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1  Sideshoots - associated subjects / News, Help and Assistance / Re: Two million page views. A hundred thousand users. The Coffee Shop on: Today at 05:00:35 am
If its not a personal question how is the coffee shop funded? Another site which is a great resource made an appeal for funding which made me think about this site. It seems the more successful you are in terms of hits then the greater the funding required. It does feel that nowadays we expect everything to be free on the internet.

I worked with a (younger) journalist recently who tried to tell me that if it was on the internet it was free and there was no copyright issue for reuse. That's a whole new thread but it did highlight how many (possibly younger) people view the web.

The biggest resource here is the time put in by everyone who contributes their time to the site, and whilst there's no "please pay" it works the other way too - no-one is paid.  The time and effort put in by the admins and the moderators is incredible; without them, the site could not and would not be.  And the individual members too are incredible. There are no paid or sponsored articles here, there is no advertising - it is truly freely given time.  Talk in the community rail world is of a 4.2 times return on investment using volunteers; I may have phrased that badly, but it means that each pound spent there is a return that would be worth £4.20 if the tasks were undertaken by paid staff / contractors.  Here on the coffee shop, the return is infinite.  It's incredible.

Yesterday, I was at the RailFuture conference in Carlisle. I'll estimate there were some 60 people there.  And I would venture to suggest that most if not all of them were there of their own free will, and without payment of any costs they had in getting there.   And people who do things as a hobby / "for fun" if you like have their own hobby costs to pick up. I'm minded of those garden railways you see, of the models at trade shows, where, incredibly, it's the people putting the hard graft in who are actually paying for the pleasure too in their purchases of materials and models and paying again with their time - because they enjoy it.   There is a parallel here - from the railway modelling resource to the Coffee Shop.

Now - we do run on a server that has to be paid for somehow, and we do need some technical support and admin.  Continuing the parallel it is, I suppose, my garden that's hosting the railway. The bottom of every explains
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and in a very few words that summarises it.

My main professional job has been as a trainer in the IT business; I've had to ramp down somewhat over the past couple of years - "no longer as young as I used to be", but I'm still on the go from time to time.   I happen to be in Scotland working for some of this coming week, and it's no skin of anyone's nose for me to travel up on Friday evening rather than on Sunday evening and stop off for the conference - the rail fare off peak wasn't too bad, I have an Old Codger's card that gives me 34% off,  I know a little about some ticketing approaches that allow me to travel on some of the better deals around.  And I stayed last night (and am writing from) an out of fashion old accommodation where I can get 2 nights for the price I would pay for one at the sort of hotel where my hosts in Scotland would expect me to book myself in.  Others on the moderator / admin team also travel / have travelled widely in the course of their other roles and their experiences for the forum also come very much as a planned side effect of their other interests. And I am hugely grateful for that.

The IT and training business has also meant that I / we ("Well House Consultants" is my family company) have dedicated web server resources, and The Coffee Shop - when it started - was just a tiny bit of spare space on a server. The domain was registered for the first year for a tenner, and Lee and I (who set the thing up) saw it as a shorter term project.  Well - I think we did; I'm sure Lee will correct me if he foresaw where we have gone.   And the forum remains on the same architecture; we moved the business server to a newer and lower cost machine, and indeed our second server has moved from physical to cloud now.   Coffee Shop traffic has ramped up such that it's now neck and neck with the traffic that was originally intended for the server. I've just done a very crude access count for a recent day and by domain it shows (page requests, domain name over 24 hours):
And as well as volumes I keep an eye on server loading - see for more about this if you really want to know  Grin

So - that's where the web space comes from.  The forum software is free to use / open source, and the server admin is stuff I would be doing anyway, though the forum site is far more dynamic than anything else on the server and these days drives the backup regime.  The server admin stuff and general server operation is something I need to know / tech / do as part of my day job anyway, so is good practise. The Easter server crash was an interesting exercise in making sure that I still remember how to do this sort of thing.

