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Author Topic: Reversing Beeching - bring heritage and freight lines into the passenger network  (Read 1347 times)
grahame
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« on: July 30, 2020, 09:11:06 pm »

One wonders whether, if the current "Reversing Beeching" movement continues to progress, and the associated government policies and local/regional aspirations and proposals to expand the national rail network progress with it, there might come a time where the likes of the West Somerset Railway, Bodmin & Wenford, Isle of Wight Steam Railway etc might end up being nationalised to smooth the way, with perhaps the odd "Steam Special" thrown in as a sop to their heritage past?

I for one would LIKE to see the present WSR to become a part of the national network with a year round service of through trains to other parts of the national network.
I appreciate that this may be a minority view, but we should remember that the ORIGINAL PURPOSE of the WSR was to run a year round service, similar to that run by BR before closure.

I would hope that a heritage operation could co-exist.

Similar arguments no doubt apply to other heritage lines, but I am more familiar with the WSR.

Quoting (above) from the WSR thread ...

Here are two dozen line end towns - 12 of them Network Rail / National Network, 12 of them heritage lines with main line connections (a couple of which stop slightly short of the towns named at present). The numbers are very, very rough population measures in thousands - and I'm aware just how misleading that number can be, and that some lines have intermediate traffic which dwarfs the terminus, other have wide catchments.

Starting at the top of the list ... wouldn't it be good to see most of these with all year, all day services running through onto the national network or at very least connecting at the junction station 363 days a year, and with through ticketing and data available on journey planners?

44 Wallingford
34 Exmouth
26 Newport IOW
23 Seaford
22 Newquay
21 Falmouth
20 Hythe
20 Barnstaple
15 Lymington
13 Bodmin
12 Swanage
12 St Ives
12 Minehead
11 Shepton Mallett
7 Kingswear
7 Cowley
6 Okehampton
6 Looe
6 Chinnor
6 Alresford
4 Buckfastleigh
3 Severn Beach
3 Gunnislake
2 Parkend

I would suspect that your view, Broadgage, is a majority one.   However, the majority of people who are active in supporting rail in areas where there's a heritage operation are keen to protect it, and worried about the changes national network passenger trains sharing will bring ...
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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2020, 06:52:23 am »

In the case of places like Alresford (birth place of John Arlott?) surely the logic would be to extend the line to its former extent, in this case to its junction with the Basingstoke to Winchester line.
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2020, 08:22:29 am »

In the case of places like Alresford (birth place of John Arlott?) surely the logic would be to extend the line to its former extent, in this case to its junction with the Basingstoke to Winchester line.

It might be ... though I have tried to avoid newly rebuilt lines in my list.  There are two where an extension of the heritage line would be part of the plan - an extra 1km or so from Mendip Vale to (?) the outskirts of Shepton Mallett, and rather longer the extension on the Isle of Wight from Wootton to Newport which I allowed myself as it has an element of DfT support via study funding, and it reaches one of the larger places on the list which is also an area's administration centre.



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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2020, 10:09:40 am »

In the case of places like Alresford (birth place of John Arlott?) surely the logic would be to extend the line to its former extent, in this case to its junction with the Basingstoke to Winchester line.

Sadly that logic is not shared by the local planning authority or the Mid-Hants Railway. But the obstacles wouldn't prove insurmountable if there was a will to do it!
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johnneyw
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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2020, 12:07:07 pm »

You could, sort of, add three more to Grahame's list as they are growing towns at the end of existing lines in a mixture of frieght and early heritage/local service status:
Yate to Thornbury
Newton Abbot to Bovey Tracey
Berkeley Road to Sharpness.
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2020, 01:00:40 pm »

You could, sort of, add three more to Grahame's list as they are growing towns at the end of existing lines in a mixture of frieght and early heritage/local service status:
Yate to Thornbury
Newton Abbot to Bovey Tracey
Berkeley Road to Sharpness.

Keep going ... Fowey ...
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johnneyw
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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2020, 08:33:44 pm »

Yes, I suppose it's easy to casually drift off into all sorts of candidates, Totnes Buckfastliegh and so on, all the way down to Weymouth -Weymouth Harbour if I was nitpicking.....but I'm well into silly territory now! 🙄
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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2020, 08:46:54 pm »

Yes, I suppose it's easy to casually drift off into all sorts of candidates, Totnes Buckfastliegh and so on, all the way down to Weymouth -Weymouth Harbour if I was nitpicking.....but I'm well into silly territory now! 🙄

I had decided not to include those two in my dozen heritage and dozen other ... slightly illogical with Buckfastleigh as I included Parkend.  Could add Poole Harbour and Bournemouth West, but perhaps they are too close to Poole and Bournemouth "Central".  Now - about Mayflower, Southampton ...
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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2020, 09:11:33 am »

There needs to be a viable business case to make these off the ground.

The revenue to operate and maintain has to be in place; if the business case is based on ticket revenue alone they are likely to fail therefore long term subsidy would need to be in place.

But I hear some shout but heritage railways manage on revenue, this is not strictly true mush of their operating and maintenance costs is gifted time by volunteers and posibly a small team of full / part time staff, which sustains the small operating season most have, also their operating day is quite short.  Heritage railways also have access to charitable trusts and lottery funds where a commercial operation would not have such access.

If a heritage railway has to close its operations for a period of time due to an engineering issue etc, whilst this is disappointing for the customers and frustrating for the volunteers its not critical to the customers so an alternative bus service is not needed.

