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  • Minehaed Rail Link Group: October 30, 2018
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Author Topic: Minehead Rail Link Group  (Read 38022 times)
grahame
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« on: July 10, 2016, 07:34:12 am »

http://www.mineheadraillink.org.uk

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Minehead Chamber of Commerce & Minehead Rail Link Group

Ever since British Rail closed the Taunton - Minehead line, the people of West Somerset have been asking for a through train service to Taunton and beyond to run alongside the steam trains that run between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard. Sadly this hasn’t happened and at the moment there are practical reasons why the steam trains cannot regularly run through to Taunton; the main one being that WSR trains are not authorised to travel over Network Rail tracks.

However it is possible for some of Great Western Railway’s existing hourly Cardiff - Taunton trains to continue on to Minehead, giving the people of West Somerset a regular service to Taunton, Bridgwater, Bristol and Cardiff. The infrastructure is complete and maintained to the highest standard and there is capacity on the W.S.R. to accommodate the extra trains.

Obviously, before this can be done the W.S.R., local authorities, Great Western, Network Rail and Government agencies need to get together and work out a package that is viable and most beneficial to the people and businesses of West Somerset and Taunton. Fortunately with the electrification of much of the Great Western network underway, additional diesel trains will become available, however several other factors including timetabling, staffing, marketing, operational matters, financial and practical support from Government and other agencies all need to be addressed and this takes time and energy.

The Minehead Rail link Group was set up by Minehead Chamber of Commerce to find ways of realising these aspirations and to encourage those involved to work together to give West Somerset the rail service it has long been asking for.

Continues ...


At yesterday's RailFuture meeting at Yatton, this was on the agenda with a presentation by Alex de Mendoza and David Latimer, and to hear of a serious effort being made (with some positive results) in getting the operational and business cases analysed.  There are parallels to draw looking back to the very start of this decade to the TransWilts - at the point that it moved from campaigning to putting all the jigsaw pieces into place.  Whether the pieces all fit for the Taunton to Minehead line is an interesting question; my personal thought is that there's a high probability that they should / could.
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John R
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2016, 07:54:35 am »

I'm intrigued by the comment that the speed limit has been increased above 25mph on heritage lines elsewhere. I can't think of any where it has been increased for passenger services.

But other than that, a very positive move, and I hope it is successful.
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2016, 08:32:05 am »

I'm intrigued by the comment that the speed limit has been increased above 25mph on heritage lines elsewhere. I can't think of any where it has been increased for passenger services.

But other than that, a very positive move, and I hope it is successful.

Great Central?   From Wikipedia:

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Her Majesty's Rail Inspectorate has granted powers to run private test trains at up to 60 mph. Other special trains at public events run at up to 45 miles per hour (72.4 km/h). Typically UK (United Kingdom) heritage railways are limited to a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour (40.2 km/h).

And I think those 45 m.p.h. trains are public, passenger carrying. 

On the West Somerset, 25 to 45 m.p.h. would make an enormous difference; not sure how much going up to 60 m.p.h. would add as it's not exactly straight!
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TonyK
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« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2016, 02:43:45 pm »

Speed is probably the limiting factor, but I hope it doesn't defeat the idea. Even a very limited through service, such as two trains daily, timed at weekends to match Butlins' kicking out times, would be a great asset.

The one-third of Butlins inmates who come from South Wales would probably be better served by a ferry. I read that a through service will benefit those with children and bulky luggage. Presumably, the same goes for those with luggage and bulky children?
« Last Edit: July 10, 2016, 02:50:49 pm by Four Track, Now! » Logged

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Chris125
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« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2016, 07:56:12 pm »

And I think those 45 m.p.h. trains are public, passenger carrying. 

I believe that refers to the demonstration mail trains, no passenger carrying services operate above 25mph on the GCR» (Gloucester - next trains) and I'm not aware of any plans to change that.
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Puffing Billy
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« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2016, 06:52:00 pm »

On the West Somerset, 25 to 45 m.p.h. would make an enormous difference; not sure how much going up to 60 m.p.h. would add as it's not exactly straight!