I suspect you'll not find a huge amount different on Railchat, Wnxx and other forums with regards their setups; they may take some paid advertising, they may have a scheme of membership fees to buy into parts of the site / resource, but there is an awful lot of decoction from the admin and moderator teams there, and one or two really dedicated individuals with a strong IT knowledge to sort stuff out / who are used to keeping sane when there is a crisis; one or two members may have been at the TWSW meeting on Friday and noted I tend to get chucked the odd pending crisis to help avert it.  But then another of our admin team was there and he could have done just as well.

I am a scientist.   I have given you a direct and full answer, but stayed away from questions you might wonder about but not be asking. Such as looking forward to the future of the forum and the model we have.  I did cover this at the forum meeting in January where it was of little interest compared to the GW franchise consultation - I expect someone might be able to dredge out what I said.  The software is ancient and very hard to upgrade while retaining the active database - a problem brought on by what was expected to be a 2 week project now well in its second decade.   We on a "fix big issues only" level with the software - but the intent is to carry on while the series of direct awards carry on. May be a fresh start with the old forum as archived reference once there's a new 7 to 10 year franchise.  There are also issues relating to site independence now that I find myself job sharing the role of Community Rail Officer for the TransWilts CRP (and I am the one with the title) which does bring me a modest income, and an ability to claim back things like literature printing and other advertising expenses. CRPs (and TransWilts in no exception) generate their income from local councils, TOCs and community members, with routes open to bid for grants and other funding through central UK organisations. Very surprisingly, there's been more of a conflict there between my role with TransWilts and my 100% voluntary role as a director of TravelWatch SouthWest than there is with the Coffee Shop, but that leads us on a long way from the original question.

Copyright ... and responsibly for posts remains with the original poster.  By posting here, members give the forum the right to publish their material in the forms that we use. 

That part of the question was much easier  Grin

2  Sideshoots - associated subjects / Preserved railway lines, Railtours and other rail based attractions / Re: Happy accident - came across this scene on: Yesterday at 08:38:52 pm
I'll admit to being far more concerned with daily transport stuff than one off specials ... but this scene I came across yesterday was rather special.  Braunton - which hauled the Steam Special from Melksham to Stratford upon Avon a few years back - in disguise and at a slightly larger station.
The sun shone, the seagulls chirped, and the spectator crowd stood far enough back to give everyone a good view

Lovely video Grahame, many thanks indeed.
Also not spoilt by 'background music' which really gets my goat.  It's a rail video, let's hear rail.  If I wanted music, I will play music.
Sorry, rant over.
Lovely video.  Again, thanks

A further scene I came across unplanned today.  Again I have not added background music

3  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: Sharing GW consultation inputs with First on: Yesterday at 07:57:43 pm
I have split this topic off from "Firstbust" and move it from the bus board to "Across the West" ... we have strayed off topic and this is important not to loose in the more specialist board.
4  All across the Great Western territory / Buses and other ways to travel / Re: FirstBust ? on: Yesterday at 07:55:24 pm
I have split the posts on the request by First for copies of the GW franchise input into a separate thread in "Across the West" - at
5  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: FirstBust ? on: Yesterday at 09:59:37 am
Why do franchises have to make money?

Surely First could run the franchise for the government for a fixed fee.

But that approach might not provide motivation for First to look after the interests of the government which is owned / funded by the taxpayer.    "We've done what we've been instructed to do - now pay us our fee".   And it would stifle out of the system any motivation for the operator to try things; I appreciate that "cap and collar" had that effect for a number of years ...
6  All across the Great Western territory / Diary - what's happening when? / Re: TransWilts Stakeholder Conference - 20th June 2018 on: Yesterday at 08:35:39 am
An excellent day - final agenda and combined slide set (just one talk missing) at . Around 50 delegates (good, as we had a room for 48  Grin ) and some very valuable networking opportunities indeed - not only on the North - South corridor but also east - west across Westbury. Some excellent talks and good questions. 

