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Author Topic: West Somerset Railway - heritage line, Bishops Lydeard to Minehead - merged topic, ongoing discussion  (Read 106554 times)
IndustryInsider
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« Reply #285 on: November 20, 2019, 12:21:12 pm »

The costs of running a year-round service under present day maintenance and operational standards would be quite scary.

Indeed, and no matter how nice a thing it would be, I think that's a point lost on some.
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« Reply #286 on: November 20, 2019, 01:10:35 pm »

The costs of running a year-round service under present day maintenance and operational standards would be quite scary.
Indeed, and no matter how nice a thing it would be, I think that's a point lost on some.

Agreed with the huge expense.  Let's take a comparative look - by termini populations - at other branches which are open or are aspirations and see how Minehead stacks up

1000   Kyle of Lochalsh
2000   Great Bedwyn
5000   Blaeneau Ffestiniog
6000   Looe
6000   Saltburn
8000   Gunnislake + Calstock together
8000   Windermere
8000   Sheringham (15000 with Cromer)
9000   Oban
10000   Barton on Humber
11000   Largs
11000   Tavistock
12000   Minehead
12500   St Ives
13000  Bodmin
13000   Whitby
13000   Stranraer
14000   Pembroke
15000   Wick + Thurso together
15000   Milford Haven
16000   Tweedbank + Galashiels together
19000   Peterhead
21000   Alloa
20000   Newquay
22000   Portishead
26000   Fleetwood
27000   Melksham
28000   Ashington
62000   Corby
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #287 on: November 20, 2019, 01:55:41 pm »


Agreed with the huge expense...


I lose sight of what 'huge' means these days. Most CrossRail stations are costing in excess of half a billion pounds. How much would it cost to relay the Minehead line to modern standards and run an hourly service from Taunton?

Could this route lend itself to some sort of partnership whereby volunteers maintained the stations whilst modern trains operated the service?
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« Reply #288 on: November 20, 2019, 02:06:27 pm »

The costs of running a year-round service under present day maintenance and operational standards would be quite scary.
Indeed, and no matter how nice a thing it would be, I think that's a point lost on some.

Agreed with the huge expense.  Let's take a comparative look - by termini populations - at other branches which are open or are aspirations and see how Minehead stacks up

1000   Kyle of Lochalsh
2000   Great Bedwyn
5000   Blaeneau Ffestiniog
6000   Looe
6000   Saltburn
8000   Gunnislake + Calstock together
8000   Windermere
8000   Sheringham (15000 with Cromer)
9000   Oban
10000   Barton on Humber
11000   Largs
11000   Tavistock
12000   Minehead
12500   St Ives
13000  Bodmin
13000   Whitby
13000   Stranraer
14000   Pembroke
15000   Wick + Thurso together
15000   Milford Haven
16000   Tweedbank + Galashiels together
19000   Peterhead
21000   Alloa
20000   Newquay
22000   Portishead
26000   Fleetwood
27000   Melksham
28000   Ashington
62000   Corby


It's not as simple as that though, is it?   You might say that St Ives and Wick/Thurso are similar looking at the table.  But one is at the end of a 4 mile branch line, with humungous amounts of holiday traffic. The other is at the end of a 160 mile branch, and I suspect the holiday peak season is shorter and less marked. Indeed, the only similarity would seem to be that at their closest they are both 16 miles to one end of the Lands End to John O'Groats end points.

So the terminus population is only one element in the economics of a branch line.
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broadgage
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« Reply #289 on: November 20, 2019, 02:19:50 pm »

I would like to see the heritage service continue, but with a year round service as well, if possible.

If this cant be achieved I would, regrettably, prefer a through service to the heritage operation. A bit heretical I know but there are other heritage railways that can be enjoyed for nostalgia whereas there is only one railway line to Minehead. And as posted above, a regular through train service IS what was originally intended.

Ideally though, both heritage and a through service. Steam on Saturdays, and every day in summer, with a modernish train on other days.
In the near term, modernish probably means an existing DMU. In the longer term a battery train with charging at terminals from a safe type of conductor rail would be preferable on environmental grounds.
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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 is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
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« Reply #290 on: November 20, 2019, 02:39:19 pm »

If the worst were to happen and the heritage operation becomes insolvent then the landlords of the line and stations, Somerset County Council, should firstly protect and maintain the assets, and secondly do all in their power to reinstate the line as part of the national network as expeditiously as possible.

They should not, under any circumstances, look to make a quick buck by selling off land.
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« Reply #291 on: November 20, 2019, 03:08:08 pm »

As one of the WSR pioneer members (1973 onwards) and employees (1976-79) it does sadden me to read about the goings-on.  What drove us, back in those early years, was the aim of restoring a Minehead - Taunton year-round service, to replace the one that we felt BR(WR) Bristol Division had connived to close-down.