The current fright only lines maintained in most part by NR could be brought back into operation again the revenue needs to be in place, the cost to NR of maintaining and operating a freight only line is far lower than a passenger line.

Having said all of the above it is an area that needs to be explored but lets ensure its sustainable
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« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2020, 04:57:40 pm »

...There needs to be a viable business case to make these off the ground...

But how do you decide what's 'viable', and what's a 'business case'?

I've heard some slightly unsettling stories where reopening projects, which we might have imagined to be done and dusted, have been called into question because their BCR is based on pre-Covid-19 loading and growth estimates.

As others more cynical than I have suggested, the reality seems to be that first you decide to do it, then you ask some consultants to tell you that there is a business case. Being businesses themselves, they'll understand that they are more likely to get repeat work if they give you the answer you want.

I don't know for sure, but I strongly suspect that the nineteenth-century railway builders didn't conduct any such analyses; they were speculators who built lines and hoped they'd do well. Most did, many didn't. They were trying to make money by improving business connectivity and property values; today the objective is to rebalance the economy and shift people from more-damaging and exclusive to less-damaging and inclusive modes of transport.

Put in this context, the BCR model seems rather outmoded. We need to find a new way to sell the bleedin' obvious!
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« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2020, 06:10:37 pm »

Put in this context, the BCR model seems rather outmoded. We need to find a new way to sell the bleedin' obvious!

Although these things appear 'bleedin obvious' to the enthusiasts there has to be some way of allocating the limited resources (capital and revenue support) to the projects that will derive the greatest community benefit.  BCR does this and the issue is the weighting applied to less tangible benefits such as pollution, community transport, time saving.  Issues around this weighting will continue even if BCR is replaced by another method or ranking a project's benefits.

19th century developers did estimate the costs and income from new tracks.  They frequently got them both wrong and the railway either failed or was subsumed into a large railway with significant losses to the shareholders who had put up the initial capital.  A recent example of that is the Channel Tunnel where costs exceeded estimates and revenue was down; the original shareholders were almost completely wiped out.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2020, 10:11:38 pm »

exPassenger has covered most of the points I would make in reply, so I will confine my comments to this:


As others more cynical than I have suggested, the reality seems to be that first you decide to do it, then you ask some consultants to tell you that there is a business case. Being businesses themselves, they'll understand that they are more likely to get repeat work if they give you the answer you want.


When consultants are employed their remit is to provide a second pair of eyes to look over a proposal, and to pick up any problems or pitfalls that may have been missed by the exuberant proposers of any scheme. Their job is not to be “yes men” – indeed quite the reverse, because if something goes wrong with a project that they should realistically have noticed beforehand, they will not stay in the consultancy business for long. There is a lot more potential new business out there than there is repeat business, and glossing over a bad proposal that then goes belly up is a good way of making sure that nobody in the sector will employ them again.

In addition, of course, no client is under any obligation to take their consultant’s advice.

There is an old saying: “There’s a world of difference between healthy scepticism and paranoia”

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Umberleigh
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« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2020, 05:02:13 pm »

Is it correct to say that those reopening of passenger lines in Wales and Scotland that have been accomplished to date have gone on to far exceed their projected passenger numbers and revenue?

If this is correct, then this needs to be factored into decisions as it would appear projected figures for even successful projects are over cautious
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2020, 07:23:35 pm »

Is it correct to say that those reopening of passenger lines in Wales and Scotland that have been accomplished to date have gone on to far exceed their projected passenger numbers and revenue?

If this is correct, then this needs to be factored into decisions as it would appear projected figures for even successful projects are over cautious

It is not a given certainty that this will happen in all cases. The sorry saga of the Derby to Sinfin service is an example of loadings failing to reach expected levels, let alone exceed them, and the last I heard Aylesbury Vale Parkway was still not attracting its projected passenger numbers.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2020, 08:59:01 pm »

Although these things appear 'bleedin obvious' to the enthusiasts...

In this contect, 'enthusiast' could be taken as pajorative!

Near where I live, there is a town of 25,000 people which is poorly served by road and sits at the end of an active freight line. Twenty years ago a feasibility study confirmed that a half-hourly passenger service was viable. Since then, a variety of professionals have drawn fat fees by confirming this. Funding has been found, lost and found again. And now there is a real danger that funding could be lost for good because we can't be sure of the long-term impact of Covid-19 on people's travel habits. This scheme is a perfect example of what I mean by "bleedin' obvious", and yet it may still fail. And if it does, it really doesn't look good for many of the others.

When consultants are employed their remit is to provide a second pair of eyes to look over a proposal, and to pick up any problems or pitfalls that may have been missed by the exuberant proposers of any scheme. Their job is not to be “yes men” – indeed quite the reverse, because if something goes wrong with a project that they should realistically have noticed beforehand, they will not stay in the consultancy business for long. There is a lot more potential new business out there than there is repeat business, and glossing over a bad proposal that then goes belly up is a good way of making sure that nobody in the sector will employ them again.

We may have to agree to differ on this. There may be some truth in what you say in the private sector, but in the public sector everything is political.

Is it correct to say that those reopening of passenger lines in Wales and Scotland that have been accomplished to date have gone on to far exceed their projected passenger numbers and revenue?

If this is correct, then this needs to be factored into decisions as it would appear projected figures for even successful projects are over cautious

There was a debate on this topic here: http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=23778.msg291323#msg291323
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