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Author Topic: Reversing Beeching - bring heritage and freight lines into the passenger network  (Read 1916 times)
grahame
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« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2020, 11:33:33 am »

Terrifyingly difficult to define "sustainable", "business case", "profitable" and other things in a common way.  At one extreme, a heritage railway is a tourist attraction which must make a profit in its own right and relies on free labour to ensure that fare-box income exceeds operational and maintenance costs.  At the other extreme, a branch line railway can be the only way to sustain the economy of a town, with each passenger journey costing far more to provide than the fare they pay, but without the service the town would become a sink and require so much more governmental funding, and the connecting mainline trains would have empty seats in place of passengers off the branch.

An example of that latter - one of the key managers from way back at Wessex Trains (that shows you how long ago it was) stated that "even the Exmouth branch does not make a profit". But it does make a huge difference to Exmouth, its economy and future.  My ex and her partners retired recently to Exmouth - they're a few hundred metres from the station, and planning to be making use of the public transport they have. So not a profitable service and no business case from the fare box, but one that is required by the whole fabric and economy of the area.

In the year I graduated from University, I enquired about many permanent jobs via the "Milk Round" and other contacts I already had. And with several dozen options, I scored each of them on factors such as career opportunity, likely salary, where they were based, whether I thought they would be fun, whether I thought they would be motivating, whether I believed in the company, whether I liked and believed the people who I met there, whether their approach was professional, whether I was interested in what they did.  And not taking just the "what does it pay" v "what is the cost of living going to be" but all those other factors, I scored and tuned the scores.   Different factors applied to different score elements came up with different results, but the process certainly helped me clear out all but a handful of finalists as "not best for me".   Of course, lots of the companies also helped me clear out by telling me they weren't interested.

With such diverse models on current operation, such a scoring system - far more complex that BCR and no doubt subject to passioned argument - would seem to be a tool to help sort out the wood from the trees - the "blindingly obvious" from the "dunno" and the "Who do you think you are kidding".   Hopefully in would highlight risks such as a station being opened to serve a factory which then contracted to a much smaller unit or even closed, and the risks of opening a station in land that was due to be developed, but the development is put back a few years. And hopefully someone would get on and do the blindingly obvious!
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2020, 07:46:00 pm »

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.



At the risk of boring everybody else rigid, this answer intrigues me. I have worked as a consultant for both the public and private sectors (admittedly in building repair and maintenance rather than railways) but one could say that politics with a big or small P comes into much of it.

A consultant is likely to upset somebody; be it the trade unions when you tell management that other organisations manage with less staff; be it a maintenance and repair workforce who are told that they aren’t as cheap and efficient as they thought they were when compared to other similar organisations; or indeed the client themselves when you tell them that their big new idea won’t work and, more importantly, why it won't work.

In the public sector politics with a large P comes into it as the opposition party probably opposes what the ruling party are doing anyway.

So perhaps you can clarify with an example or two? What railway reopenings do you know of that have been derailed because “everything is political?”




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« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2020, 08:02:37 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'?

That is and has always been the difficult question.  Its how you judge viable because it provides a social need
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« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2020, 09:55:49 pm »

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.



At the risk of boring everybody else rigid, this answer intrigues me. I have worked as a consultant for both the public and private sectors (admittedly in building repair and maintenance rather than railways) but one could say that politics with a big or small P comes into much of it.

A consultant is likely to upset somebody; be it the trade unions when you tell management that other organisations manage with less staff; be it a maintenance and repair workforce who are told that they aren’t as cheap and efficient as they thought they were when compared to other similar organisations; or indeed the client themselves when you tell them that their big new idea won’t work and, more importantly, why it won't work.

In the public sector politics with a large P comes into it as the opposition party probably opposes what the ruling party are doing anyway.

So perhaps you can clarify with an example or two? What railway reopenings do you know of that have been derailed because “everything is political?”


I actually argued the reverse, that schemes get the go-ahead because everything is political:

...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.

BCR is necessarily based on soothsaying, and it will always be possible to justify errors in hindsight:

"No-one could have predicted the economic downturn"
"Growth was stronger than anticipated"
"There were unforeseen demographic changes"

My real point is that without strong political backing, and a presumption that towns do better by almost any measure if they have a decent rail link, most of these schemes won't happen. How you prioritise is another matter, but at the moment there seems to be a dead hand at play.   
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eXPassenger
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« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2020, 05:46:59 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.

