might there be scope for booking a seat in a carriage leaving Harbour in the morning, which is 'reserved' for re-attachment at Blaenau in the PM, for those who might wish to spend a full day chasing goats up slate waste mountains? Or will relaxation of exceptional measures mean a return to the usual way of doing things? I'm guessing that, in several ways, successful pre-booked operations actually make life easier for the railway.
     
  11. RedDragonofLondon

    RedDragonofLondon New Member

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    I'm not closely involved with operations, but I am willing to speculate.

    I think that pre-pandemic, the main flows were:

    • Port-Ffestiniog
    • Port-Tanybwlch
    • Port-Caernarfon (and vv)
    • Port/Caernarfon-Rhyd Ddu
    • Port/Caernarfon-Beddgelert
    The complex task of managing these to allow one train to accomodate multiple flows under a pre-booking only operation would perhaps be detrimental - if three carriages of passengers alight at Tanybwlch, it is unlikely that more than a handful will be waiting to take their place to continue up to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

    The smaller intermediate stations, including Minffordd, would essentially be killed off by pre-booking only in my opinion - if you're walking to Dduallt from Ffestiniog and then catching the train back, you can't plan in hope that the train you need will be "activated" by demand. And if your plans take longer than expected, rebooking in the peaks would be a hassle, and probably impossible due to no signal at intermediate halts. People are unlikely to gamble being stuck in the middle of nowhere if their preffered train is fully-booked - they will simply use their cars instead and clutter up the National Park.

    Similarly, all FR trains start at Port. Therefore, to accomodate passengers from Ffestiniog, you will be carting around fresh-air from Port in the mornings and to Port in the evenings, and possibly during the day too. During busy times, it may become tempting to fill trains with passengers starting from Port as that'll maximise revenue per mile. At quieter times, trains may not be "activated" and thus the same situation will occur. Therefore, starting at Ffestiniog would be difficult and footfall in the town would be even lower than usual. It was notable in Summer 2020 how much quieter than everywhere else Blaenau Ffestiniog was without passengers going to/from the station - a permanent trend in that direction could kill off many of the remaining businesses there.

    If you want to continue to serve passengers who want the smaller stations and halts (which give the F&WHR its charm), then a hybrid model would be needed - pre-booked passengers get reserved carriages, and walk-ups are accepted for journeys not covered by the main pre-booking options. But then, you need to ensure that there's enough room to cover the very variable demand for the less common options - sometimes trains barely pick up at all, whereas others seem to stop at all halts. And if you've got that space, then you may as well maximise revenue by allowing any walk-ups even for the main journeys. Then people will opt for this, as plans may vary depending on the weather - the Welsh sunshine is fickle, and so many will head for the station when the weather isn't great.

    Effectively, you end up with the position we were in in 2019 - pre-booking for the main flows available on the internet, but with many passengers opting to buy from the booking office on the day. The main difference is the nice new easier-to-use web interface.

    If we continue with a pre-booking only and demand-activated service, then a lot of the charm of the railways (halts and smaller stations) will be killed off, and I think Blaenau Ffestiniog's footfall would be at greater risk. The lost flexibility to choose a return journey based on what you find in the town may also be a disbenefit to the passenger experience. I suspect the membership will press for "turn-up and go", and the FR Co. will try and accomodate that, but only if the numbers add up, which they may not do for a while.

    Would be interested to hear the opinions of others on this matter.
     
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  12. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Interesting analysis from @RedDragonofLondon. Whilst Dduallt seems of minimal economic significance (as unfortunately does T-y-G), with the proximity of Port Meirion, I've often wondered about the viability of some dedicated link from/to Minffordd (the first place I boarded an FfR train, hauled by Linda, half a century ago, having made the trip up from Y Bermo by train).

