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The Talyllyn in trouble ?

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by Baldwin, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Well Gareth, if this is a claim open to doubt, it is a good reason for phasing it out. I was aware of an earlier attempt on one of the Maine "2 footers" (Bridgeton & Harrison I think) which did not succeed.

    Regards, Paul
    This could come over as unkind to Ellis who has, commendably, "put his head over the parapet." There may well be people in his organisation to whom such strictures might apply but they are never likely to be known as they "won't hold" with the Internet!

    Actually I have come across people with astonishing talents whose services would never be affordable by the organisations served if they had to be paid for.

    Paul H
     
  2. Steve B

    Steve B Well-Known Member

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    Having made a couple of contributions earlier in the thread, and just looked on since, I feel slightly disturbed by the negative carping that seems to characterise some posters contributions. Ellis has said that the situation is not as dire as some have portrayed it, and we need to take note of that. Some have criticised the website for having too much information, yet when I had a look at it again I found the information I needed without difficulty. It seemed as easy, or easier than other sites. The F&WHR website is as busy (and which one do you look at - the company or the society?). The TR one may look a little cluttered, but if you want a timetable it is simple - click on the link, find the date you want and click on it, and you get a timetable. The Bluebell "visitor" website I found confusing - you get a list of dates, but you still have to find a separate link to get the information you want.

    The Talyllyn has aways suffered from it's location. I remember a magazine article in the late 60's/early 70's that compared the three preserved narrow gauge lines - TR, FR and WLLR, and commented then that the TR was the most disadvantaged by it's location. What the TR has to do is make sure that it can maximise the impact on those who are available. Yes, you can get to it from Wrexham, Shrewsbury and Birmingham in a day, but if you just want a train ride, you are competeing with Llangollen, Severn Valley, Welshpool, and many other attraction beside. Yes, the roads are not that bad, not just very quick - and I speak as someone who used to work for the highways authority in Gwynedd. Any site visit in the south of the county always involved 3-4 hours travelling time just to get there and back (but if I was in the area I always aimed for lunch at Abergynolwyn when the station was open!).

    Steve B
     
  3. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Didn't want to reply directly to Steve B because I didn't want to be thought of as one of the "carpers" but no-one else has so here we go!

    As I said early on, the T.R. website is by no means the most cluttered (see FR/WHR) but it is still over busy. Leaving aside the W&LLR site to avoid charges of partiality, the model site is that of the V of R. Straightforward and with online booking provision! Once an online booking is made the passenger is "hooked" and is unlikely to make a last minute change of plan. I made such a change of plan in my last tour of the Welsh lines which was actually to visit the T.R. instead of the VofR!

    The magazine article I seem to recall was in a publication called "Steam Alive" or some such. At the time I remember thinking it was based more on what ought to be the case than what actually was. At that time "holiday" definitely meant "seaside" so people whizzed past Llanfair on their seaside rush and (one thing has not changed) only a minority had the flexibility to make a last minute change of plans. Many people holidayed on the Welsh coast. With large numbers staying in caravans and B&B's, nearby, the T.R. had a good target audience.

    This was about to change. Firstly the package holiday abroad. Secondly the growth inland of attractions such as farm parks and wild bird centres (I know these exist on the coast as well) to add to existing pulls for the National Trusties such as Chirk and Powis Castles. Coach companies began to realise as well that these inland attractions saved a lot of fuel and time (important for driver's hours) compared with trips to the coast.

    The change all this has wrought to the Mid-Wales holiday industry was brought home to me when I drove along the coast from Tywyn north to Porthmadog on the cusp of the peak season in 2011. Thirty years previously I would have given serious consideration to going into Dolgellau via Cross Foxes to avoid Friog etc. In those days cars were less powerful than now and there were lots more of them on the coast road. In 2011 there was nothing about.

    To my mind it has taken the T.R. a h*ll of a long time to wake up and smell the coffee! Ellis has certainly done so and we can hope his colleagues have as well. However one attraction cannot create or revive a holiday market on its own and, much as it as it may not suit some to hear this, some retrenchment as well as revamped marketing is IMHO, required.

