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FR/WHR questions

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by lynton&barnstaple, Aug 26, 2012.

  1. lynton&barnstaple

    lynton&barnstaple New Member

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    Many of us who have supported the FR/WHR for more years than we care to remember are always hungry for hard news and real explanations. This is not usually the PR handouts that are more usual. For many of us, activities at Boston Lodge are paramount. Without question, the Barrie Hughes website is probably visited every day by many of us but although excellent, some things remain a mystery.

    Here there are folks who are intimately in the know and hopefully they will have the time to be able to answer some of these questions.

    So I understand that 138 will be out soon. It seems that both 87 and 143 are clanking badly. While this year will have poor traffic figures, one wonders how much better they will be next year. I do not understand why a third rake of coaches is needed at present. Can anyone explain this?
     
  2. RalphW

    RalphW Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Friend

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    I find this very odd, firstly you make a statement, 'This year will have poor traffic figures', will it? OK we are in August but you seem to be willing it to be a poor year. Then you wonder, 'how much better will next year be'. I cannot see how anyone without a crystal ball can answer that.
    Are you setting out to pose unanswerable questions for some ulterior reason?
     
  3. lynton&barnstaple

    lynton&barnstaple New Member

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    Perhaps I was not too clear. As I understand it, traffic has been depressed this year. I would have thought that whatever happens in August, the final tally will disappoint. I hope I am wrong but one press release did state that lower figures are expected this year anyway. The point I was trying to make is that it would appear that the current two train main timetable is likely to satisfy traffic needs.

    With regards to next year, I suspect that the depression will not help matters and austerity is likely to continue for some time. I hope I am wrong. I wonder whether a third rake is needed considering that motive power is 'on the edge' for availability to run two trains.

    What is the third rake for? While the weather and future traffic cannot be seen in a crystal ball, I assume that forward planning has taken place. If a third rake is seriously an option, what motive power is planned (including a standby)?
     
  4. Baldwin

    Baldwin Guest

    ....talking about the depression, if i remember correctly in a discussion on here about the WHR it was seen as positive, simply because there would be less holidaymakers going abroad, more for the 'home' market ! I have mentioned before that one of the problems with the WHR is it's fares, (i know it competes favourably with a first class London to Glasgow LOL), the fact is people don't have the money anymore, even just simply to go to north Wales is out of the question. Apart from the economic climat there is also the price of fuel, plus the weather, forever and forever worse, no, to go on the WHR now is a luxury for those who can afford it. ...and if it goes down to two trains ....?
     
  5. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    If we listened too long to to the Jeremiahs of this world, railway preservation would truly be doomed. My visit to the Ffestiniog Rly a few weeks ago indicated a decent enough season at least on that line; seats going down from Blaenau in the afternoon were hard to find. Coming back was easier but on the last train of the day and going to Blaenau which probably doesn't have as many people staying there, that was to be expected.

    I plan to visit the Welsh Highland line next weekend, and look forward to busy trains!
     
  6. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member

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    A third rake of coaches probably isn't needed at present and will take several years to complete at the present rate of output. Same with the extra locomotives needed, both steam and diesel. But if they don't start building them now they won't have the ability to respond, with a more intensive or flexible timetable, if and when traffic does show signs of picking up.
     
  7. RalphW

    RalphW Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Friend

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    Thanks L&B clarification has cleared that up..
     
  8. mickpop

    mickpop Part of the furniture

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    The tourist market in North Wales contains a number of distinct groups dependent, partly, on the time of year. I have had no difficulty filling two holiday cottages for the whole of the school summer holiday period, same goes for Easter and the mid-term breaks. These are mainly family groups who will dip into a variety of activities - beach, walking, railways, 'outdoor activities' etc. After this year's weather I wonder if some will return next year! The problem for all tourism businesses in the area is making money outside these periods - there is no more depressing experience than being in Blaneau Ffestiniog on a wet Tuesday in November!