    As to Blaenau itself, that seems a harder nut to crack and my (possibly unfair) view is that there's never been enough concerted effort by businesses reliant on tourism to market the town's attractions, of which there are several. While the area is popular with the 'outdoor activities brigade' these seem, by and large, not a readily tappable market. In my experience generally mountain bikers, climbers, canoeists etc. seem to be interested in little beyond their specific reason for being there (or anywhere else) plus perhaps somewhere to eat and get their heads down. At the price of much of their kit, I can't really say I blame.them! Maybe more could be done, in association with TfW, to attract day visitors from Llandudno and Colwyn Bay, but even were that a fertile furrow to plough, unless the overall visitor numbers can be increased, would likely be at a cost to the resorts on the north coast.

    I suppose if occasional plans to remove the mountains of slate waste came to pass, that stands a better than evens chance of changing the sums for Blaenau over the longer term, but in the interim, the best case would be several decades of freight for the Conwy Valley line. If some gainful use for several million tons of slate waste were to be identified (? flood prevention, land reclamation ?), it'd be a sight more likely to happen.
     
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  13. pgbffest

    pgbffest Member

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    Vale went back to Dinas last Wednesday to act as yard shunter / thunderbird. Chances are it'll be there for the rest of the season performing that role. During the "Star" services it'll be in use to tow the train to Caernarfon in the morning and then to shunt it back in to the shed in order to give the steam crew a shorter day.
     
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  14. meeee

    meeee Member

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    Pre-booking or online ticketing is a staple of much of the tourist industry. The FR was probably behind the curve with this prior to covid and has at least caught up now. Perhaps it has worked so well because traffic at intermediate stations wasn't all that big in the first place.

    You shouldn't just assume that what people accept now will be what they will want when covid fades away though. The impression I get from passengers is they are happy with how it is at the moment, because the alternative is nothing. It's a bit like asking everyone who works from home if the want to go to the office. They've not been in the office for 18 months so they don't what it's like and would much rather stay at home. It's what they know so they are sticking with it. So there is a danger that modelling your business on how people behave in a pandemic could be counter productive when normal times come.

    Some railways are really struggling with the prebooking fixed itinerary model. It has not been universally as successful as it has been on the F&WHR.

    Tim
     
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  15. RedDragonofLondon

    RedDragonofLondon New Member

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    Yes, there are a few clear flows which work well with the pre-booking system. Whilst the majority of passengers will be happy enough with being limited to the flows currently offered (the efficiencies offered are probably enough to outweigh the loss from unhappy passengers at any rate), the loss of the intermediate stations and the FR's use for connecting to BR would probably not be too popular amongt supporters in the long run. It would probably feel very Disney-like :Vomit:
    Precisely this. From a personal perspective, I have booked in advance and locked myself into what could be a potentially inconvenient schedule because I cannot rely on availability even a fortnight before travel. I've had to content myself with only a couple of trips to Blaenau Ffestiong because it is booked up a month in advance. I've only got one train over the whole of the WHR because it only runs twice a week, and had to make do with trips to Beddgelert. I've also had to postpone my plans to use the train as a part of walks to Dduallt and Tanybwlch for yet another year. I'd like to spend more than an hour in Blaenau Ffestiniog but there's no option to choose to get on a later train if lunch takes a while.

    Now, I'm willing to accept this because of the circumstances. But I suspect that I'm not going to be the only one miffed if this is a permanent fixture. Particularly with the Welsh weather, I don't think people are going to be happy if on the one sunny day on their holiday, they're locked into going on the railway.
    In the near future, people are going to expect to be able to rock up at the station and get on the train and choose when they come back. "Sorry, there's no availability until next Tuesday" "Sorry, you can only get the same train back - you won't be able to grab lunch at the terminus" "Sorry, you can't get off at Waunfawr and go to the pub, we're not selling tickets to there anymore" are not going to impress tourists who want to do what they want, when they want.

    Certainly seems to be working quite well, with healthy levels of bookings. The new jazzy website seems to work a lot better than the pre-2019 system, especially as it can sell guidebooks and first class tickets. I think the railway's success in this department is down to its commercial-mindedness. It is probably the premier narrow-gauge heritage railway in the UK, and its forward-thinking mindset probably contributed to the drive to sort out an efficient and attractive online booking system. I suspect other railways, more reliant on volunteers to operate the commercial side and with less money to spend on new systems, found it more challenging.
     
