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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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    Agreed. To regard 'pre-covid' as a problem-free paradigm (which it wasn't), to which railways should default is, I feel, foolish.

    Cards on the table. Being a grumpy old stick in the mud, I've always preferred bog standard, timetabled operations, but even I've been forced to recognise that nowhere near a majority who visit our lines have the slightest interest in the finer points of operation and that they're the 'market' on whom our lines depend for their bread and butter income. That's a basic fact we simply cannot afford to overlook.

    It's been established that the 'named experience' style of operation has found a market. TBH, I don't feel greatly inclined to any dogmatic viewpoint which ignores that reality, preferring a course of action by no means guaranteed to increase income. Like it or lump it, income is the bottom line.
     
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  2. Fish Plate

    Fish Plate New Member

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    The facts are simple. Of all of the costs that the railway faces, the only one over which it has direct control is how many trains it runs. It is simply not viable for the railway to move 500,000 seats in order to carry 200,000 passengers. Whilst obviously no quite this simple, 300,000 empty seats represents roughly 1,000 empty trains; there is no [preserved] railway in the world that can possibly afford to subsidise that number of empty trains. Therefore, a model has to be found that vastly improves the percentage of occupied seats and the pre-booking model (for the majority of passengers) is it. Of course, I truly hope that the hop-on, hop-off service can return (even if in a limited fashion) and the railway has made clear in its recent Facebook posts that this is clearly the aim, but for the long-term term viability of the railway, it has to be able to run trains far more effeciently than it has in the past; otherwise, there won't be a railway. I know which option I prefer.
     
  3. 45669

    45669 Part of the furniture

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    Like you, I prefer a timetable that shows that there is a train to 'A' leaving at 'X' o'clock calling at 'B', 'C' and 'D' and arriving at 'E' at 'Y' o'clock.

    However, there are many, many people that do not use trains, or buses, on a regular basis and, to them, a timetable is like a foreign language. So for them, a 'Glaslyn Venturer' or a 'Woodland Wanderer' is much easier to understand. It leaves Porthmadog at 'X' o'clock and they get back 'Z' hours later with a one hour, or whatever, break in the middle.

    If the Railway can come with a workable solution which caters for both markets we'll all be happy.
     
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  4. 45669

    45669 Part of the furniture

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    Hear, hear!
     
  5. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I fully appreciate that, and recognise the circles that managers are having to square with uncertain demand, high and rising costs, and very thin reserves. But I am seeing slightly too much mention of words like "efficiently", and slightly too little about how to appeal to potential customers.

    @45669 comments that if too many people took the view that if potential travellers don't go, there won't be a WHR (or FR, or whatever). I completely agree. But there's another side to it, and it's one for the railway(s) to address - not blame fussy customers for. I'd no problem with getting from our holiday cottage to Caernafon for a 9:00 departure, and then getting back there at 4 or whenever. But that was on a family holiday, where I'd either have had to take the car for the day to get to and from the train, or dictate the pattern of the day to the rest of the family - and that on a very limited range of days where it was an option, so requiring fixing the family plans before we could have a reliable view of the weather. Two of the family simply weren't interested in travelling, while the third was no more than "don't mind if I do". At the prices involved, that was more than I could ask - and therefore 1-2 seats that might have been filled were not. When we stopped in Beddgelert later in the week, a short line working from Porthmadog was in - but with no ability to travel on demand, my money stayed in my pocket.

    Back to efficiency. When I am taking part in a leisure activity, I do so for leisure. When I become part of the product, and expected to fit the production line of the company I'm buying from, that ceases to be leisure. And some operations are straying dangerously close to that territory, and IMHO risking what makes them special in the first place.
     
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  6. 45669

    45669 Part of the furniture

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    I can't add anything to what I said before: "If the Railway can come with a workable solution which caters for both markets we'll all be happy."
     
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  7. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Whatever the other considerations may be, these points go to the heart of survival in today's choice laden consumer leisure market.

    The most basic of questions is 'for whose benefit are trains being run?'. It may sound glib, but the simple answer is 'whoever is paying for them to be run'. Any operation not reflecting that truism is going to prove problematic ... at best.

    Hidebound dogma makes for a poor business model.
     