I now have the Network Rail presentation too ... the whole thing has gotten rather long and so is in two sections
(Dan Panes of GWR, Nick Farthing of Three Rivers, Bridget Fox of Campaign for Better Transport)

(Alexander Maltby of Network Rail and Andy Mellors of SWR)

Huge thanks to all five speakers, to Paul and Rosemarie Johnson for organising the day, and to all of the attendees who gave up their day to come along, be informed, and are helping develop the lines / service / cases. 
7  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: FirstBust ? on: Yesterday at 08:19:35 am
I think I / we have strayed totally off thread topic here and some housekeeping is called for.  However, I have a conference to get to for today learning about 3 campaigns and sets of development out of our GWR area, and a workshop this afternoon "led by Railfuture director Stewart Palmer (former SWT Managing Director) focusing on how campaigners should engage with TOCs to be successful (such as timetables that passengers want)." .. I am really looking forward to that.
8  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: FirstBust ? on: Yesterday at 08:13:42 am
I might add (as a "Newbie") that I only discovered GWR Coffee Shop after nearly missing the GW Franchise consultation. I am still finding my way around, so thank you Graeme for alerting me to the XC consultation. I hope DfT does not use it as a way of giving the current franchisee an advantage over competitors, although my experience of Arriva XC has been generally satisfactory (sometimes good!) - it is a shame few seem to know their services exist.

Third of three responses from me - wow, what a fantastic "lead" post.

I was at the TravelWatch SouthWest members discussion on the XC franchise yesterday - we got together to share views on the consultation and the 28 questions to help us (a) be informed as each group / member puts in its own response, (b) to help us put together a combined response of generally agreed elements and (c) to listen to and ask the DfT representative and Transport Focus let us know what the questions are looking to learn, and about researched general passenger desires.   A very useful day; covered in a separate thread though my personal notes will be limited as I found myself with a TWSW role to play during the meeting.

BUT ... how to inform people of all the upcoming consultations and reach people who may want to make an input?   How to encourage people to make effective inputs.   Just informing TWSW is of limited good - you help us (I am on the TWSW board) make a good, substantive, regional input, but you need to input to the DfT too.   I

On 2nd July, there's a further TWSW event - it's on the calendar - on Travel Planning, and we have a section added on to discuss the current fares consultation that's under way.

Which leads me on to ... is it worth completing consultations anyway, or are they just box-ticking exercises?  I am convince that - with a significant number of exceptions - they are useful.   They may US think about what they want.  And if they come in to the consultation organiser with a substantial response in the same direction, on questions that have not been loaded, they give the organiser a guide as to where to go for the future that's being consulted on.  If a civil servant or politician gets a joined up groundswell in one direction ... (s)he is ono going to ignore it at her/his peril, especially if it's a joined up and workable response or suggestion.
9  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: FirstBust ? on: Yesterday at 07:57:17 am
I might add that as a daily commuter, who changes trains at one of the busiest stations (Reading), I only found out about the consultation by accident (on a BBC regional webpage that is not my local one). I have spoken to a number of my fellow Thames Valley commuters, and none were  aware that a consultation has been undertaken. There has been nothing I have seen in the local press (I take both a Reading and a Newbury local paper), nor on any regional TV programme. I have not seen any posters at any station. I have just discovered today that there is currently a consultation on the future of the Cross Country franchise, another route I sometimes use, and which serves my locality. The same comments apply about the lack of publicity.

Can I suggest a review of public consultation arrangements for rail franchise renewals be undertaken?"

Totally away from rail but in my home town, I allowed myself to accept an invite to joint a body of informed local representatives of various elements to help formulate and advice our unitary council on the provision of a council services campus in the town.  The work done was massive, the outcome thus far has been bitterly disappointing - but the purpose of me mentioning it here is to say just how darned hard it was for us to reach and interest the public. At one meeting, we counted up the avenues we had used to reach people, and there were about 10 of them, some not cheap.  And yet we still got "I did not hear about this" feedback.

Consultations and committees are not sexy.   There is limited editorial space in the local press (and questions about who reads the local paper anyway - that is VERY patchy from one town to the next) and it's a struggle to get coverage. The same for local radio and TV.  The interest comes, alas, after the sh*t has hit the fan.

Garnering interest from the public, ironically, seems much easier for the smaller lines and services than that bigger ones.  I could tell you a tale of three stations - Melksham, Chippenham and Swindon and how the interest is totally disproportionate to the traffic flow.   I stood at Melksham on Thursday evening last, spoke with most passengers arriving off the (only) train that arrives from Swindon between 4 and 7 p.m., and ensured they were informed on upcoming engineering.   The previous Thursday I stood for most of the day in the entrance to Swindon Station but engagement was limited to only a tiny fraction of a percent of the people who came through.  "Have service and will only interact to complain when it fails" is the common perceived attitude.

