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Author Topic: Independent owned and managed local railways? Paul Salvesen refloats the idea  (Read 288 times)
grahame
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« on: May 27, 2020, 03:51:37 pm »

From Paul Salvesen (one of the fathers of Community Rail) in the Yorkshire Post

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Passengers have disappeared and some lines serving rural areas have had services temporarily suspended with bus replacements. The trains will come back, but it could take years to return to pre-virus patronage levels. And we will work and play in different ways.

The worst thing that the railway industry could do is to assume things will go ‘back to normal’ and government will bail them out.

The Rail Reform Group – an independent think-tank of railway professionals – recently published a series of papers called The Enterprising Railway, looking at opportunities to develop a railway based on ‘the common good’.

I set out how the more rural parts of the rail network could survive and prosper post-pandemic. The core argument is that they could be at the heart of local sustainable development which responds to people’s yearning for a better quality of life to the one we had pre-virus.

Local railways in the North are now operated by Northern Trains Ltd, a wholly-owned government company. Infrastructure is owned and managed by Network Rail, which is also state-owned.

However, the ‘Northern Trains’ arrangement is not permanent and the big question is what will come after it? Nobody really knows.

The idea of learning from some continental railways, where some rural networks are independently owned and managed, has been around for a long time. ...

Examples quoted in the article are all north of Watford (actually I think they're all north of Warrington) but there is certainly some food for thought - and in some ways we are thinking the unthinkable at present.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2020, 04:15:01 pm »

Some thoughts that fed themselves into my brain when I read this is that there have been attempts of privately owned railways to provide a community service in the past (eg KWVR and WSR) and they've tended not to work. That's not to say they wouldn't work in the future, but just to shed some cold light of day on the idea.

The second thought was I wonder if these people have been watching too much Titfield Thunderbolt...
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« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2020, 04:42:02 pm »


The second thought was I wonder if these people have been watching too much Titfield Thunderbolt...

I think they must have.

A quick glance at many of the heritage railways websites shows the running costs even when nothing is running and any fully time staff have been furloughed.  Most are stating several thousands of pounds a week.

Heritage railways have a heavy reliance on voluntary staff to run a service, its the vintage rolling stock, infrastructure and the volunteer effort that is often the attraction of heritage railways a commercial operation providing a public service could not relay on volunteers and vintage rolling stock and vintage infrastructure

Railways are expensive things to operate   
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eightf48544
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« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2020, 05:05:03 pm »

The other promblem with running independant routes is that you will need more stock and staff because each line will have to cover maintenace/failures so more spare stock needed plus workshop space, then there's extra staffing to cover rest days, sickness annual leave.

Where as although Northern has it's problems it does gain from economy of scale with centralised maintenance, a larger pool of staff to cover.

A classic example of what I mean was when Hull trains lost its spare 5th unit, dropped on the floor, although it ould cover the diagrams with 4 units its perforamnce soon deteriorated due to the extra workload on the remaining units.

 So if a line required  4 units to cover the diagrams with a spare and you have 5 lines  that's 25 units, if they were from pool you's get away with 23.

It's the balance between Utilisation and Availability.

One of the best illustrations this is in that fasinating book Science at War HMSO. Where by a Coastal Command Squadron was tolds to ignore the stats and fly whenever they had a plane and crew. The flying hours rocketed but the availability stats plumetted.

The lesson is make sure you use the right stats.

The other thing whatever happened to Operational Research and Systems Analysis?
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eightonedee
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« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2020, 06:58:16 pm »

My very limited knowledge of locally owned and controlled railways was of Denmark, where I was aware of such systems in Jutland and Zealand and adjoining islands in the east. A quick check on Wikipedia reveals that they have largely merged into three larger operators in the last 20 odd years, backing up the comments above.

Railways are always dependent upon a degree of subsidy, and the greater the number of smaller units, the less their resilience and the greater the overhead for each management structure.
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stuving
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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2020, 07:42:18 pm »

I though this was mainly a Swiss thing. When I was last there in 2001 I noted that some of the narrow gauge railways around Montreux were merging, and got the impression that the usual form of ownership of small Swiss railways was a kind of non-profit company (like for example our utilities were to start with). Wikipedia has a bit more on this:
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The Transports Montreux–Vevey–Riviera (MVR) was a coming together, in 2001, of two small railway companies and two funicular companies in the Vevey / Montreux area of Switzerland. Some of these companies were, themselves, formed of amalgamations which had taken place over the years. Since this time they have been added to the marketing portfolio of the MOB group and are featured as part of their "GoldenPass services".

So they are joining into larger operations, though Montreux still has a second slightly-less-narrow gauge one. But of course it's usually the case that if you want to use the Swiss way of doing something, first you have to be Swiss.
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infoman
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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2020, 07:55:16 pm »

In my opinion

put in a bridge at Sheffield to get to the trams.
Heaven forbid network rail allowing an under pass at Sheffield station to gain access to the trams.
Ten million passengers use Sheffield in one year.
Then put ticket gates in at Sheffield station.
As well as at Chesterfield Barnsley Rotherham Doncaster and possibly at Meadow hall,
and make sure Huddersfield station ticket gates are staffed most of the day.
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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2020, 05:49:43 am »

Talk in the original article seems to be of local community management, subcontracting train operation back to a national social enterprise company.  And perhaps (one wonders) infrastructure maintenance back to a national organisation which has the benefit of size / volume. I'm a bit   dubious for many reasons but this sort of thing is several steps above my 'ken'.
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Electric train
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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2020, 06:54:20 am »

My very limited knowledge of locally owned and controlled railways was of Denmark, where I was aware of such systems in Jutland and Zealand and adjoining islands in the east. A quick check on Wikipedia reveals that they have largely merged into three larger operators in the last 20 odd years, backing up the comments above.

Railways are always dependent upon a degree of subsidy, and the greater the number of smaller units, the less their resilience and the greater the overhead for each management structure.

We should also look at our history in the UK, 150 years ago there were lots of small independent railways, many of them were acquired by bigger companies.
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