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Author Topic: West Somerset Railway - heritage line, Bishops Lydeard to Minehead - merged topic, ongoing discussion  (Read 106840 times)
Andrew1939 from West Oxon
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« Reply #90 on: October 04, 2013, 09:04:37 am »

I keep wondering what is happening at the West Somerset Railway. It has been trying for many years to get access to Taunton and now it has that so that occasional excursions can get from the network to the line but nothing seems to be happening on getting some form of public service from Minehead to Taunton. Is it objections from the unions? Or is it that a subsidy would be needed from Somerset County Council and it can no longer find the money due to budgetary constraints? or something else?
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bobm
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« Reply #91 on: October 04, 2013, 10:57:43 am »

The last I read, a bid for funding had failed.

Somerset Gazette

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A JOINT bid for a multi-million pound grant which could have made a rail service possible between Minehead and Taunton has been unsuccessful.
 
Somerset County Council joined its Devon counterpart and Exmoor and Dartmoor National Parks in requesting ^3.6million from the Government for a sustainable transport project.
 
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bignosemac
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« Reply #92 on: October 04, 2013, 11:14:23 am »

I very much doubt there would be union problems now. There's very little militant union activity by bus drivers these days.

Back in 1976, the nascent West Somerset Railway had to end plans to run into Taunton because of objections from the local branch of the NUR. It wasn't railway workers that were objecting, but bus drivers in the NUR who feared for their livelihoods. The bus drivers were concerned that if the WSR were to reach Taunton it would affect their jobs working the Taunton-Minehead buses. Trying to sort this 'blacking' was a frustrating endeavour for the WSR. They were told by the national executive of the NUR that this was a local branch issue, whilst the local branch of the NUR representing the bus drivers was saying that the 'blacking' was a decision that could only be changed by the executive!! Very odd that the NUR were so militant when a few bus drivers jobs may have been affected, but oddly silent a few years earlier when many of their members were made redundant following BR's closure of the Taunton-Minehead branch.

Back then it was hoped that the WSR would be a commercial public transport operator in addition to a heritage one.

Funding is the major stumbling block. Another is capacity at Taunton station.
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Puffing Billy
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« Reply #93 on: October 04, 2013, 12:23:39 pm »

As a resident of West Somerset, I can see what a phenomenal success the West Somerset Railway is, and understand that they do not want to commit themselves to a project which would compromise their profitability. The most obvious solution I can envisage is one where FGW/Network Rail pay for not only the initial investment necessary for the Taunton-Bishop's Lydeard link to meet the requirements for regular scheduled services, but also its ongoing maintenance. This may well depend on whether it is feasible to fit an extended Bristol-Taunton-Bishop's Lydeard service into the timetable, because otherwise they would incur the expense of running extra empty-stock services. The only variation on this solution, which may be a little fanciful, is for FGW, while bearing the cost of the service, to contract out the running of the trains to the WSR - this would have the advantage that the stock is already in place at Bishop's Lydeard, but would, I assume, necessitate the extension of a fully independent WSR track all the way into Taunton in order to exempt the WSR from having to meet national rail requirements.
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John R
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« Reply #94 on: October 04, 2013, 10:15:17 pm »

The problem with extending the Bristol - Taunton services is the time it takes to get to and from BL, so an extra unit is inevitable, which would make it uneconomic. However, recent improvements at Norton mean that it would be possible to build a second platform there, and have one for WSR trains, and the other for FGW services. This would cut quite a lot off the return journey from Taunton.

One possibility might be to run a limited service, targeted at giving periodic opportunities for those who would want to use the connection. So for example it could run on Tues and Thus in the summer holiday, offering a day out opportunity from North Somerset stations to the SWR and Minehead. And similarly on some Sats or Suns, which would also offer a reverse opportunity for communities on the WSR to have a day out in Bristol, Bath or elsewhere.

Realistically though, I can't see this happening until more dmu stock becomes available, so 2016 at the earliest. By which time we'll probably be back in franchise letting time, (I confidently expect the new franchise to run into 2016), so thinking about the link will be very low priority for operators.
 
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Puffing Billy
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« Reply #95 on: October 06, 2013, 09:52:19 pm »

The problem with extending the Bristol - Taunton services is the time it takes to get to and from BL, so an extra unit is inevitable, which would make it uneconomic. However, recent improvements at Norton mean that it would be possible to build a second platform there, and have one for WSR trains, and the other for FGW services. This would cut quite a lot off the return journey from Taunton.

One possibility might be to run a limited service, targeted at giving periodic opportunities for those who would want to use the connection ...

