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Railtour Management. Isn't it time we had some?

Discussion in 'What's Going On' started by Desert Songster, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. Desert Songster

    Desert Songster New Member

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    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
  2. Desiro450

    Desiro450 Guest

    You shouldn't. Pay on the day is the way forward, no point in getting stung for non refundable hotel rooms/travel costs when you have the same routine from certain railtour operators that promise the earth several months out, take you money, then get the hump when you demand a refund for something which a few days before travel looks nothing like what was promised. Yes, sometimes the changes are not the tour operators fault, last minute failures happen and you just have to take those as part of the deal. It's only because 'enthusiasts' are so easy going/such mugs (delete as you see fit) that they get away with it.
     
    Bean-counter and gwalkeriow like this.
  3. Desert Songster

    Desert Songster New Member

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  4. Desiro450

    Desiro450 Guest

    I suspect therein lies your answer. Expect most tours to change to some order from the time of advertising, just do the ones local to you and give up wasting non refundable money on travelling for something that's not going to happen.
     
  5. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Pay on the day? I can foresee at least two problems with that. 1. Insufficient people turning up on the day and the operator taking a big loss. 2. Too many people turning up on the day and thus a load of disgruntled punters.
    You may get away with it on something like the Jacobite but I honestly can't see it working for the majority of tours.
    Oh and enthusiasts aren't mugs. I know of plenty who've complained when things have gone wrong and in a number of cases received restitution from the tour company.
     
  6. spicer21

    spicer21 Member

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    Railtour regulars are a very forgiving bunch it has to be said, and in being so have done themselves no favours in the long run as evidenced by the OP. Unfortunately, there's a general acceptance that because of the business they're in and it's fragmented nature, Tour Promoters are a special case, do us all a big favour by staying in business, and should not be held to account for poor goods and service in the same way other Retailers / Suppliers are. Until we stop coming back for more and challenge the status quo, the events described by "Desert Songster" will continue I'm afraid.
     
  7. Desiro450

    Desiro450 Guest

    But its ok for the tour operator to advertise something months in advance thats not going to happen? Good to see some enthusiasts standing up for their rights, pity more don't do it. If you advertise X for £xx and you pay your money and you don't get that then you should be complaining strongly, even to the extent of getting Trading Standards involved.
     
  8. Desiro450

    Desiro450 Guest

    Why should that be? Just because of the product on offer (or not as the case usually is) why should they be treated any differently to any other business? If they are happy to pocket the profits, then they should have to accept the downside as well.
     
  9. spicer21

    spicer21 Member

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    I agree re the Pay on the day question. It wouldn't sustain the Promoters, and for the reasons highlighted by the OP would limit the choice of tours available. No, the product needs to become more reliable. Providing refunds to the few that complain is fine, but it's just sticking plaster. It does nothing to address the root cause of recurring problems such as those above.
     
  10. spicer21

    spicer21 Member

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    Please read my whole post again as you've taken the above extract out of context. I'm not saying this is a valid excuse. I described it as a general and unfortunate acceptance by those who travel regularly and keep coming back for more. I'm agreeing with you basically !
     
  11. Desiro450

    Desiro450 Guest

    Jolly good!
     
  12. Pjamie

    Pjamie New Member

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    The problem with gauging I think NR won't gauge a engine unless its going to be used on a working. They won't gauge engines just in case it's needed as they won't spend the money on gauging all engines for all routes.
     
  13. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Some operators do seem to sail very close to the wind when advertising trips sometimes and I feel things could be done better on occasions. I've been lucky on the few trips I've been able to do of late in that I've only had a late change of motive power once and that was to another loco of the same class. Whilst it may annoy those who want to travel behind a specific loco, advertising a tour using a pool of locos does give some leeway.
     
  14. Desiro450

    Desiro450 Guest

    Like the Dorset Coast Express for example.....;)
     
  15. david1984

    david1984 Well-Known Member

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    To be frank, I think you were being far over ambitious, doing 5 tours in 5 days and expecting them all to run as per programme, while frequent changes are not really on, looking at your plan, it was way too ambitious and unrealistically optimistic that everything would go to plan.

    Comparison to Compass is unfair too, there are plenty of go anywhere 47's still knocking about if the intended ones become unavailable, not a situation you have with steam loco's of varying size, power, speed and availability.
     
  16. 73129

    73129 Member

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    If tours aren't running because there a too many unsold seats then maybe there are too many tours being promoted. I wonder if the rail tour market has been over flooded with tours? I remember reading some years ago the amount of tours being run has double within a few years. Wouldn't it be better for everyone to reduce the amount of tours. This would allow better take up for the remaining tours.
     
  17. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    First a disclaimer: I've never travelled on a railtour in this country, though I have in other countries. However, I've sometimes thought about it, but never actually booked. So why not? I think there are three main reasons.