    Hope I have avoided too much carping.

    Paul
     
  4. Steve B

    Steve B Well-Known Member

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    No carping detected! I think you have a good analysis of the changes to this part of Wales, and these changes in someways have an effect of sustaining themselves. Less traffic on the roads - less need to improve them. Fewer visitors, less money in the local economy, less investment in improvements (and lets face it, we are probably all more demanding in standards of accommodation, restaurants, attractions than we were generally in the 60's and 70's), and so that doesn't attract people as well.

    Not living too far from the WLLR I've been impressed with what has been achieved there over the years, but I've also felt that if you were to visit it would need to be planned carefully. If you call in on spec you are more likely to miss a train as to catch one (unless you race it to the other end and catch it there!). But their advertising is good, website is clear, and they seem to cut their cloth according to needs and demands. They are also close enough to several large centres of population so that if someone stumbles across them when nothing is happening, they may easily be able to return at a better time. It would be interesting to know how much of their custom comes from within a 50 mile radius

    The TR probably is looking at their service provision, with a view to reducing it on predictably quiet days, and increasing when it is justified. But they don't have such a captive audience - lets face it, half their 50 mile radius is pretty much mountains, and the other half is Cardigan Bay. Many of those who holiday in the area tend to return, and if they have done the TR once, and don't feel the need to do so again, then it reduces the opportunity for others to do so.

    The TR does some things very well, others probably could be improved, but anything that might attract new business should be grasped.

    My concern about the carping wasn't intended as putting anyone in particular down, it's just that it is easy to be negative, and that, on a reasonably public forum, can put some people off from doing what we want - visit the line and spend some dosh!

    And yes, you are right, I think it was called "Steam Alive", and I remember feeling quite cross that they gave well informed write ups on the KWVR, SVR(?) and Dart Valley, but had a go at the Bluebell because of the weeds at Horsted Keynes and mentioned very little of value!

    Steve B
     
  5. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

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    I remember an article about the TR c1971 (possibly the one in Steam Alive) - it caused quite a fuss on the TR at the time. IIRC it was written by John Snell and he was roundly criticised at the time for being "out of touch".

    It was sufficiently far sighted to foretell the risks posed to the TR by it's dependence on the the caravan/b&b markets and the changes that were starting to appear in those markets with the rise of the package holiday and the increase in people's aspirations so far as holidays are concerned.
     
  6. Talyllyn07

    Talyllyn07 New Member

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    right time for some facts.

    out of 1052 passenger survey forms which were handed in 195/18% of people had traveled between 31-100 miles to reach the Talyllyn. whilst 105/10% had traveled over 100 miles that day

    also.

    48% of those surveyed had never been to the TR before and 27% had been more than three times!

    with those nuggets of information can I ask that these pages stop worrying with what is wrong with the railway as far as our passengers go as it only lending itself to beating the drum for other NG lines in Wales and focus on what the Talyllyn could do to improve the visitor experience, short of building Alton Towers at Nant Gwernol of course...

    leave those with the passenger figure FACTS to worry about them and lets keep this as suggestions for the TR

    cheers
     
  7. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Tripadvisor does this sort of thing for us nowadays and whilst it is subjective its very impersonality does remove social pressures upon the customer to be "nice" about the interviewer's organisation! Interestingly the T.R. fares very well as do the FR/WHR, VofR and W&LLR. Some of the smaller places get a bit of a pasting though.

    What no survey can do is find out why somebody didn't visit in the first place.

    PH
     
  8. Baldwin

    Baldwin Guest

    "It is no consolation to the T.R. that their situation may bring about a much needed dash of realism in heritage railway operations generally".

    Paul H......... Very true !
     
  9. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

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    Comments about the Brecon Mountain Railway make interesting reading
     
  10. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    An understatement! I don't think I have seen such a proportion of postings from the brassed off about any tourist railway. I just hope no-one is put off travelling on any of the "five star" lines by their experiences here.