Have not heard that suggestion aired before, and it is an interesting possibility. But surely a station in that location would essentially become a park-and-ride for the Dulverton/Bampton/Wiveliscombe area (as well as the recently expanded Norton Fitzwarren village). I cannot see the WSR considering it worth running connecting services for commuters, and as for leisure travellers heading for the WSR, they already have a half-hourly bus which picks up adjacent to the platform in Taunton and drops them right outside the station at Bishop's Lydeard.
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John R
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« Reply #96 on: October 06, 2013, 10:15:36 pm »

The problem with extending the Bristol - Taunton services is the time it takes to get to and from BL, so an extra unit is inevitable, which would make it uneconomic. However, recent improvements at Norton mean that it would be possible to build a second platform there, and have one for WSR trains, and the other for FGW services. This would cut quite a lot off the return journey from Taunton.

One possibility might be to run a limited service, targeted at giving periodic opportunities for those who would want to use the connection ...

Have not heard that suggestion aired before, and it is an interesting possibility. But surely a station in that location would essentially become a park-and-ride for the Dulverton/Bampton/Wiveliscombe area (as well as the recently expanded Norton Fitzwarren village). I cannot see the WSR considering it worth running connecting services for commuters, and as for leisure travellers heading for the WSR, they already have a half-hourly bus which picks up adjacent to the platform in Taunton and drops them right outside the station at Bishop's Lydeard.

I believe there are strict planning considerations that preclude the use of Norton platform for anything that involves driving there, so a park and ride would be out of the question, and the only viable use would be as an interchange station.

As for the half hourly bus service, I suspect anything that involves a bus connection immediately puts a lot of prospective punters off. Think of the way it could be marketed, for those looking at a day out in the summer holidays:-

a) direct service (eg from stations Bristol to Taunton) to Norton, where you conveniently change onto a WSR train to Minehead. One through ticket.

b) train to Taunton, then you have to get (OK, where from?) a bus connection to Bishops L (what if the train's late, what if the bus is late, do I have to buy another ticket, is my Family Railcard valid, what about pushchairs, all my picnic coolboxes etc), and then catch the WSR to Minehead.  
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Puffing Billy
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« Reply #97 on: October 12, 2013, 04:52:57 pm »


I believe there are strict planning considerations that preclude the use of Norton platform for anything that involves driving there, so a park and ride would be out of the question, and the only viable use would be as an interchange station.

I know that that restriction applies to the existing WSR station, but surely the opposite would apply to a new FGW station - would the planning authorities give permission for a new station without car parking? Either it is a flop, in which case it is a waste of time, or it is a success, in which case the local roads get clogged with parked cars.

Assuming the new station is somewhere between Norton Fitzwarren junction and the WSR boundary (any other option would require new pointwork and signalling), trains still have to cross the other running lines to reach it - is this viable for regular services? Is building a station here actually cheaper than simply extending the WSR the rest of the way into the disused platform at Taunton, which would remove any operational problems? If you already assume WSR are happy to run trains to Norton, then no doubt they would go the extra 2 miles to Taunton. This assumes FGW are happy to fund the extension (perhaps in return for a reasonable charge for access to Taunton station), because I do not think the WSR want to pay for it.

Quote
As for the half hourly bus service, I suspect anything that involves a bus connection immediately puts a lot of prospective punters off ...

It may put some off - FGW should promote the bus more explicitly as a WSR link as well as a Minehead link.

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... direct service (eg from stations Bristol to Taunton) to Norton, where you conveniently change onto a WSR train to Minehead. One through ticket.

You can already get a through "buslink" ticket to Minehead, so you can use this as far as Bishop's Lydeard to change for the WSR. WSR,FGW and First Bus need to get together to offer a "West Somerset Link" ticket valid on both the bus and train.
 
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... train to Taunton, then you have to get (OK, where from?) a bus connection to Bishops L (what if the train's late, what if the bus is late ...

As soon as you get off the train at Taunton you are facing a sign directing you back along the same (usually) platform to the bus stop. If you are towards the rear of the train, you can practically jump from the train door to the bus door without your feet touching the ground. As for the timing, I think that for most leisure travellers, half-hourly is a good enough frequency that they will not even bother checking the times - if you strike lucky, you have 2 minutes wait; if it is nearer 30 minutes, you go for a cup of tea and watch the world go by.
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John R
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« Reply #98 on: October 12, 2013, 06:09:26 pm »

I'm sorry but I don't believe for one moment that eg, a family, let's say a mother and two young children, maybe one in a pushchair would find the option of a bus connection attractive. They are not to know that the bus stop is outside, or even that through fares are available. The possibility of arriving just after a WSR train had departed and having maybe an hour's wait for the next one would be offputting. Yet a simple, stay on the train until Norton and then change onto another one is a safe option.