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  16. mdewell

    mdewell Well-Known Member

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    While it is probably correct to say that people would prefer the current pre-booking systems rather having nothing, to say they are happy about it is a bit of a leap.
    Certainly I would much prefer the flexibility to turn up and travel (What's the weather doing today? Shall we go to the beach or spend the day undercover at a railway?) I also want the flexibility to hop on and off trains during the day so I can explore a railway and it's surroundings thoroughly.
     
  17. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I agree about liking the flexibility. However, from an operator's point of view, that flexibility inevitably means running more trains than are strictly required to pull the passengers, i.e. lots of empty seat-miles. So the quid-pro-quo of flexibility is to be prepared for higher fares.

    Lots of lines have, in the past, offered various point-to-point tickets, but if you buy the complete round trip it has often been an all-day-rover. Maybe we'll get to a point whereby an A-B return is one price, but an all-day rover between A and B is more expensive.

    (And accepting it is hard to generalise, since what works for a five mile line having perhaps hourly departures through teh day is not the same as what would work for a twenty mile line where going out and back is a significantly duration in itself).

    Tom
     
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  18. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Oh boy, yes! In point of fact, CV-19 aside, this applies across the board, at all times.

    Several times, on "lockdown" editions of F&WHR Moving Pictures", mention has been made of on-train catering, the return of which I'm guessing would be the most visible indicator that things are returning to whatever 'normal' is .... assuming, of course, that option eventually crops up again.

    Quite how any future mash-up of current and normal booking arrangements will pan out, I'd not care to speculate, but if our lines stick with the full reservation pattern, things don't look too good for the smaller stations and halts. I suspect, loading permitting, this may be resolved by a carriage or two for those alighting from or joining the train at intermediate stops, but what happens when 110% of seats are snapped up, days before a train runs? Are there additional carriages available? Will the additional load be within the loco's capacity? If you're balancing a low (and in any case speculative) numbers against firm bookings, what choice would you make? Seaside miniature railways might be able to get away with "weather permitting", not so lines running to a timetable.
     
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  19. RedDragonofLondon

    RedDragonofLondon New Member

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    The counterpoint to this that fewer services can be run. The high-season service and even some low-season services involve a 20-mins turnaround at Blaenau Ffestiniog, which enables a sufficiently-frequent service to handle demand. I accept that Blaenau Ffestiniog is hardly the jewel in the crown of Gwynedd, but passengers will want longer at their destination than that, especially if they need to eat lunch. Therefore you need flexibility. Empty seat miles are inevitable as soon as you include intermediate station journey options, even from major stations such as Beddgelert or Blaenau Ffestiniog.

    I think different approaches may work on the WHR, mainly because aside from part of the high-season, only one return journey is available from each terminus per day.

    The introduction of Beddgelert services is probably beneficial, but this may bring with it political problems. It currently uses pretty-much every new corridor carriage built for the FR since 2007, many funded by Ffestiniog supporters. Since opening to Rhyd Ddu, the WHR has relied on FR carriages to maintain sufficient capacity, often at the expense of overcrowding on the FR. By 2019, the number in regular use on the WHR had reduced to two, compared to up to eight in previous years. A return to the FR being forsaken for the WHR's benefit could prove unpopular - this sort of impact was a major source of contention during the WHR restoration. There will never be any reciprocity as WHR stock and locomotives don't fit the FR loading gauge. I can't see the FR being left to work their vintage carriages to death and the passenger experience being tarnished by the FR being left with the worn-out older corridor carriages being very popular.
     
  20. 45669

    45669 Member

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    Afternoon All,

    I'm still working through the video footage I shot whilst in Porthmadog last month and the latest instalment is now on my YouTube channel. So if anyone would like to join me on a trip up the line on a 'Woodland Wanderer' behind BLANCHE, here's the link:



    Hope it's of interest.

    TTFN,

    Ron.
     
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