    Outside these periods the clientele is mainly couples of all ages - mostly older, retired ones during the week for obvious reasons. There are some larger groups but they mainly come for specific activities such as climbing, walking and fishing. There are some 'short break' customers but mostly weekend visitors are day trippers. Some of these may have a specific interest in the 'little trains' but by this stage you will have filtered out quite a significant proportion of the limited visitor numbers. Those interested in the railways have also to take into account the limited timetables run out of the peak season and these usually discourage mid week visitors. The shorter daylight hours also have an effect on activities available -its too dark to see very much after about 3-30pm November to February so running a train on the WHR after about 2-30pm during that period would not be too attractive if covering the whole line.

    As I have said on another thread which was locked since it turned nasty, and as another contributor on this thread has mentioned, price is also a significant factor. I would just throw in here the fact that accommodation providers in the area charge different rates according to season to attract 'off season'. visitors. The railways, I think, keep the same fares all year round - room for thought there perhaps? More shorter journeys might be attractive when considering price and duration of available services. We took three grandchildren to the area last week but decided against a trip on either railway mainly due to the cost and the likely span of attention of the kids. In the past we have done shorter trips to Tan y Bwlch. Many of the camping and caravan accommodated tourists are doing the economy holiday for obvious reasons and are not going to fork out a sizeable sum for one train trip. Having said that the trains on both railways seemed quite full last week but the question is whether enough income is generated in this peak season to make up for lower numbers for the rest of the year?

    So my conclusion is that the railways maybe need to consider their pricing and timetables to generate more traffic outside the peak holiday season.
     
  9. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member

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    Good idea about seasonal pricing - do any other railways do this or is one price all year the norm for heritage railways? Shorter journeys are always an option on the WHR, especially for walkers, but timetable flexibility is difficult if you don't have enough locos & coaches to run extra services.
     
  10. Baldwin

    Baldwin Guest

    I would of thought that seasonal pricing would be the norm just as the holiday market varies it's pricing due to the time of year ?
     
  11. John Stewart

    John Stewart Well-Known Member

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    In relation to seasonal pricing, there may be the slight risk that such a move would reawaken the Treasury's old attempt to make heritage railways subject to VAT on the basis that they are providing a pleasure trip and not a travel facility. This was beaten off in the past, one of the factors being the number of people who ride the "big railway" for pleasure but it is something to watch.

    As for motive power, one matter that one would not expect to see on the railway's own website for reasons of diplomacy is that, by now, it was probably expecting to have the services of another large Garratt that is still languishing at Crewe. If dependence on these locomotives is regarded as the staple, then they need three in working order (save for minor mishaps) and one under overhaul. There now seems more urgency to get No. 134 working; I have the impression that it is no longer looked on as a hospital job. It promises power almost up to Garratt levels but I wonder if it will have enough adhesion for the 1 in 40 climbs in the usual weather of North Wales!
     
  12. Steve B

    Steve B Member

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    It seems that most railways keep their fares the same throughout the year, but reduce the service on off-peak days thereby managing costs and demand that way.

    There is always something of a balancing act come compromise involved in these things - raise prices too high and people won't travel (or maybe once but not feel it's worth going again), too low and if the demand isn't there not covering costs (not just running, but maintenance), or perhaps lowering prices and having too much demand that you can't accommodate them - if you have to turn people away, or squash them in, then again people won't return. I occasionally tolerate having to stand on an overcrowded 158 from Shrewsbury to Birmingham - I don't have much of a choice there - but I wouldn't choose to travel for fun from Caernarfon to Porthmadog like that (and my wife certainly wouldn't!).

    With the F&WHR, adding extra short services could well cause more problems than it's worth. Having a shuttle service between Port and Beddgelert could take custom away from the through services and reduce their viability. At the moment it is possible to do short journeys - and people do - adding additional services is not going to happen without more stock and locos(?) and may just increase costs without increasing income. But, as I've said before elsewhere, the folk who actually have to make these decisions know far more about it than most of us do, and they have to live with the results.