I discounted the option of the WSR extending to Taunton - they haven't shown any inclination to do it over the last 30 years, so I think one can assume that it's an unattractive option - either down to the capital cost or ongoing running costs including the numerous requirements to run on the national rail network.   By the way, I don't think FGW would pay for any extension of the WSR into Taunton, the infrastructure operator is Network Rail, so any "deal" would be with them (as is currently happening with the second platform at Whitby for the North York Moors Railway).
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Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #99 on: October 13, 2013, 12:09:31 am »

Picking up on a point made by Red Squirrel, and reading interesting posts by John R and Puffing Billy subsequently, I'm rather inclined to try to split this topic into a separate discussion on the West Somerset Railway, and merge it with a previous discussion as to why the WSR haven't expanded their services into Taunton yet.

Please bear with me while I do a bit of moving and merging.  Wink
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William Huskisson MP 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 #100 on: November 30, 2013, 03:16:24 am »

From the BBC:

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West Somerset Railway sell-off considered by county council

A heritage railway in Somerset could be sold off under plans being considered by the county council.


The branch line was closed in 1971 and bought a year later by the council

Minehead's West Somerset Railway (WSR), which uses historic steam locomotives, is run by West Somerset Railway plc. The company leases the land from the authority, which owns the freehold, but now the council is looking to sell.

A council spokesman confirmed it was "exploring potential interest from two parties who have expressed interest" but no decisions had been taken.

The 20-mile (32 km) line between Minehead and Taunton was closed by British Railways in 1971 as part of the Beeching cuts. The following year, the council bought the branch line and leased it to the WSR.

Independent councillor Mike Rigby, said the railway now attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year and "puts ^10m into the local economy".

"There's a bid from the West Somerset Railways Association, a support charity, and a bid from the West Somerset Railway PLC that currently operates the railway," he said. "Whatever comes out of this process, we have to make sure, very sure, that the railway can continue to operate."

A West Somerset Railway Plc spokesperson said it was unable to comment at the present time.
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William Huskisson MP 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 #101 on: December 29, 2013, 02:49:14 pm »

From the BBC:

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West Somerset Railway future 'secure'


The branch line was closed in 1971 and bought a year later by the council

The immediate future of a heritage railway in Somerset is secure because of an increase in ticket sales during 2013, its general manager has said.

Paul Conibeare said they were "about ^50,000 up on the fares budget which is just over ^2m".

The county council is currently considering selling off Minehead's West Somerset Railway (WSR), which is run by West Somerset Railway plc. A decision is expected at the end of January.

Independent councillor Mike Rigby has said previously that, whatever the outcome, the council needed to be "very sure that the railway can continue to operate". He said there was a bid in from the West Somerset Railways Association, a support charity, and a bid from the West Somerset Railway plc.

Mr Conibeare said: "That ^2m in sales at the ticket office just about keeps the railway going with the coal, salaries and expenses we have throughout the year. Without that we couldn't survive. Any profit we make is reinvested in the business."

He said the heritage line had also been left more than ^1.7m over the last five years through people's wills.

The 20-mile (32 km) line between Minehead and Taunton was closed by British Railways in 1971 as part of the Beeching cuts. The following year, the council bought the branch line and leased it to the WSR.
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William Huskisson MP 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.
TonyK
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« Reply #102 on: December 29, 2013, 03:45:02 pm »

Whilst nobody likes a cartel, I can see little point in having competing bids from complementary charities. I hope this sale has the interests of the WSR in mind, rather than those of the county council and its taxpayers.
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grahame
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« Reply #103 on: May 21, 2014, 01:26:17 pm »

West Somerset Railway sell-off plans shelved by council

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-27484808?

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Plans to sell off a heritage railway have been shelved by Somerset County Council after a bidding process failed to find a suitable buyer.

The two bidders for the freehold were West Somerset Railway Plc and the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA).

As a result of the decision, the WSRA has said it wants to begin negotiating with the West Somerset Railway Plc to make a joint bid.

A WSRA spokesman said: "We believe that the best interests of the heritage railway will be served by a further unified bid to be submitted without delay which satisfies the requirements of both parties as well as ensuring the long term future of the railway."
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TonyK
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« Reply #104 on: May 21, 2014, 07:54:19 pm »


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Plans to sell off a heritage railway have been shelved by Somerset County Council after a bidding process failed to find a suitable buyer.

The two bidders for the freehold were West Somerset Railway Plc and the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA).

As a result of the decision, the WSRA has said it wants to begin negotiating with the West Somerset Railway Plc to make a joint bid.

A WSRA spokesman said: "We believe that the best interests of the heritage railway will be served by a further unified bid to be submitted without delay which satisfies the requirements of both parties as well as ensuring the long term future of the railway."


Whilst nobody likes a cartel, I can see little point in having competing bids from complementary charities. I hope this sale has the interests of the WSR in mind, rather than those of the county council and its taxpayers.

Like I said...
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