    Firstly, unreliability of advertised product. It's one thing to convince Mrs Jamessquared to travel on such and such a trip, leaving at a particular time behind a steam engine (frankly, we'd be broadly unfussy about which, but don't really want to travel behind a diesel). But then three days before it turns out the start time is changed, then the finish time, then the starting point, and then it turns out steam is replaced by diesel. Then the four hours planned in a nice town while the loco is serviced becomes 90 minutes due to changed schedule and late running. I'd struggle to suggest we took a second trip.

    Secondly, poor rolling stock. I have no idea if it is universal, but my one experience of charter rolling stock was at a gala on a major heritage railway, which had had an incoming charter and then contracted to use some of the stock for the rest of the gala. Shabby Mark 1s with dirty windows, toilets locked out of use, torn moquette and no effort to return the interiors to even a semblance of 1950s appearance - I don't want to sit in carriages like that all day. Now maybe that was the exception, but it was hardly an experience to make me want to travel in that set again.

    Finally, over ambitious itineraries. I like rail travel as much as the next man, but too often trips seem to be endurance events rather than a relaxing day out. For example, the next two trips vaguely near me are (according to UKSteam) - Euston - Worcester & return; and Bristol - Pembroke & return. The Euston trip departs at 7.40am and doesn't get back until 22.29 - that's the best part of fifteen hours away, without counting the time to get to and from London! The Bristol trip is slightly more moderate, but still involves over 12 hours away. That at least would be feasible in a day trip from Salisbury, provided I didn't mind leaving home about 6.30am and returning - assuming reliability of the charter - near 11pm. The Euston - Worcester trip would only be possible with two nights in London.

    So all my discretionary spend goes to heritage railways. For somewhere between £10 and £20 I can have a day rover on more or less any railway I choose. If I just want to sit on a train and rack up the miles, a day on the NYMR or WSR or SVR or Bluebell should enable near to 100 miles in a day without a particularly early start or late finish. I can be about 99% certain that the day will start where advertised and run to the times advertised, and, if I choose my line right, in a choice of interesting and well-presented rolling stock. If I am feeling tired, I can always break my journey for a coffee stop, or even just go home; if I am feeling more sprightly, there is always the possibility of a late extra round trip. Given the above, why would I choose to spend maybe five times as much for the uncertain opportunity to endure a marathon that may get cancelled or rearranged at late notice, with possibility of late substitution of traction and maybe even start and end times?

    Tom
     
  18. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    My traumatic experience was on a Weymouth
    Seaside Express. :)
    For the record I'm one who aims for specific locos so the pool system is a bit annoying as finding out which loco is rostered on any given tour can be a bit of a last minute thing but if it's steam up front and providing thrash them I'm not too worried to be honest.
     
  19. david1984

    david1984 Well-Known Member

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    One point that isn't up to scratch is this gauging nonsense, are the dimensions of various loco's and the restrictions of various routes not all stored together somewhere in NR ?, doesn't say much for their gauging engineers and test trains if you don't trust their findings, yes track moves over times, but if there's that much room for doubt, your clearly not testing the various routes frequently enough.
     
  20. johnnew

    johnnew New Member

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    Therefore NR are also part 0f the problem and must have a somewhat flawed piece of software. Rail-lines have standard parameters and they run their gauging trains regularly so presumably have a route profile set up for already approved tour routes. That should show up issues where any non-standard things exist and I can see that would include the sharp curve through Dorchester South on the DCE route where a restriction on overhang, especially for a northbound (up) working might apply, the sinuous curves into Whitby, height under bridges and so on. Therefore you would assume there would be a database table of those restrictive anomalies. They have already passed each loco for mainline running so have the relevant dimensions and unique TOPS number for the engine. Basic database software using a relational database should therefore be capable in seconds of comparing route A with loco type B whether that is Duchess of Sutherland or a class 444 EMU.

    If you want to run a brand new one-off tour at short notice over a route not used by a regular train a delay is realistic but that shouldn't be the case for circumstances like today's DCE. SLOA may have had flaws but such a coordinating body is needed to ensure that sloppy management on both sides of the tour business is eradicated and I think this year we have seen both sides showing that such sloppiness issues exist.

    Desert Songster makes extremely valid points in the OP and this unreliability is exactly why my wife and I haven't booked onto a mainline tour for decades. We have consistently spent money on preserved lines with wine and dine trains (especially on the NYMR) but we won't risk that sort of cash layout up-front for a trip, generally to mark an anniversary or birthday, where the date is not guaranteed plus all the issues around the changed date of rearranging client appointments and trying to get leave for a new date.

    There may well be factors I am unaware of that would add complications but having worked with IT from the 1980s through to retirement much of this seems to be that either there isn't a sensibly set up database or the interrogation tools for getting meaningful data results out of it are not in place.
     

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