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  8. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I completely agree.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  9. RedDragonofLondon

    RedDragonofLondon New Member

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    At the moment, it is only possible to travel over the WHR twice per week, so good luck booking even a week in advance. Last year, I got stung several times with trains being booked-up very far in advance, meaning that I had to check the website multiple times per day for returned tickets and change my plans significantly in order to accomodate a trip.

    The current plan of flexibility "where possible" is hardly likely to hold any water when the trains can just be filled with passengers going out-and-back from Port, and making plans on the basis of being potentially able to do something, subject to availability on the day, is hardly likely to inspire confidence.
     
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  10. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    The comment about current WHR services does need to be seen in light of how early in the season we still are (as the brass monkeys outside my open window are reminding me!), but for the rest, surely we must assume that the F&WHR management have arrived at currently announced strategy from the perspective of lessons learned over the past two years and it still seems to early to make any assumptions about any return to whatever 'normal' is.

    Back before covid kicked off, I was one of those wondering about the all-timetabled patterns of operation, which whilst (if one accepts the management base commercial decisions on accumulated expertise) it was regularly filling fewer and longer trains, still left massive gaps between those trains.

    For all the suggestions, some from myself, to operate some shorter services between core full-line trains, the same problems (more accurately, one overriding problem) kept cropping up. Visitor numbers. I've not seen any overall statistics for visitors to North Wales, or for how long they stay, or for what percentage of those visitors visit railways. Without so much as an approximation on which to base those pesky numbers, concrete suggestions can't really be made with much confidence.
     
  11. Musket The Dog

    Musket The Dog New Member

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    My first trip on the FR was last year on one of the 'Mountain Prince' services, reversing just after the spiral at Dduallt and waiting for an hour at Tan-y-Bwlch on the trip back down. Our group consisted of 2 enthusiasts and 2 people who could be convinced by a trip into the mountains and by the fact there might be a nice spot to have a drink somewhere in the day. Pre-booking might be quite jarring for those of us used to how heritage railways have run until now, but is it that different to how a lot of the leisure industry works already? Just while we were in Wales, we had to pre-book to to park where we wanted at Snowdon, we had to pre-book a restaurant we particularly wanted to visit and a brewery tour as well as the usual stuff like accommodation.

    Even though I'm firmly in the enthusiast camp, I thought it suited what we wanted out of the day perfectly. I'm sure I might have found something at each intermediate station to interest me but I think my friends would have struggled to remain entertained until the next train came. As a consequence, even if the stations were open on a normal day, the times we were going to pass through the intermediate stations were of little importance to us as we were never going to do anything other than out and back. We weren't looking to get off anywhere to stop and walk as our holiday had plenty of opportunity for that anyway and on face value Tan-y-Bwlch seems like a much nicer place to take a break than Ffestiniog. Once we were locked into our bug box all that was left was to enjoy the scenery, the sound of the loco working and the refreshments we had taken on board with us. It was still a long day, maybe still too long for families with small children (there was an even more reduced trip available), but my non-trainy friends not only survived but had a lot of good to say about it too. Porthmadog seemed like a very sensible place to start and end, being on the end of the main roads and with lots of available parking.

    Admittedly I'm not that familiar with all the Ffestiniog's finer details, excluding walking around the surrounding countryside, how much incentive is there to get off the train at the intermediate stops? Ta-y-Bwlch worked very well, and the timings were pretty much spot on to stretch our legs, grab something to eat and have a look around the museum before getting back into our carriage for the trip home.

    As a thought experiment, going with the assumption that shorter or less trains and no empty seats are the order of the day: would most people rather deal with pre-booking, or arriving in time for any departure they liked but not being guaranteed at space on the train?
     
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  12. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Moving Pictures 62 is out [24'31"] .... some lovely tlc from C&W on show, plus featuring (wonder of wonders) one the vanishingly small number of slip-free "up" re-starts I've ever seen from T-y-B, (DLG with 9 on). Looked as if the uphill bogie was doing the main grunt work, with the downhill providing random 'oomph' to s prevent slipping until the train was underway. So it is possible!

