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Swanage Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Rumpole, Oct 10, 2012.

  1. biggles200

    biggles200 New Member

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  2. free2grice

    free2grice Well-Known Member Friend

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    Although in terms of publicity this would be a positive step for the Swanage Railway, social distancing measures could cut capacity by 90%. Attracting a profit would be difficult.
    See the report from the BBC today regarding West Coast trains and the introduction of new social distancing measures. <BJ>
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52670790
    ''If maintained, the two-metre social distancing measure would cut capacity on trains by up to 90%''.
     
  3. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    Daddsie71b likes this.
  4. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Is this a 'one off' or will it be offered in future years
     
  5. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Well-Known Member

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    Both myself my wife and my Dad had one last year, which I think was the first year the railway sold them.
    My wife ended up (mainly due to a cancer diagnosis and follow on treatment and recovery) only using hers once, but I and my dad found it very useful. Of course living in Swanage it meant that we may just have one round trip in amongst doing other things being done during the day.
    I would however suggest avoiding days my dad travels as he has experienced the T9 having its Norden incident, signal failures, points failures plus other operational issues, none of which I suffered from. He was also a season ticket holder on the WSR and on the train when the Manor had its cylinder issue. I always try to travel on days he does not!
     
  6. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    From what you say about your age, presumably your father remembers the T9 being introduced?

    But mytwo oldest sons & I seem to have similar experiences with The Waverley so dont sail when I am planning to go
     
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  7. buzby2

    buzby2 Member

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    Belated update.
    I was told that the railway's electrical contractors were at Swanage last week inspecting/checking lighting and other circuits so what you saw may have been as a result of this work.
    If you notice daytime lights again please post on here, or PM me, with details [date/time(s)/etc] and I'll see if I can find out what might be going on. Thank you.
     
  8. biggles200

    biggles200 New Member

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    With the easing of the lockdown, could not the carriage shed contractors be allowed to get on with the project. It would be safer (even cheaper) to complete the project without trains running.
     
  9. Mogul

    Mogul Member

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    This E-mail just received from the Chairman speaks for its self. Full text follows. No apology for the long post.



    The challenge facing the Swanage Railway.
    A personal view from the Chairman of the Trust.

    The heart of our problem.

    We have grown over the past decades achieving much, but the suddenness and devastating impact on our business of coronavirus has highlighted, as never before, the need for us to look closely at the way we run our charitable and business activities.

    We have enjoyed a long period of steady growth, weathering yearly fluctuations and taking on significant commitments all in a desire to re-establish the whole line. Our business model worked, and although it takes considerable management, it was successful, but coronavirus has hit precisely and quickly at the weakest spot in our trading year causing a significant crisis.

    Why?

    In general terms the Company has in recent years achieved a turnover of £3M and has costs not far behind that, making in good years a modest profit. Indeed last year were it not for the significant contribution made by the Flying Scotsman we would have made a loss, and had to curtail vital investment infrastructure and locomotives. Across a trading year our income fluctuates but with 2/3rds of income taken in the peak summer months, the critical nature of having a good summer is evident. The Company’s costs though are in the main are spread over the whole year, resulting in cash flow shortfall in the winter months.

    So to ensure in the lean winter, that the Company can pay its bills the Trust routinely lends a significant sum from its reserves to the Company. The loan - this year £450,000 - is repaid by the end of the summer with interest, from sales, recharging funds in the Trust for support the following winter.

    Coronavirus hit in March and caused the complete suspension of activity and our income. The Company had used up the winter loan from the Trust and now - the double whammy - without operating, no longer has the means to either meet its normal costs and to pay back the loan. This in turn leaves the Trust without the means to provide its usual winter support later this year. If the restrictions had hit later in the year some income would have been generated and the situation feel different.

    There is absolutely nothing we could have done about the timing of this, other than recognise that for people the impact of the virus is real and of great concern and that the priority must be to deal with that first and the Railway second.

    What have we done?

    The SRC responded very quickly with an initial plan of action to put the Railway on ‘care & maintenance’ (C&M) status when the first lockdown was announced in late March. Interim arrangements for management were agreed and implemented, a plan to reduce outgoings was developed and the support offered by Government was taken up, leading to paid staff not required for C&M being furloughed at 80% of their salary, paid for by the Government. Other arrangements were quickly agreed with key suppliers: locomotive owners have suspended hire charges; rates have been suspended; other expenditures reduced as far as possible leaving only - at the time of writing - the thorny issue of the rent abatement we have requested from Swanage Town Council and Dorset Council to be finalised. Our insurance premium remains a high monthly cost but there are grounds to think that this will be reduced later in the year when the shape of the business in winter becomes clearer.

