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West Somerset Railway Operations

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. SebWelsh

    SebWelsh New Member

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    The theme for the Autumn Gala just passed was 'Country Railways' with the parcels delivered as an attraction, the Spring Gala 2020 will have no theme in effect being 'The Return of our Big Spring Steam Gala', Autumn 2020 will be a 'Great Western' fest. All announced on Facebook today as below:

    The WSR Gala Planning Team are pleased to announce the 2020 gala dates and themes.
    23rd - 26th April - the return of our big Spring Steam Gala
    4th - 7th June - "Vintage Diesels to the Seaside III" and Beer & Cider festival.
    1st - 4th October - Autumn Steam Gala "Great Western"
    29th - 30th December - "A Branch line in winter".
    We are currently working on the details of our plans and guest engines etc.and will announce more details once these are confirmed.
     
  2. jma1009

    jma1009 Member

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  3. mvpeters

    mvpeters Member

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    Surely this is the single biggest question to be answered.
    Anybody?

    (Don't call me Shirley).
     
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  4. baldbazza

    baldbazza Member

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  5. The Saggin' Dragon

    The Saggin' Dragon Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    Possibly because his time and energy is now being channelled into running the railway?
     
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  6. Captain Fantastic

    Captain Fantastic New Member

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    Nice to have the dates as placeholders, thanks for posting
     
  7. DragonHandler

    DragonHandler Well-Known Member

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    There could be advantages if that bit were to happen.

    But it would seriously stamp on some people's toes. :eek:
     
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  8. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    I don't think his other red route loco is up for sale so I doubt it.
     
  9. MellishR

    MellishR Well-Known Member Friend

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    That reads as if JJP was offering to buy the loco from the WSRA, which makes no sense at all. I assume he was in fact offering to sell it to the WSRA. That would at least be intelligible.

    However
    That is indeed a good question.
     
  10. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    If the WSRA was a thriving dynamic charity I would enthusiastically support the WSRA
    assuming title to the PLC as its operating Company. However the WSRA has not grown
    it's membership, has only slowly reacted to fund raising initiatives and as Rodders154
    has observed has vacillated over previously agreed changes. A great shame !

    Michael Rowe
     
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  11. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    Given the purchase of 9466 plus costs of overhaul on 4936 one suspects finance may be a little stretched currently . Pragmatism as well as giving the engine a secure future makes the idea have some value
     
  12. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    That’s a very good, key question, to my understanding the answer is no but I’m not close to it. My comments however were more aimed at how the good people of West Somerset work with each other for the common good (or don’t). Roland also seemed surprised at how adversarial people involved with local politics/WSR are toward each other (I hope I’m not putting words in your mouth Roland) and I agree with his comments, it never fails to surprise me either.

    For me there are two parts to a potential, possible part Commuter use on the WSR. 1. Everybody should be able to at least listen to each other to see where the common ground lay for the good of the community & WSR. Within this opportunity there might be a way for a positive outcome where all benefit. & 2. Then work through all the physical issues discussed here such as where does the money come from, is there actually a need & what’s the timescale etc. etc. Either there is a ‘show stopper’ in there or not. It’s all about thinking strategically first, practically second.

    However what’s happening is another example of people who have a win/loss approach, where the only ‘negotiating’ style is to destroy anybody who disagrees. The MLRG / WSR relationship is the same as the PLC, WSRA & WSSRT relationship, and I’m sorry to say it continues today underground.

    My personal view is that any such Commuter use is a long term plan, my focus has been on a long term sustainable strategic plan for the WSR so I think this should be potentially considered as a part of it and it’s not right to re-judge the outcome out of hand based on today’s knowledge as many WSR elements have done, in my opinion its yet another “we don’t like change so the answer is no”. It’s that type of thinking that got the WSR to where it is today. That’s not to say of course that all the issues raised here and elsewhere are not real or valid.

    I think any potential solution in this maybe 10 or 15 years away, today it doesn’t look viable but the world is changing and tomorrow’s transport & environmental needs may mean it becomes viable and somebody funds it later on, especially with battery or hydrogen power in the future and it’s more about external funding not commercial viability in some cases. The original Railway to Minehead took a large number of years to be realised, much fund raising and many share issues with no real business case other than the good people of Minehead really wanted to be connected to the outside world.