Would it really? I suspect that the limiting factors just as much as the track geometry are the signalling system (as far as I know the remaining distant signals are all "fixed") and the presence of several unbarriered (at least one without even warning lights) public road crossings. An "express" train would also need either a clear run, or timing to coincide with an opposite "express"; otherwise it would just end up waiting at the end of the single-track sections.

A regular year-round service would not be possible unless GWR (Great Western Railway)/Network Rail between them organise (or pay WSR for) the manning of the signal boxes at the time they would normally be closed, and undertake overnight track maintenance to replace the current out-of-season maintenance. Therefore any regular through trains would be limited to the summer season, and here the suggestion that spare capacity can be guaranteed is very questionable. On any of the "gala" weekends the line is operated at , or very close to, maximum capacity, and on other weekends any spare paths are regularly taken up by visiting charters. Away from weekends there are often stock/training/maintenance trains to fit in.

I believe that Mr Mendoza and others in his group should be concentrating solely on the one aim that seems to me to have a realistic chance of success, which is the extension of some Taunton-bound trains to Bishops Lydeard, possibly to an independent GWR platform. Transfer from there to a WSR service would hardly be onerous, and once this aspiration is realised, then by all means start pursuing grander plans.

A Bishops Lydeard service could also, at different hours, serve a completely different market, namely as a park-and-ride for West Somerset commuters to Bristol and beyond.

At the same time (apologies for straying into "bus" territory, but relevant to this subject, particularly as the bus belong to First Group), we really do need buses that are adequate for holidaymakers. Struggling past the suitcases and pushchairs on a summer Friday-afternoon Minehead-bound bus is a bit of a nightmare. And can not at least some of the services be scheduled to miss out the lengthy detours to Lydeard and Watchet? Perhaps someone who cares to step into the shoes of the late-unlamented Webber Buses could offer such an "express" service?
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Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2016, 07:46:12 pm »

Thanks for posting those thought-provoking comments and suggestions, Puffing Billy.  Smiley

For the benefit of our readers, there is a previous topic on the Coffee Shop forum which contains a lot of background information relating to the West Somerset Railway, at http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=2688.0 
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William Huskisson MP (Member of Parliament) was the first person to be killed by a train while crossing the tracks, in 1830.  Many more have died in the same way since then.  Don't take a chance: stop, look, listen.

"Level crossings are safe, unless they are used in an unsafe manner."  Discuss.
Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2016, 12:26:51 am »

Having refreshed my memory of what has been discussed before (see my previous post), may I offer the following comments and suggestions?

If I were running a business in Minehead, I would much prefer a rail service that brought people direct to me by train from Taunton, from morning commuter time through to early evening.

If I were a home owner in Minehead, I would welcome the 15% increase in property value resulting from a decently served local railway station.

If I were a resident of Minehead, I would welcome the work, business and pleasure opportunities provided by a decent local railway service, offering through links to the national rail network.

If I ran a heritage railway, I would welcome it running to a vibrant seaside resort, rather than to an inaccessible and relatively rundown backwater.  At present, I have to drive down the M5 from Nailsea and then turn off at Taunton onto the A39 to Bishops Lydeard to have any realistic expectation of enjoying a worthwhile amount of quality time in my day out on the West Somerset Railway.

A decent local rail service isn't one that requires a change, 4 miles short of the county town, with a first service getting there just before midday, and the last leaving just before 4 pm, with no service at all off season.  Roll Eyes

May I offer a comparison with the situation on the Portishead Branch line, where local businesses and residents are fairly crying out for the line to be reopened.  Or indeed the various branch lines in Devon and Cornwall, which have seen spectacular success, in terms of passenger numbers and the associated boosts to their local economies.

Yes, there are logistical and therefore cost implications in such proposals for Minehead, but please let's take a more positive approach and try to achieve them!  Grin

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William Huskisson MP (Member of Parliament) was the first person to be killed by a train while crossing the tracks, in 1830.  Many more have died in the same way since then.  Don't take a chance: stop, look, listen.

"Level crossings are safe, unless they are used in an unsafe manner."  Discuss.
grahame
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« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2016, 05:06:50 am »


If I were running a business in Minehead, I would much prefer a rail service that brought people direct to me by train from Taunton, from morning commuter time through to early evening.