    As the Government defines its position we will ensure that we will always maximise the support they are offering against our business needs. Bringing staff back from furlough or placing staff on furlough will be driven by our needs matched to the status that the Railway is operating in at any one point in time.

    What are the immediate next steps?

    We are having to plan against a moving background where information and plans to deal with coronavirus and lifting restrictions are fast moving and difficult to predict with reasonable certainty. However, the Trust and Company quickly agreed a framework for what we need to plan to do.

    The aim is two fold; stabilise and secure the Railway’s immediate future and secondly, plan for a more sustainable Railway in the future.

    We established three pieces of connected work to do this:
    • · A financial plan to cover the next two years that will enable us to see the impact in financial terms of the plans that we prepare for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021 when we expect income streams to start to return;
    • · A future operating structure aiming to provide a sustainable structure and business; this will impact on decisions we need to take this year; and
    • · The plan from the SRT to support the SRC through the immediate stages and beyond.
    I expect this work to complete by early June following which some key decisions will need to be made to ensure the Railways survival until operations can re-start.

    The key areas to address coming out of this work are:
    • · On-going costs, especially when the Government’s furlough support ends;
    • · The practicality, applying the Government’s current requirements, of re-starting volunteer activity on parts of the Railway. This requires risk assessments, provision of PPE and management, it will not be ‘open house’;
    • · The viable operation of a limited public service this summer given the need to maintain social distancing at stations and on trains, having customers reassured enough to want to travel and volunteers able and willing to play their part safely. Our Regulator has issued guidance on the standards we must adhere to, to operate safely. A questionnaire will shortly be going to volunteers to ask their views on whether they are prepared to volunteer this summer, and what protections we need to put in place. Your response to this would help with our thinking and planning. We would like to run a service but it must be safe, useable and generate a profit;
    • · The postponement of the Wareham service at least until 2021 or even later; and
    • · Identifying the significant financial gap between our own financial resources, including those raised by the SaveOurService appeal, and having plans to raise the funds to fill the gap. It is possible, unless we can overcome the logistical challenges, that this year we may not operate public trains, and remain in C&M status until Easter 2021. The restart in 2021 may also be compromised unless vaccines are available and confidence is restored. Recovery may be delayed, and it could be 2022 before our new operating structure can be completely put in place.
    There is no doubt though that the choices and decisions to be made will be challenging, as the size of the gap between the costs needed to be met, even if we remain in C&M until next Easter and our existing funds is significant; but the basic fact remains and cannot be avoided, that we cannot afford to take our current cost base forward if we want to survive this crisis. Our decisions are going to impact on people and our suppliers. I am determined though, as I know other Trustees and Directors are, to ensure that our approach is based on our needs, that we remain open minded and will work to explore ways to achieve our aims with the needs of people and suppliers in mind, and to find a mutually agreeable way to address this crisis.

    Our planning will ensure that all options have been considered, and that we have a sound factual base on which to have those discussions and make those choices. What is encouraging is for it to be based on a plan to become leaner and more sustainable in the future enabling the Railway to recover its customers over whatever length of time it may take.

    My priority is to ensure that the Railway survives and does so in a fitter form for the future. It is going to be a difficult experience but the Railway should, all being well, be better for it. It will be worth the effort.

    I wouldn’t - having direct experience of the grievous impact of coronavirus on my family – have wished for this, no one would, but in my more optimistic moments - which I still have - I can see this as an opportunity to take for us to pause, and re-start and recover in a better way for the future and that is a comforting thought.

    If you have any points or questions you want to discuss please get in touch. We will keep in touch in this way as our plans are developed, so that you can see what they are. We will also report on their delivery and progress.

    Best wishes to you and your family in these challenging times,

    Gavin Johns
    Chairman ,
    Swanage Railway Trust

    Our appeal is at SaveOurService.co.uk
     
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  10. 007

    007 Member

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    I think he hits the mark. For this frank, open, honest and cautiously optimistic letter, I have decided to make another donation alongside my regular monthly donation.
     