    But here is one thought. The WSR needs infrastructure worked completed, which will cost more than any plan or business model today shows is possible. If that doesn’t change the WSR will close at some stage in part or in full, that’s a mathematical certainty. Therefore there has to be a robust plan to change that.

    I’ve put forward what I think is a good plan regarding Grant Funding but the WSR doesn’t want to take that option, so be it. So perhaps next in line is allowing a TOC/NR/Government to fund the infrastructure repairs (as it would need to do if they were to run trains on it) and re-instate the loops to allow both types of trains to run. Therefore you have the repairs needed (plus loops) funded for the WSR to use, albeit as a compromise to how the WSR is used. It may mean the WSR goes dormant for a number of years until that happens but it would survive in the longer term. In the absence of any other ideas for large scale funding the next alternative is closing down one half or all of it and turn it into a cycle path (as the PLC have indicated). But before that happens personally I would like to exhaust every other option first. Again it’s all about having a plan all can buy into and the WSR must surely exhaust all the options in a positive way, it’s why they are Directors and Trustees.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2019
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  13. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member

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    But not much value to the WSRA or the plc as far as I can see, even if it was offered (and I have no idea if it was) at ‘mates rates’.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2019
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  14. huochemi

    huochemi Member Friend

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    Indeed, that struck me as rather interesting. It is no surprise if the WSRA is still burnishing the chip on its shoulder (sorry, has legitimate strategic ambitions), although one notes that its says "a charity", not necessarily the WSRA. Quite how one would reverse the PLC into a charity outside of an insolvency is not clear, but one also wonders why the WSRA should choose to publish such a comment, as prima facie, it does not convey the message to external funding bodies that the two (or is it three?) hearts are beating as one. Perhaps the PLC gave them its blessing?
     
  15. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    As I have said before, the need is to maximize the value of the WSR to West Somerset, and for the Railway to be seen to be a constructive player in this.

    One question - to which I do not know the answer is where do people travel to, or want to travel to from the WSR catchment area these days? If its to or via Taunton then the WSR may have a role to play, if however they go somewhere else eg Bridgewater where there is a college then the MRLG are clearly barking up the wrong tree
     
  16. The Dainton Banker

    The Dainton Banker Member

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    I asked above (#21762 & 21784) whether there had been a survey of actual and, where possible, potential passengers (for example the citizens of Minehead) to establish their needs and preferences, which would enable the Railway management to develop suitable plans. From the resounding silence it would appear that this very basic piece of research has not been done.
    Without this vital information it is impossible to answer John's question and any suggested amendments to services are merely based on speculation and guesswork.
    The results of such a survey would also bolster the kind of grant applications that Andy wishes to be pursued.
    I can quite understand that the current Board has been concentrating their attention on the immediate infrastructure problems, but there is also a need to address the long-term financial issues and ensure that the planning for this is based on information that is as broad-based and accurate as possible.

    Mike
     
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  17. Ron Sidewater

    Ron Sidewater Member

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    A couple of points occur. Firstly, MRLG had a just giving appeal to raise £10,000 to pay for a survey of possible use - the page still exists, having received pledges of £270 - this doesn't seem to suggest an overwhelming level of interest, and I'm not sure whether one can still donate.

    Secondly, I recently left Taunton at 17:15 one evening to drive back to Minehead; once I got past Cotford St Luke and Bishops Lydeard I had the A358 almost to myself, suggesting that there is not much commuter traffic along there. I know that is not exactly a scientific survey, but I suspect that it is as much of a survey as MRLG have done!
     
  18. Roland Bushell

    Roland Bushell New Member

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    I agree that this is a critical question still to be answered. Convincingly. I`m partly convinced because I have taken the time and trouble and expense to undertake my own research. Just 2 months ago I distributed a survey across local community groups and the results have suggested a lot of people would respond positively to a new train link with Taunton from West Somerset. But as one of the moderators pointed out very convincingly, liking the idea of a restored link and actually using it are two very different things. 18 months ago I also undertook a 3 week long traffic survey on the A358. Which was unconvincing - the results were very similar to the last published data then available from SCC from 2012. But neither of the very limited exercises I have undertaken have ruled out the potential for a future commuter link either. Clearly what is needed is a full-scale business case analysis, and I`m not selling the house to do that. The MRLG are incapable of raising the funding for it, and no other agency seems prepared to intervene either, so where to go next?