If I were a home owner in Minehead, I would welcome the 15% increase in property value resulting from a decently served local railway station.

If I were a resident of Minehead, I would welcome the work, business and pleasure opportunities provided by a decent local railway service, offering through links to the national rail network.

If I ran a heritage railway, I would welcome it running to a vibrant seaside resort, rather than to an inaccessible and relatively rundown backwater.  At present, I have to drive down the M5 from Nailsea and then turn off at Taunton onto the A39 to Bishops Lydeard to have any realistic expectation of enjoying a worthwhile amount of quality time in my day out on the West Somerset Railway.

The Minehead line was a very late closure and along with some other lines (Oxford - Cambridge and Edinburgh - Carlisle via Hawick come to mind) is one of a group that seem to offer very real prospects of being a huge success  if they were to carry regular passenger traffic again - and by "regular passenger traffic" I mean people who's primary reason for being there is to get from one place to another along the way.  i.e. primary use being to get from "A" to "B" and not for the journey itself.

When we were looking at options for our own line - a service enhancement rather than a new service - we could have batted for something less than we have - i.e. what fitted with current stock and services.  We concluded that would have been unlikely to work and that we needed true peak commuter services to form the backbone.  Without a fully worked case - which the Minehead Chamber of Commerce based group now plans - I don't know how much of a parallel there is, but I would make an educated guess that this may not be the time to be timid, and to fulfill what the town's said to be crying out for there's need for a boldness beyond the minimum which whilst it might generate other traffic and uses wouldn't fulfil the town's / Chamber's stated goals.

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Witham Bobby
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« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2016, 02:15:18 pm »

As Operating Superintendent and for a while General Manager of the WSR from early in 1976 through to the winter of 1979 I had a hand in the re-opening of the line after 5+ years of closure.  Our intention was the re-opening of the line right into Taunton with a year-round service provided by DMUs (Diesel Multiple Unit), with income supplemented by the summer steam tourist trains.  The high price demanded by BR (British Rail(ways)) for the Running Powers Agreement for the couple of miles from MP (Member of Parliament) 165 1/4 into the Bay Platform on the Up side at Taunton (along the former Up Relief line) plus the difficulty with the Western National bus drivers who were represented by the NUR for historic reasons and who saw the WSR as a threat to their members, made the attainment of the objective impossible for a cash-strapped company.  The situation was made worse when Somerset County Council withdrew their loan offer, once it was realised that the Taunton service would not be starting any time soon.

The 1975 Light Railway (Transfer) Order authorised the running of loco-hauled trains at 25 mph and DMU trains (subject to maintenance and inspection being done by approved people [ie BR]) to be run at up to 40 mph.  The AOCL (Automatic Open Crossing (Locally monitored) A level crossing without barriers that is observed by the train crew before they proceed over the crossing) and Open Crossing where laid out for 40 mph with speed restrictions across them varying between 5 mph and 25 mph according to the circumstances at each of them.

The speed limit for the whole branch in BR days was 55 mph.  The general condition of the trackwork is now far better than it was in BR days, I'd say.  But the curvy bits are still very much a limiting factor for speed.

My motivation was to show that my former employers BR(WR) Bristol Division (whom I had come to loathe for their short-sightedness in chopping out as much infrastructure as they possibly could) had been wrong in closing the line in the first place.  We started a year-round service over the sections of line that were re-opened, reaching Bishops Lydeard from Minehead by summer of 1979.  The Saturday DMU trains which connected with our own bus link running between Bishops Lydeard and Taunton BR Station were very well used, and showed what could be done.

The railway is now in the hands of a large group of supporters, who have given very freely of their time to turn it into a major tourist attraction.  I do not think many of them would support the loss of the "heritage" side of the railway to make way for a public service.  If the line had stayed in BR hands, I guess it would now look something like the Newquay line - pared right back to minimal track, maybe a passing loop at Williton, and a single track terminus.