    Paul H.
     
  11. Sheff

    Sheff Well-Known Member

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    Midland Railway Centre doesn't fare much better. I couldn't find a way of getting a listing of all UK 'scenic railroads', but it would be rather interesting if someone cleverer than me could download a league table from Trip Advisor - new thread required me thinks.
     
  12. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

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    I will have look at Midland Railway Centre - but I suspect it's a case of looking ny name/location as Trip advisor reviews seem to be arranged geographically then by attraction
     
  13. narrowgauge

    narrowgauge New Member

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    Someone who complained to me one day last year that the TR had a much better atmosphere than the WHR was quite taken aback when I pointed out that the TR had had 60 years to get like it is, and they wouldn't have been quite so complimentary about facilities at Wharf before the 'new' building was put up. Let's see what the WHR's like in 50/60 years, those who are still around, before making comparisons like that.
     
  14. narrowgauge

    narrowgauge New Member

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    Welshpool and Snowdon that I know of. There must be others. Welshpool think it's great, especially as they get paid even if people don't turn up.
     
  15. narrowgauge

    narrowgauge New Member

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    I meant to sign those. I've not posted here for a while. For those who don't know - narrowgauge = Peter Johnson
     
  16. SR-Simon

    SR-Simon New Member

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    Epping Ongar Railway has done e-tickets ever since it re-opened in May 2012 and it works very well. ALL our Santa tickets were sold this way (excluding a handful of turn-ups which we squeezed in on the day). We also did a joint ticket with a North Weald airfield event back in September.

    All our range of tickets can be purchased online via our website Epping Ongar Railway - Tickets Tickets can be purchased up to the day of travel.

    Once the purchase is completed, the buyer is emailed a unique barcode along with a welcome letter, they print off the barcode and bring it with them (or have on their smart-phone), at the ticket window the barcode (on paper or smartphone screen) is scanned, and the till checks its valid (ensuring it is only presented once, both stations being connected), and also keeps the audit trail for our Edmondson ticket stock (as the passenger is then issued a standard EOR traditional card ticket).

    Hey presto - what I think is an ideal combination of modern technology, enabling EOR to market to families and the younger generation, manage train loadings, while maintaining the heritage traditions.

    Indeed, you can even currently buy a EOR gift voucher on our site, while we upload the 2013 timetable and trains!! :eek:)

    Regards, Simon, EOR GM
     
  17. Baldwin

    Baldwin Guest

    I totally agree, all this should of been done a long time ago.
     
  18. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    if you go to the Tripadvisor stream relating to the W&LLR you will find a posting extolling the ability to buy tickets online. It has to be de rigeur for any outfit in this business.

    Paul H.
     
  19. Baldwin

    Baldwin Guest

    ....And who said the Talyllyn wasn't in trouble ! ............ "I think we've come to the end of 12 months where the issue of cutting costs has been top of the agenda. The Strategy Group invited all ideas in and worked on what could save money. As you suggested, mothballing Nant Gwernol won't cut costs. If the TR cut paid staff, it would put itself in a perilous state. The search for the golden goose of huge costs that can be cut wasn't found. The timetable has been changed to ease staffing at Aber Cafe and long term wear and tear costs, to me this shows a good understanding of how the railway works.

    This isn't making excuses for anyone, I just don't see what is currently at the TR to be cut to save money. We have now moved into more optimistic times (believe it or not) in looking at how to bring more money into the coffers. I'm just not aware of the cosy arrangements you mention, but you have far more TR experience than me on this.

    One thing we do need to preserve is the railway's charm and friendliness, if we lost that, that would be tragic".
    Ellis Jacklin
    Society Publicity and Fundraising Officer, Talyllyn Railway

     
  20. Meiriongwril

    Meiriongwril Member

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    I suspect they will simply HAVE to cut some paid staff positions. It would be interesting to know how many there are currently - there were 13 some years ago. This is always where major savings can be made in a business and the members will have to step up and cover the duties if they want the TR to survive.

     

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