    There are, of course other issues that the train-link debate hinges upon. The reason for the existence of this thread of course being one of them. Just how on earth would would WSR cope on any level with a commuter service bolted on to it in some format? Well again, this is a classic `known/unknown'. Sim Harris at Rail News published the best analysis I have seen so far of the possible outcomes of a limited commuter service in West Somerset in December 2017, and his conclusions were stark: WSR would not be able to continue to operate its current business model. But here`s the thing. That is likely to change in the near future.

    One further issue that Andy Norman and others have highlighted on many occasions. Could WSR actually benefit from a rail link? In this respect the shuttle experiment this Summer has been very interesting. I was on the first out of BL to Taunton today. I comprised 25% of the total passengers on board. In my carriage there were 5 times as many WSR staff as there were passengers - ie me. But overall the numbers have been very interesting. Still questions to answer though. Would the 475 passenger journeys on the shuttle recorded on October 5th all have travelled on WSR anyway regardless of whether or not the shuttle was running? Does this have any bearing at all on whether or not local residents would use future Taunton shuttles/commuter links or any other kind of extended service? Chris Austin will be publishing WSR`s analysis in due course, and I`m sure it will make interesting reading.

    Final comment before anybody starts jumping up and down on my contribution here, I have published a summary of my most recent survey`s results on social media elsewhere and sent the same to a number of interested parties. I do intend to share the full results pack with everybody via my own website, but not yet. The website has been designed to provide data about all transport services in West Somerset, with rolling updates, reports and discussion options. Unfortunately for me, in West Somerset an individual well known to most people here has set the bar very high for anybody aspiring to produce an unsanctioned information resource. My site is still under development, is already published in its incomplete form, but I am not prepared to go public with it just yet. In a matter of weeks though, it should be fit for purpose. Then perhaps much more activity can be generated to help here. Both to support WSR now, and WSR in the future.
     
  19. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    If I might just remind my NP friends that WSRA will be keen to have trustee nominations from existing WSRA members in time for next years AGM.
    WSRA will also welcome membership applications from non members at any time.
    I have little doubt that members of the WSRA will realise the point of membership and will correctly look to the trustees to bring external funding to the railway by means of appeals, events and grant applications.
    I'd suggest as I did a page or so back that WSRA is doing this with reasonable success. That is not to say that the current level of annual support is enough but it is a tangible 6 figure sum.
    Asking members to fund everything the railway needs today is never going to be sustainable. It worked 40 years ago but it's not a 21st century solution to the railways needs. Andy Norman has correctly identified this for you and the reasons why we knew we had to bring the HPC grant bid forward in part to learn how to do it.
    I make no claim that the trustees are doing a "good job" and it is possible that some of you reading this could do it much better. I personally have no problem with that, new blood and fresh ideas from those who can work within the organisational constraints of a charity are always welcome.

    As an aside WSRA do not seek to compete with WSR plc over engineering but they seek to cooperate. Some of you would be surprised at the depth of this cooperation on a day to day basis. BTW this is exactly how it should be. Perhaps I'll write about that in my next Journal article as well :).
     
  20. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    Here is something that will surprise a few folks. I daydream about reconnecting the WSR to the network and having through trains to Taunton. It would be fab.
    I also know all the hoops that would need jumping through and I have a fair idea of the cost. The thing I know most is that it will only happen if the local community of West Somerset commit to support it. That support can be financial or by committing time to assisting with the running and maintenance of the railway. (Two things here, 1 it originally closed for a reason and 2 the discussion is only possible due to 40 years of largely volunteer effort to make it the heritage railway it is today. )
    It's essential to avoid breaking what the WSR already delivers to the local economy in the process. Again I'll reference what Andy Norman has said. Visitors to the railway deliver a secondary spend of many millions into the local economy. This must be preserved at all costs in my view.
     

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