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Weardale scraps community service

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Christopher125, Dec 30, 2011.

  1. Christopher125

    Christopher125 Member

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    Given the various debates about commercial passenger operations on this forum, some relevant news from the Weardale Railway who have scrapped their own attempt at such a service.

    Weardale Railway announced today that it is redesigning the passenger service between Stanhope and Bishop Auckland that it has operated since May, 2010

    Ed Ellis, president of Weardale Railway, said that “Our surveys of passengers have clearly shown that passenger interest is overwhelmingly in a heritage-type service for leisure travellers – a service which Weardale Railway is particularly well positioned to provide, given our heritage which dates back to the Stockton & Darlington Railway, the first railway in the world. Very few passengers over the past 19 months of service have used the service for commuting.
    “Accordingly, we plan to expand and improve our heritage railway services catering specifically to the leisure and heritage market, utilizing vintage locomotives – both steam and diesel - and heritage carriages.
    “In addition, we are in the process of making a series of facility improvements, including a new platform at Bishop Auckland, improved access to connecting trains at Northern Rail’s Bishop Auckland station, a new track loop, and upgrades to the Stanhope station that will improve our passengers’ experience.
    “We will be announcing details of these improved heritage services over the next several months. In the meantime, 31 December will be the current community service schedule’s last day of operation.”

    Ellis went on to say that the company will consider reinstating the community service schedule if a particular need is identified, and if financial support for a renewed service is available.


    http://www.weardale-railway.org.uk/news_main.htm

    Chris
     
  2. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Only to be expected but no amount of experience from the real world will prevent further outbreaks of "gricers romanticism"! We have both come across this on another thread.

    Paul
     
  3. northernblue109

    northernblue109 New Member

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    Visting Bishop Auckland today for an unrelated purpose, it was difficult to see how the grim and lengthy walk connecting the Northern Rail and unsheltered Weardale platforms could appeal to through travellers. Even for Bishop Auckland-bound 'commuters' the station is hardly well sited (and I'm speaking as a former resident of the town). Stanhope has always enjoyed an excellent connection with Bishop Auckland via Weardale Motor Services and, from 23 January, Darlington-bound travellers will have the option of transferring to the OK Expressway at Crook for a fast journey via the A68. I can't blaim the Weardale Railway for trying but, with little prospect of any intermediate traffic and an established and faster alternative, it seems to have little chance of success. I really do hope that it is more successful with its upgraded 'heritage service' and promised improvement to the facilties at Bishop Auckland (including a more direct connection between the two platforms).

    Furthermore I hope that the railways will make more use of web resources to promote itself. It is now several months since its News page has been updated (with the exception of the recent press statement) and it warns us not to expect anything more before March, which is a very poor situation. If it can't keep its own web site up-to-date, surely someone could post brief updates here?
     
  4. sycamore

    sycamore New Member

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    I believe Wensleydale have taken a similar view regarding their opperations. Will have to try Weardale soon...

    Will
     
  5. p/wayman

    p/wayman New Member

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    I think the other thread is quite different than this, remember no passenger trains will run until the freight has established itself. The businessmen behind this project cannot be accused of being gricers it will be well thought out how and when to progress.
     
  6. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    It sounds remarkably similar to me!
     
  7. domeyhead

    domeyhead New Member

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    I started a similar thread on another site posing the question of whether any branches closed after Beeching could have survived if transferred as autonomous franchises to independent operating companies (anticipating aspects of the privatisation of 25 years later). I'm guessing the Weardale operated its recent passenger service under the provisions of a Light Railway Order and sadly as others have pointed out this will be doomed to failure in the 21st century. Regular (or non heritage) passengers will no longer tolerate dawdling at stations or pootling along at 25mph if they have somewhere to go. My view on whether Beeching branches could have survived is predicated on the creation of a new category of "enhanced light railway order" which would permit higher line speeds for DMUs (say up to 50mph) or low axle loading vehicles when running on plain track. Until this is the case no preserve railway is ever going to make a success of non heritage operations.
    The tragedy of Beeching though is that if you look at the west country as an example - the Looe branch is now operationally profitable and so many similar branches (Seaton, Sidmouth, Bideford and perhaps even Bodmin Road to Padstow and Axminster -Lyme Regis to name just a few) could also have been saved and would be running today if the deregulation of the LRO permitted it.
     