I did not mean it to be pejorative and I apologise if it seemed that way.

I was looking at the BCR calculations which are a method of determining the viability.  In the example you quote the problem appears to be political inertia and not the determination of the scheme's viability.  I agree that where a scheme is viable and funding is allocated then it should be done.
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Lee
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« Reply #20 on: August 05, 2020, 12:37:38 pm »

It is somewhat ironic that both the notions of "Reversing Beeching" and effective rail nationalisation were pretty fiercely resisted at Westminster during the 2000s and 2010s when the "business case" was king, but both are currently seen as essential for political and economic reasons.

As far as grahame's list goes, I am minded of the following quote from Wikipedia:

Quote from: Wikipedia
The Branch Lines Committee of the British Transport Commission (BTC) was formed in 1949 with a brief to close the least-used branch lines; 3,318 miles (5,340 km) of railway were closed between 1948 and 1962.The most significant of these was the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, closed in 1959. This period saw the beginning of a closures protest movement led by the Railway Development Association, whose most famous member was the poet John Betjeman. They went on to be a significant force resisting the Beeching proposals.

Economic recovery and the end of petrol rationing led to rapid growth in car ownership and use. Vehicle mileage grew at a sustained annual rate of 10% between 1948 and 1964. In contrast, railway traffic remained steady during the 1950s but the economics steadily deteriorated, with labour costs rising faster than income and fares and freight charges repeatedly frozen by the government to try to control inflation. By 1955, the share of the transport market from railways had dropped from 16% to 5%.

"Reversing Beeching" proposals will be judged by a panel, and this may form a potential template going forward as - in theory at least - a wide range of factors beyond those examined in traditional "business cases" could be considered, and tailored to whether the proposal best fits the specific outcomes you want to acheive, as opposed to a BCR one-size-fits-all approach.

If you substitute "end of Second World War" with "end of Coronavirus", then one wonders whether the time may turn out to be ripe for a new Branch Lines Committee, but this time with the opposite mandate to the original - ie tasked with how best to restore branch lines to the national passenger rail network, and how to get the very best out of those branch lines already part of that national passenger rail network, in the context of reversing those historical trends that the original committee helped set in motion, and what part those branch lines can potentially play in future regarding the twin challenges of securing economic recovery and combating the Climate Emergency.
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broadgage
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« Reply #21 on: August 06, 2020, 08:33:27 pm »

Roads minister "Humphrey, these calls for railway reopening are becoming tedious"
Humphrey "Yes minister"
Roads minister "But what can we do about it"
Humphrey "We must appear to support this sort of of thing, without actually doing to much. The Minister might wish to call for research into monorails, hydrogen power, guided buses, you know the sort of thing minister. And of course the usual studies, reviews and consultations"
Minister "Good idea Humphrey, what about battery trains as well ?"
Humphrey "Not certain if that is good idea, the boffins have  demonstrated a battery train, what we really need is more research into new technologies, Minister"
Roads minister "And our PM has announced that new housing estates are to be automatically given planning permission, perhaps they might build a few across  the proposed railway route, and put a stop to this nonsense for forever"
"Yes minister"
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #22 on: September 13, 2020, 05:17:57 pm »

Forgive me if this has been posted elsewhere, but according to railnews.co.uk the following schemes have qualified for further development in this round:

Leicester to Burton;
Bury-Heywood-Rochdale, Clitheroe and Hellifield;
Sheffield and Chesterfield via Barrow Hill;
New passenger services on the Totton-Fawley line;
Reopening of branch lines on the Isle of Wight.

Station re-openings in the running are:

Meir near Stoke-on-Trent;
Wellington and Cullompton;
Lydeway, to serve Devizes.

This means the following schemes are ruled out 'for the time being':

Orbital passenger rail route between Stockport and Ashton;
Keswick to Penrith;
East Didsbury to Stockport;
Maldon to Witham;
Barnsley to Wakefield via Royston;
Beverley-York;
Oswestry to Gobowen;
Reinstatement of the Peaks and Dales Railway;
Newton Abbot to Heathfield;
Lewes to Uckfield;
Eridge to Tunbridge Wells;
Tavistock-Okehampton;
Wymondham-Dereham;
Stratford upon Avon to Honeybourne;
Bodmin Parkway to Wadebridge.