  11. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    Highly realistic. I think many heritage lines are slowly realising that as much as enthusiasts hope for a speedy return to train operating there are many obstacles to overcome. Financial help is a requirement for all charities, not just heritage lines, and even where that is forthcoming the procedures and infrastructure to allow operating the railway in a safe manner for staff and passengers mean hard choices and decisions. Many boards and trusts have difficult times ahead I believe.
     
  12. Vulcan Works

    Vulcan Works New Member

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    A well presented and very considered message to Swanage supporters, staff and other stakeholders. I don’t know Gavin Johns or have any connection to the railway but I get the distinct impression that there is a clear direction and a desire for everyone to pull together through what will be a difficult 2020-21 at least.

    Explaining the depth of the problem, having a flexible plan to deal with it and encouraging people to be part of the solution is a fine strategy in my opinion. I’m not naive to think that everything is always perfect behind the scenes but I hope that the railway survives and ultimately prospers.

    I just wish that ‘my’ railway in Derbys conducted itself in such a manner, unfortunately the clique that runs it is light years behind.
     
  13. oliversbest

    oliversbest New Member

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    Many years ago i subscribed to an appeal for the sleeper coach currently on the SR as volunteer accommodation .I notice that Porterbrook is donating some of its ex Caledonian Sleeper Coaches to Heritage Railways. Has the SR considered a request for one of these?
     
  14. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Well-Known Member

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    I too believe this is a very good clear statement that covers all the unpalatable truths of the situation. Of course Swanage normally has a daily operating season from March to October which means in normal times the region of 150 or 160 days of non weekend running. This will of course be manned at least in passenger services and probably other areas by volunteers of an older age. The question of if volunteers are prepared to work is the same chicken and egg situation mentioned on the SVR thread. Of course it is not just the volunteers health, there are very few of our retired friends where at least one of the couple does not have the health issues regarded as in the clinically vulnerable category, which may mean they would like to work but find it too big a risk for their partner
    As a start would you revert to weekends only, but often in the past loads have appeared (from my daily trips to the town and using my season ticket last year) to be as high if not higher in the week at times.
    These are not business decisions I would not like to be having to make as no Heritage Line can survive on enthusiasts alone, and insufficient trains may mean potential passengers do not bother with the car park at Norden and just drive to Swanage.
    I do not know, luckily never having been unemployed, but are you even allowed to volunteer whilst claiming Job Seekers Allowance (if that's what the dole is called these days)?
     
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  15. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    Good to see Gladiator mention other family members.
    Whether volunteers are able to continue should depend, presumably, on our family circumstances. There are family members, not all old, who have health issues to a greater or lesser degree. It would be selfish to ignore that.
    Before lockdown, I visited care homes as part of my voluntary work. I realised a week before lockdown commenced that I had to stay away from the homes, as much as I disliked the idea. I informed the owner/nurses-in-charge of my regretted decision and to be honest I sensed that it was a relief for most of them that I had made a decision rather than them trying to dissuade me from visiting. Those homes which run a tight ship have avoided the worst effects of Covid -19 it seems. My wife was also pleased, after all we are both in the 'vulnerable' status.
    So whilst many genuinely want to see their favourite railway(s) operating there is much to be considered besides maintenance, vegetation and staffing levels.
     
  16. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Absolutely - I stopped going to C+W a week or 2 before it was properly closed as Mum with asthma wasn't comfortable with me going. I specifically asked her how she'd feel about me going in and after initially saying yes on further reflection asked me not to. I'm not going to argue with that.
     
  17. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    I wonder how many are in my situation. Prior to the lockdown, I had several days a week doing my own thing on heritage railways. My wife had her own social life involving her circle of friends and family/grandchildren so there was plenty for her to do when I did. Now, I can go back to volunteering as the shackles come off but it would leave my wife alone on the days that I did as her enjoyment is still locked down. For that reason, I am largely staying home to keep her company and the railways will have to wait.
     
  18. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    If there is one thing that Covid has brought into the light, it is the lines that have good management and who communicate intelligently and maturely with their staff, volunteers and supporters and those that don’t. I suspect that the lines with good management will survive the effects of Covid better than the lines that don’t.
     
  19. Rumpole

    Rumpole Member

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    The latest 'Save Our Service' video produced by our volunteers has now been uploaded to Youtube; this is an introduction to 2 new feature length specials to be released over forthcoming weeks. Please check it out at:-



    www.saveourservice.co.uk
     
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  20. 007

    007 Member

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    A cracking video, I know I'm biased but its the best preserved line video that I have seen published, well done to all concerned.
     
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