But certainly the rail industry could try harder.  There was supposed to be a poster up at each station about the consultation that was taking place.   I know it was missing at some (or even many), and I know it was placed in an obscure location at some places, and displayed for a disappointingly short period.   Then comes the question "do people engage and follow up from a poster they see" and evidence suggests its a very thin response.

I personally got involved in looking for an appropriate train service for my town when I read a letter in the local paper ... "do you realise you have just missed the consultation ..." - a note of some frustration from someone trying again the elements listed above to get public engagement.  I don't say "thank you" enough to that gentleman; a butterfly flapped its wings and set of a series of steps that have - well - changed my life! 

10  Journey by Journey / TransWilts line / Re: 2018 cancellation and amendment log on: Yesterday at 07:20:26 am
13 Train Cancellations
04:25 Swansea to London Paddington due 08:00
06:57 West Ealing to Greenford due 07:09
07:12 Greenford to West Ealing due 07:23
07:27 West Ealing to Greenford due 07:39
07:42 Greenford to West Ealing due 07:53
07:57 West Ealing to Greenford due 08:09
08:12 Greenford to West Ealing due 08:23
09:18 Paignton to London Paddington due 13:14
16:48 Westbury to Swindon due 17:31
17:00 Brighton to Bristol Temple Meads due 20:28
17:36 Swindon to Westbury due 18:20
18:32 Westbury to Swindon due 19:22
19:36 Swindon to Westbury due 20:20

We're not totally alone in having cancellations today ... but once again the TransWilts is the only line left without services due to lack of train crew late afternoon and evening.   A single train in one direction - 21:06 from Swindon as I recall - looks like it has survived
11  All across the Great Western territory / Across the West / Re: FirstBust ? on: Yesterday at 07:16:11 am
I am concerned that the current franchisee is being allowed to pass on this request. Shouldn't it be the case that any prospective bidder that might be interested should be able to make this request?

FGW/GWR have held this franchise long enough, and must have received more than enough complaints from fed-up passengers to know what we want and what we think. They have passenger panels, and there is a website (GWR Coffee Shop) that provides a forum for suggestions and complaints. I see no reason why they should be allowed to use departmental resources to secure an advantage over other bidders. This tends to reinforce the impression that First Group might already be a shoe-in for a new franchise or extension.

Can I suggest that you instead ask consultees if they would be prepared to allow there responses with their personal details redacted to be made available to any prospective bidder in due course?  Or require First Group to forward any comments received to Govia, National Express, Stagecoach, Arriva & Abellio?

At this stage, the Department for Transport is formulating the invitation to tender for a 2 or 4 year extension to the current operating arrangement ... and looking at potential changes to what's requested and delivered within those extra years.  Only First Group is bidding outside the DfT, the alternative to awarding the bid being for the DfT to take the operation under government control as happens - err - later today - with LNER.  And on that basis, a sharing of inputs by specific action of the original submitter with First Group s no bias against anyone else - indeed it could be argued that you should submit such data to First, as you have already submitted it to the government who are in essence the other bidder this time around.

Looking forward, in 3 or 5 years time (current year plus the 2 or 4) the GW area should again go out to franchise, and the consultation inputs are also being used or will be used to formulate initial direction there - indeed they years up to that award should be providing first steps in that direction and not be isolated changes, as things take a long time in rail and joined up, thought through development is sensible.  I understand that some 18 organisations have bidding "passports" which allow them to bid for franchises, but at this stage I would be surprised if any of the 18 in the pool have a team on the GW bid for 2022 / 2024 start, nor will there have been expressions of interest.

Anyone who wants can have a copy of my personal input to the consultation. The forum input is in the public domain. TransWilts and TravelWatch both work with any and all bidders and operators as critical friends too.  And in these cases it would be counterproductive not to share our thought, comments, desires with the company or companies who can help us meet those desires.  I appreciate that view may not be totally shared - for example, by people who have submitted inputs requesting that rail operation be taken into total government control and out of the hands of none-uk-government companies.