Hundreds of West Somerset residents queued at Minehead in March 1976 to subscribe a fiver for shares in the Company which had promised to bring back their trains to Taunton.

The intransigence of BR(WR) management and the NUR, and the WSR's insufficient cash resources conspired to prevent our vision becoming a reality at the time.  Since then, the project has morphed into a heritage operation, and that is now deeply ingrained in the management and staff (both paid and volunteer) of the line.  They wouldn't want the heritage operation to be diluted or put at risk by a more obviously public-service regime.

The costs of running a year-round service under present day maintenance and operational standards would be quite scary.

How does that come about then? All Heritage railways have to comply with ORR standards which, although not compulsory, it would be unwise not to meet in some form.  That hopefully makes the railway fit for 'Mainline' use, albeit at 25mph maximum linespeed.
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« Reply #292 on: November 20, 2019, 04:07:10 pm »

The costs of running a year-round service under present day maintenance and operational standards would be quite scary.

How does that come about then? All Heritage railways have to comply with ORR standards which, although not compulsory, it would be unwise not to meet in some form.  That hopefully makes the railway fit for 'Mainline' use, albeit at 25mph maximum linespeed.

I was thinking of the extra costs of inspecting and maintaining heritage stock to run over the metals of the Big Railway.  I don't doubt that it would be "easier" to run existing Big Railway TOC stock over a heritage line (IF there was any stock going spare, that is)

I know that the world of railways has moved on somewhat since the 1970s, but the then HMRI insisted that to run WSR trains over BR metals would require that the DMUs intended for the service would have to be maintained by BR, not WSR, engineers.  At that time, the price of the maintenance from BR(WR) DM&EE put the kibosh on the whole plan, never mind the cost of the Running Powers Agreement for the two miles from Taunton Station to the 165 1/4 MP boundary at Norton Fitzwarren.  I can't imagine that the costs of this from the Big Railway will have got any cheaper during the intervening 40 years.
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grahame
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« Reply #293 on: November 21, 2019, 07:01:13 am »

It's not as simple as that though, is it?   You might say that St Ives and Wick/Thurso are similar looking at the table.  But one is at the end of a 4 mile branch line, with humungous amounts of holiday traffic. The other is at the end of a 160 mile branch, and I suspect the holiday peak season is shorter and less marked. Indeed, the only similarity would seem to be that at their closest they are both 16 miles to one end of the Lands End to John O'Groats end points.

So the terminus population is only one element in the economics of a branch line.

Totally correct.  What it does do is show that there's sufficient core of residents "out there" to make it worth a more detailed look - it's within the bounds of possibility and not an extreme case.  Elements of what we have today are there because of accidents of politics and effective campaigning 50 years ago we have trains to Llandrindod Wells but not (yet back) to Portishead. We lost (but have since regained) the station at Melksham, but retained throughout the station at Dilton Marsh. National network services to Minehead would be within the net of comparison of what's done elsewhere and not an outrider in any way.

If it costs "m" to maintain and run the infrastructure for a heritage railway of 20 miles, and "n" to maintain and run the infrastructure for a national line though identical country, I don't believe it's going to cost as much as m+n to maintain a shared infrastructure for both - I believe it will cost less than the sum of the two.

If a passenger service of 800 heritage services a year generates p journeys per year, and 1600 national network service generates q journeys per year, then I believe that 2400 services would generate more that p+q journeys. You have metrics on ticketing and pricing to overcome - a major and another subject.

[Dreamland] ... continue Cardiff to Taunton terminators every 2 hours through to Minehead.  Pass the train going the other way at Bishop's Lydeard.  20 minute turn around at Minehead.   In the past, Minehead train largely terminated at Taunton and that had the effect of uncoupling delays, but a through service into and from an areas crowded with other services from a single line with few passing loops open during National Rail operation has robustness dangers in both directions if either element lacks reliability.  Reliability over speed though - there's some minutes of slack to the east of Bishop's Lydeard and the Minehead pause allows for "oops - I got held up". Potentially 1 gap of 3 hours. First and last trains stable at Minehead.

The West Somerset Railway has a wonderful pool of volunteers.  Sadly, that pool isn't as big or clean as it used to be due to the history of the politics of the line since BR closure.  My own experience at a small unstaffed station is that customer service there is lacking to the extent that the lack discourages passengers.  Is there a huge potential for volunteer "station trustees" to be on duty, watch safety as trains call, and look after customers. Whether the train coming through is a heritage or a national service, whether the customer is headed for a day out in Minehead, or to sit on a Jury in Taunton - the love of rail, the care for our sustainable planet.  I had best end [/Dreamland]
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« Reply #294 on: November 21, 2019, 10:17:20 am »

With todays concerns about the environmental costs of road transport, I believe that rail transport to the Butlins holiday park at Minehead should be re examined.