As internal politicking and money shortages plus the problems I've already referred to took their toll, I became very demoralised about the whole project and my career went in very different directions. 
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grahame
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« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2017, 03:06:18 pm »

From This is the West Country

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A STUDY to find out whether regular train services between Minehead and Taunton are viable would be too expensive to carry out, Somerset County Council has said.

[snip]

An SCC(resolve) spokesman said: “Somerset County Council recognises the effort the Minehead Rail Link Group is putting behind their goal to see non-heritage rail services running between Minehead and Taunton.”

The council said it is always supportive of organisations seeking to expand transport choices but does not currently have enough information to know whether such a service is feasible.

The spokesman added: “To answer [these] questions detailed studies would have to be undertaken which would cost tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds.

“Given the current pressures on local government funding, SCC does not have the resources available to undertake this detailed work.

“We will keep the situation under review and continue looking for funding opportunities which may enable the detailed work required to take place in the future.”
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broadgage
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« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2017, 06:48:48 pm »

As a fairly local resident I would certainly support a regular through train service from Minehead to Taunton.

The bus 28 service is not just poor but is getting worse. Considerable housing development is underway in the general area, in the near term this adds to road congestion due to deliveries of building materials and utility works, in the longer term the cars driven by the occupants of all these new homes will add permanently to congestion.
There is of course no question of providing public transport to serve the new developments, so everyone will drive.

The most recent change to bus services has been the withdrawal of the 18 bus, that also ran between Minehead and Taunton but via a different and quicker route, and also served the hospital.

Through trains would help a lot. In reply to the usual cries that it will cost too much, I would observe that the TPTB (The Powers That Be) seem able to find money for road schemes, but not for rail.
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit) is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
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« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2017, 07:43:55 pm »

Perhaps The Powers That Be could be included in the LOA. (Sorry - List Of Abbreviations).
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« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2017, 09:52:00 pm »

There's another abbreviation relevant - HotSW» (Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership - about) - Heart of the South West LEP» (Local Enterprise Partnership - about), the quango that governs a lot of government economic spending, including transport in Devon and Somerset.

If a group sensibly wants to get trains running from Taunton to Minehead then this is the body it must win over. They are hard nosed and would have to be convinced of the transport, economic and tourism gains as well as modest cost (i.e not NR» (Network Rail - home page)) but may be more reasonable than a County Council Roads Dept.

The obvious link along the mostly vacant track-bed of the former up relief (or is it slow) line to Taunton's  NW bay (ex platform eight), avoiding main line conflict, has been discussed over time, without result. The example of Eridge and the Spa Valley line comes to mind.

Whether the heritage line would entirely welcome the cost and bother of an ORR» (Office of Rail and Road formerly Office of Rail Regulation - about) supervised interval service 24/7 is debatable. Perhaps if it had independent control of the entire route/service - and suitable rolling stock - it might be different.

Good luck to them all,

OTC
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TonyK
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« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2017, 11:42:21 pm »

I have now been given permission by TPTB (The Powers That Be)* to make amendments to the Acronyms/Abbreviations page, and as I agree with you, HotSW» (Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership - about) has been added, along with, of course, TPTB.

Our very own West of England LEP» (Local Enterprise Partnership - about) is not my favourite Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation (blast - I logged out of the A/A list before I realised that wasn't in there!) having started, albeit in its former guise, with the chance of a state-of-the-art tram system for Bristol and beyond, to rival Manchester, Birmingham, Blackpool, and Seaton, but delivering state-of-the-ark MetroBust, to rival Caracas, Harare, and Kabul. I know, though, that they should not all be tarred with the same brush.

It seems that the composition of the unelectable unaccountable oligarchy, other than the obligatory political appointments, is a major factor in deciding road or rail as the prime subject on the agenda. It is true that the government of the day's attitude is crucial too, but the LEP should be business, academe, and local government singing with one voice from one hymn sheet for local infrastructure projects. I believe HotSW does this better than the somewhat appropriately abbreviated WoE, where the Bristol LEPers, who bear the strong offender's cross* in the form of the traffic influx, are heavily outvoted by the others.

Always remember, though, that it takes two to QUANGO (Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation).

*Spot the link? I'm sure Red Squirrel will, and probably bnm too.
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