There are other comments I'm going to make on this post - it's a very useful fuel to may discussions reviewing the process now that it's in the next phase.  But in separate responses to avoid one of my monolith posts!   Thank you eightonedee for adding the fuel.   Love it!
12  All across the Great Western territory / The Wider Picture in the United Kingdom / Re: Not just GWR... on: June 22, 2018, 08:38:17 pm
Here's an analysis of what went wrong with the May timetable change

What went wrong?

The May timetable change should have been good news, and in many cases it is - it ushers in one of the biggest increases in capacity in our railway's history, with additional space and travel opportunities for tens of thousands more passengers.  In many places, the new timetable is already delivering benefits, with 8 out of 10 trains running as planned overall.

However, in two parts of the country - across the Thameslink network in the South-East, and the Northern network across the North - there has been significant disruption to passengers.  Collectively, the rail industry made promises to passengers that we have not yet been able to deliver fully, and collectively we apologise for letting passengers down.

The timetable change in May 2018 was four times bigger than normal.  This level of change depends on infrastructure upgrades, rolling stock to be available, drivers to be trained and crews to be rostered. Under normal circumstances, such a timetable change would be a massive, complex, piece of work. However on this occasion, the challenge has been compounded by several different factors:

In early 2018, the Government accepted the recommendation to ‘phase in’ the new Thameslink timetable, which meant a major re-write of the new timetable for the South East was required.

In January 2018, completion of the Manchester-Bolton electrification project was delayed, due to unforeseen poor ground conditions hampering progress. This meant the whole of the new timetable for the North would need to be re-written. Matters were compounded further by the collapse of Carillion.

In March 2018, the already very challenging situation was compounded by a delay in the planned arrival of new trains in Scotland, meaning major re-writes of the new timetable for Scotland and cross-border services.
In addition, a number of operators made late changes to their timetables during the ‘adjustment’ phase of timetable planning.

We delivered a base timetable as planned in November 2017.  But the sheer number of changes subsequently meant that the timetable process took a lot longer than planned. This meant that train companies had less time to prepare for the new timetable, meaning specialist training required could not be completed in time for drivers to learn all the new routes, or operate different trains for operators to address all the logistical challenges.  Some operators also have industrial relations issues, with a ban on overtime or working on rest days, which has led to crew shortages as the new timetable beds in.

From Network Rail at
13  All across the Great Western territory / The Wider Picture in the United Kingdom / Re: MOVED: Incident at Loughborough Junction, South London. Three dead. 18/6/2018 on: June 22, 2018, 04:38:41 pm
Move was after a number of notifications of concern.  I have trimmed off the posts that were causing concern (I was concerned too) and returned the main thread to public view.
14  All across the Great Western territory / Introductions and chat / Re: Who we are - the people behind on: June 22, 2018, 04:23:56 pm
Staff changes?

I updated my profile a couple of months back ... will gently nudge others to do so
15  Journey by Journey / Cross Country services / Re: Public Consultation on next Cross Country franchise on: June 22, 2018, 04:21:25 pm
A very intersting day at TravelWatch SouthWest as our members met to discuss and consider our thoughts and work towards inputs to the Cross Country franchise consultation.  Many thanks to Peter Langham from the DfT for his introduction aftre the video, to Chris Irwin and Frank Chambers for setting the context, disecting the consultation with us question by question, and looking forward to the answer process.  A final round-robin ensured that Bryony Chetwode has captured points from all attendees, and that she will be feeding and working with Chris to get a draft response from TWSW circulated in early August.  TravelWatch SouthWest will be putting in a general response, but also encouraging individual member groups and members to make their own submissions, with an eye to requests and suggestions aligning where possible.

I am now on the train from Taunton, headed up north, and will be writing up further. Three things that shout at me as headlines from the day:

More about those later as I get the opportunity.   Others very welcome to comment.
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This forum is provided by a customer of Great Western Railway (formerly First Great Western), and the views expressed are those of the individual posters concerned. Visit for the official Great Western Railway website. Please contact the administrators of this site if you feel that the content provided by one of our posters contravenes our posting rules (email link). Forum hosted by Well House Consultants