     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2022
  13. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    The Welsh Highland has always gone for a model of a few big trains per day, so can't scale response to meet demand. When we went many years ago (pre-2015), there were only about 5 trains per day each way (from memory), and not all of them went from Portmadoc main
     
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  14. RedDragonofLondon

    RedDragonofLondon New Member

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    That would be 2011 - I understand that it was due to concerns over whether Harbour Station could accomodate the complex maneuvers needed to accomodate WHR trains in the first year of through operations. After that, it was always one to three each way, so even fewer (only one opportunity most days for a full round trip except in the summer peaks). Chopping the line up into smaller sections is the only way to get around the issues of the line being too long and there not being enough Garratts to go around.
     
  15. pgbffest

    pgbffest New Member

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    A quick look at the bookings system shows that there are currently 23 compartments left on the 0940 ex PRT and 49 compartments left on the 1000 ex CFN. This of course is the first train of the season full line (or anything from the Port end). Last year, it was different. First through trains for about 20 months, so it was always going to busy. The following Saturday shows 41 for the 0940 and 46 for the 1000. Good Friday is less busy at the minute and Easter Saturday is about the same. So there's plenty of room at this moment in time. First Class of course is busier and may well be booked out
     
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  16. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Hopefully, that won't be quite as problematic in a couple of years time. Progress on NG15 No.134 is reaching an advanced stage. These 2-8-2 bruisers are reputedly near equal of the NGG16 ..... and if so, I'd hazard a guess (with only one set of cylinders, motion and frames), may prove lighter on the repair bills. If so, we can look forward to No.133's nap comimg to an end too. Time will tell!

    The 'latest updates' link (masthead, on the right in red) is probably best, as 'working party news' is often updated more frequently than 'latest news':

    http://ng15-134.co.uk/
     
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  17. pgbffest

    pgbffest New Member

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    Bottom end was having a few teething troubles following winter works - all sorted on Tuesday morning by the Boston Lodge team and a very kind locomotive crew who agreed to come in early in order to get it ready so the fitters could have a play with it!
     
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  18. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    And fears of Portmadoc rush-hour traffic...

    In terms of slicing up the line - what would you run the additional trains with? AIUI, they went for garratts and nothing else. Even if you could borrow the Ffestiniog engines, that would stretch things.

    Also, the problem with every iteration of the WHR/NWNG, is that there is an awful lot of nothing. There isn't much at any of the intermediate stations. Maybe a few hiker/mountain-bikers etc, but there's no attractions.

    Maybe the answer is to add a short working at each end ie one train goes PM - Caernarfon - [intermediate] - Caernarfon - PM, and the other doing Caernarfon - PM - Bedgelert - PM - Caernarfon?
     
  19. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Can't argue with much of that .... but I'll still have a go - just pausing to note Porthmadog itself is only "special" to us railway nuts!

    What are the 'market segments'? Day trippers, weekend/ 'long weekend', longer stays, organised tours and the 'outdoor activities' brigade and (Dare I say it?) the local market. The IMR have managed it!

    From what I've seen (used to go rock climbing and cycling ... emphasis on the 'used to' :(), the 'outdoor activities' brigade aren't easily enticed from their chosen pursuits, for the simple reason that's what they spend their cash on. From the railways' point of view, the only time your mountain biker / rock climber / wind surfer etc will be looking for other activities (usually confined to food and alcohol) is going to be after the engines are tucked away and staff have finished for the day. You'd need to be pretty certain of an unknown market to commit scarce funds, just to find out the demand simply can't be translated into economic operation.

    When it comes to making the towns and villages attractive to tourism, so much comes down to matters most properly the purview of the local population. Not everyone is enamoured of being constantly flooded with grockles ..... and their cars!
     
  20. NeilL

    NeilL Well-Known Member

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    Older people who are still keen to get outdoors and enjoy walking, perhaps gentle walking, may well use the railways to help manage a one way walk rather than trying to manage a round trip walk. I can remember at least four that used the FR or WHR - Rhyd-ddu to Beddgelert, Tan-y-Bwlch to Penrhyndeudraeth, Ddualt to Tanygrisiau (via the woods to the east) and Ddualt to Tay-y-Bwlch. The last three also made use of the cafe at Tan-y-Bwlch. There must be a sizeable number of pensioners in this position who have welcomed an excuse to use the railways to facilitate a walk.
     
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