  8. It's a tough business to be in, for sure. The WSR was originally set up to run a regular service between Taunton and Minehead. Things just got in the way almost from day one. The WSR struggled on for around ten years with its "local" passenger services before giving up. No subsidies of any kind were involved so it really was a true test of both the market and the operating company. The WSR gave it a bloody good go. Had the railway company been better equiped to maintain its DMUs, had the railway company not been financially stretched opening through to Norton Fitzwarren in 1979, had the way to Taunton been open, cheap and not "blacked" by the NUR, and so on. All these things (and more) conspired to the eventual decision(s) to axe the public services.

    Interestingly the recent FGW train from Minehead to Bristol and Cardiff loaded well and did the trip over the WSR in just over the hour including eight intermediate stops, clearly helped by the good acceleration of the FGW DMU along with its auto doors enabling quick loading/unloading of passengers, minimising dwell time at station stops. Even at 25mph max the special proved the journey could appeal to "ordinary" passengers.

    The only improvements, to my mind, are the re-instatement of the one-time passing loops at Kentsford and Leigh, each breaking six mile single line sections, which will help maintain train services especially in the busy summer months. I am sure the day will come when a train operating company runs a regular service to Minehead and back, the question is when.

    Steve
     
  9. ADB968008

    ADB968008 Guest

    I couldn't agree more..
    The other issue is changing of trains... if there was a 50mph direct service things may have turned out differently.

    Many lines have these issues... it's fundamentally the reason why they closed in the first place... they were uneconomical.
    If a heritage line could offer unsminims stations, minimal signalling staff, pay on the train, reliable and frequent service by DMU directly into the nearest city centre at a practical speed.. theres hope.

    If the scheme relies on 25mph, 5 signal boxes, 4 level crossings and 3 staffed stations, 2 changes of trains... then it will be a partridge in a pear tree.

    There is also the element of rough with the smooth.. Peak hour services need to be frequent enough to be flexible and attractive... But similarly an out of peak hours service is still needed as many will return at non peak times.., these are less economical but necessary to maintain the attractiveness. If it still all stacks up.. Then it's viable... If it doesn't.. then Darwin and Beeching are still correct.

    Sadly none of the current or proposed schemes seem to be offering this.
     
  10. stephenvane

    stephenvane Member

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    I totally agree. I have always thought that if the proposed Swanage to Wareham service is to be a success, and be a viable alternative to cars/buses, they will need to raise the speed limit on the line to more than 25mph. I believe this is a concern that South West Trains raised when it was thought they would be running the Swanage service.
     
  11. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    Sad news, but all due credit for trying. There are so many obstacles - 25 mph speed limit, difficulties of access to either town centre or main line station, commuters less tolerant of a walk to the town than they were in the 1960s, the need to pay the going rate (much higher these days even allowing for inflation) for train crew as you are unlikely to get volunteer commitment to run a regular service with functional, non-glamorous/ interesting motive power; it is much harder than it would have been for BR in pre-Beeching days.

    There have been disappointments - Kingswear and Minehead, more recently Okehampton (remember BAR were on the brink of an operating licence to run a commuter service a couple of years ago?). The WSR may yet do it.
     
  12. pete2hogs

    pete2hogs Member

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    Maldon. Short branch, cross platform interchange, booming commuter area. See the nearby Braintree brance which did survive (just) and while it was once down to a railbus is now electrified and very busy.
     
  13. Gav106

    Gav106 Well-Known Member

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    I have a line that would be very well used if it was still there today. It goes from exeter to exeter! From when i lived in ottery st mary (parents now in whimple on the mainline) the original "loop" from exeter to Feniton (sidmouth junction) then on to tipton st john (junction to sidmouth) or carry on to exmouth and back into exeter. The railway is very heavily used in whimple and other villages.
     
  14. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    Especially when the new town in this area gets built. I can't help feeling that Sidmouth is quite a big town to have no railway. Did BR use to run any through trains from Sidmouth to Exeter? While there were through trains to London in summer until 1965, I recall that you always had to change at Sidmouth Jct to go to Exeter.
     

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