Through trains from the national network to Minehead have run previously for this purpose, but were not a great success and not repeated. The problem being that Minehead station is not within walking distance of Butlins, at least not for those with luggage and children.
In my view, what is needed is a new "Butlins station" situated on a new loop from the WSR. This would require about a miles of new single track, two sets of points and protecting signals.
Holiday special trains could terminate at/start from this new station. In the present car park.

Whilst the costs of this would clearly be substantial, public money could reasonably part fund it in view of the reduced pollution and traffic congestion resulting.
The holiday camp also offers many attractions for day visitors, and a direct train service would be most attractive for these customers.
Large scale music festivals and religious events also take place, outside of the main holiday season and cause local chaos as large numbers drive to these events.
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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 is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
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« Reply #295 on: November 21, 2019, 10:34:14 am »

Is it totally off the wall to imagine public funding of a separate single line into Taunton station from Norton which would then be dedicated to a WSR-run year-long peak period service from Minehead dovetailing with traditional heritage operations?

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Witham Bobby
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« Reply #296 on: November 21, 2019, 01:02:50 pm »

With todays concerns about the environmental costs of road transport, I believe that rail transport to the Butlins holiday park at Minehead should be re examined.

Through trains from the national network to Minehead have run previously for this purpose, but were not a great success and not repeated. The problem being that Minehead station is not within walking distance of Butlins, at least not for those with luggage and children.
In my view, what is needed is a new "Butlins station" situated on a new loop from the WSR. This would require about a miles of new single track, two sets of points and protecting signals.
Holiday special trains could terminate at/start from this new station. In the present car park.

Whilst the costs of this would clearly be substantial, public money could reasonably part fund it in view of the reduced pollution and traffic congestion resulting.
The holiday camp also offers many attractions for day visitors, and a direct train service would be most attractive for these customers.
Large scale music festivals and religious events also take place, outside of the main holiday season and cause local chaos as large numbers drive to these events.

I did think that a simple platform out at Alcombe, where the WSR Dunster to Minehead section passes close to the rear of Butlin's establishment could fulfill this purpose, back in the very earliest days of the project.  To the east of the railway lies the Butlin's moat, and beyond that, the camp itself.

Maybe not quite as convenient as the on-site station you're suggesting, but not a bad second-best and way closer than the branch terminus.

The ground conditions in that area would need careful evaluation prior to building anything.  It's very low-lying and wet.
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Witham Bobby
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« Reply #297 on: November 21, 2019, 01:08:48 pm »

Is it totally off the wall to imagine public funding of a separate single line into Taunton station from Norton which would then be dedicated to a WSR-run year-long peak period service from Minehead dovetailing with traditional heritage operations?



That was the original plan, back in 1976.  Except the "public", in the form of BR(WR) West of England Divisional Management wouldn't have a bar of it.  They had, trickily, got the branch shut.  The last thing they wanted was a successful independently run WSR.  Hence the exorbitant fee they demanded for the use of the former Up Relief line and the Bay Platform at the country end of Taunton's Up Relief platform.  Add in a few bob for the cost of operating Silk Mill Signalbox and level crossing, and the cost of approving the rolling stock and ongoing maintenance, and you have the recipe for causing the still-birth of the branch line's revival.
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« Reply #298 on: November 21, 2019, 03:09:46 pm »

I lose sight of what 'huge' means these days.

You are not alone. Simply counting the zeros in a cost doesn't really convey the full bigness of the expense. I came over all philosophical  after reading your comment, and came to the conclusion that money is simply an abstract concept to describe time. Steel rails come from the time spent digging the iron ore, smelting, rolling, laying it on sleepers that have taken time, not money, to produce - hopefully you follow the drift.  WSR has lots of volunteers who donate time. I suppose we could simply measure things in terms of time, to describe the cost of a hole in the London ground in terms of the hours a person took to make it happen, but we would soon end up losing sight of that too.

A better alternative in these days of inflation may be to borrow the Indian crore, so moving the decimal point slightly to the right in big numbers.
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« Reply #299 on: November 21, 2019, 03:28:20 pm »

... I came over all philosophical  after reading your comment, and came to the conclusion that money is simply an abstract concept to describe time. Steel rails come from the time spent digging the iron ore, smelting, rolling, laying it on sleepers that have taken time, not money, to produce - hopefully you follow the drift.  WSR has lots of volunteers who donate time. I suppose we could simply measure things in terms of time, to describe the cost of a hole in the London ground in terms of the hours a person took to make it happen, but we would soon end up losing sight of that too.

That sounds like a labour theory of value, doesn't it? I think some bloke already came up with that.
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