The following stations are also excluded:

Midge Hall;
Ferryhill;
Waverley (Yorks.);
St Anne?s Park (Bristol);
Belford (Northumberland);
Goodrington;
Churston;
Charfield.

Confusingly, Luke Hall (MP for Thornbury and Yate) declared in yesterday's 'Gazette' that Charfield is 'on track', giving the fact that it was on the shortlist as evidence for this:

Quote
We are on track to re-open Charfield Station and it remains a key pledge in my Positive Plan for Transport. I will continue to work alongside the village community to ensure this vital piece of infrastructure is delivered, in the best way possible.
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ellendune
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« Reply #23 on: September 13, 2020, 06:35:38 pm »

I note that with the exception of parts of the Isle of Wight all these are existing lines without a service rather than reconstruction projects. That probably means that they are more likely to actually happen than some of the others which involve relaying large sections of track; though I have my doubts about the Isle of Wight.
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paul7755
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« Reply #24 on: September 13, 2020, 07:49:37 pm »

Forgive me if this has been posted elsewhere, but according to railnews.co.uk the following schemes have qualified for further development in this round:

Leicester to Burton;
Bury-Heywood-Rochdale, Clitheroe and Hellifield;
Sheffield and Chesterfield via Barrow Hill;
New passenger services on the Totton-Fawley line;
Reopening of branch lines on the Isle of Wight.

Station re-openings in the running are:

Meir near Stoke-on-Trent;
Wellington and Cullompton;
Lydeway, to serve Devizes.
That list is a repeat of 9 of the 10 ?successful projects? that were already announced as having been awarded funding back in May. (It needs the Watford - St Albans branch adding.)

There are a few earlier reports on line, e.g. here:
https://www.railwaygazette.com/uk/10-rail-schemes-awarded-business-case-development-funding/56604.article
...but of course the DfT source page seems to have been removed.

What DfT seem to have done is updated their web page date, having now included the list of failed proposals.

But I suggest there?s no new ?good? news here, and IMHO this regular re-announcement of long lists of highly optimistic proposals (that are now mostly turned down) is just confusing the entire process.

Paul
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« Reply #25 on: September 14, 2020, 06:54:06 am »

Newton Abbot to Heathfield. My first reaction is that is a line and half. Might help if we got into the habit of adding the county in cases of possible confusion. On reflection I realise you don't mean Heathfield (Sussex). Do you?
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« Reply #26 on: September 14, 2020, 09:05:30 am »

Newton Abbot to Heathfield. My first reaction is that is a line and half. Might help if we got into the habit of adding the county in cases of possible confusion. On reflection I realise you don't mean Heathfield (Sussex). Do you?

Just quoting railnews.co.uk, but ima guess they mean the one at 50?34′21″N 3?38′46″W !
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« Reply #27 on: September 14, 2020, 11:18:35 am »

Heathfield _ Newton Abbot only likely to open as a heritage line. There is a very vociferous group promoting the line. Heathfield is just an industrial estate with a few houses. The major new housebuilding sites in Newton Abbott is going on in the North West of the town nowhere near the railway.

I think local MP's have been asked to come up with suggestions. Torbay MP has promoted Paignton to Goodrington, the limit of his constituency,  and Edginswell Station.

The Totnes MP has come up with Goodrington to Churston and the Primrose line to Kingsbridge but the only people who might use it are the wealthy of Kingsbridge and Salcombe, second only to Sandbanks in Poole.
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« Reply #28 on: September 14, 2020, 12:21:44 pm »

I've heard it alleged that one of the flaws in Beeching's methodology was that it looked at revenue in terms of ticket sales at stations. So seaside branches like Kingsbridge were sunk, because very few people buy tickets from resorts.

The 'wealthy of Kingsbridge' probably would use a re-opened line, but surely the overwhelming majority of users would be tourists coming in from elsewhere?
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« Reply #29 on: September 14, 2020, 04:22:35 pm »

The tourist season is only June - September and Kingsbridge with a population of 6000+ will not generate much traffic whereas Paignton and Torquay has a combined population 120.000+ (3rd and 4th towns in Devon) and has become a commuter town for Exeter admittedly most by road.
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