    As far as taking young children for such trips - well as a former resident of Gwynedd at a time when we had small children, I would not have dreamt of subjecting myself to such torture as to taking them the full length of the FR. The Llanberis Lake Railway was much more manageable! As for the WHR, well in those days it was still a dream, so we contented ourselves to walking through the tunnels in pitch darkness (DON'T TRY IT NOW!!!) and the boys enjoyed that more than any train ride!

    Steve B
     
  13. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    I wonder whether we are assuming financial difficulties that may not exist. It may well be that the trains are running comfortably full, and if so let's leave well alone. As has been pointed out, the railways' own people know better than we do what "works" as regards fares,and that being the case they don't need our guidance as to how they should run their business.

    Wet weather may put people off coming back to the area next year, but in the short term visitors who can't go to the beach for the day will look for attractions such as steam railways, and life on the railway can get very busy in bad weather. That is certainly my experience in Cornwall as a volunteer trainee booking clerk.

    Not that I wish wet weather on holidaymakers!
     
  14. lynton&barnstaple

    lynton&barnstaple New Member

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    The start of this thread did not suggest any guidance but was asking a question. I have certainly not assumed any financial difficulties either. I do however suspect that traffic will not significantly grow over the next few years due to the economy.

    With regards to poor weather, I must say that I for one, do not travel on the WHR in poor weather as I love to see the scenery!

    My understanding of the situation may be incorrect but it is this.

    To run two 10 coach trains, two heavy engines and one standby is required. A further heavy steam is assumed under servicing. The standby could of course be a diesel (if available) and another smaller steam (if available). This year looks bleak for that.


    That in my book requires just two rakes of coaches.


    Additional FR services to Beddgelert or South Snowdon, fine if the FR can afford the equipment.

    So if 134 comes into service and hopefully is able to deal with a 10 coach load, four engines are on line. I would not be surprised if 109 stays where she is for a long time because I understand her rebuild was dependent upon taxpayers money which no doubt will now not be forthcoming. This is only surmise because the official FR rep always replies that one is being rude if one dares to ask!
     
  15. Rbridge100

    Rbridge100 New Member

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    I was under the impression that the new coaches were more 'extra vehicles' which could be formed into a rake if needed. According to the Phase 5 website, some of them will replace the heritage vehicles currently in use on the FR.

    Of course, I defer to someone with inside knowledge.

    Jon
     
  16. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for reminding me of the Phase 5 site - I think this answers L&B's questions about F&WHR plans for both railways. It doesn't address what the economy might do in the next 2-3 years but is a longer-term plan. The time needed to achieve it may, obviously, be affected by economic considerations.

    See: Phase5 | PHASE 5 – LET

    It says up to four steam and two diesels will be needed for WHR services. It isn't specific about which steam locos but is very clear that two new diesels are`required, both for off-peak services and for standby. It also says ten new carriages are required but this is for both railways and, as Jon says, is partly to reduce the regular use of heritage coaches. A new set of carriages to FR loading gauge could, of course, be used on both railways as the traffic demands.
     
  17. Steve B

    Steve B Member

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    Picking up some of the earlier questions in this thread, yes the loco situation does seem to have been tight this year, but with the exception of the cancelled early morning service (due to a diesel failure) I've not heard of any great disasters. Yes, only two working NGG16s, but with a diesel standby. That has been better than when I last travelled on the WHR - then there was 1 NGG16, and the other train was handled by K1 and the Funkey. Next year I read that they are intending to have 3 NGG16s available, plus the Funkey, and possibly K1, and the NG15 is being worked on and will be ready when it is in the future. There are some standard gauge lines that would envy that position! It does seem that they have done well this year - I notice that the Loco Roster has had pretty much the same locos on the both the WHR and FR services most of the year. That is pretty good reliability. Not long now before the winter maintenance period starts!

    Steve B
     
  18. Steve B

    Steve B Member

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    Ho hum - having just posted the above I turned to Barrie Hughes's site to discover that 143 had to be replaced by Upnor Castle and Castell Caernarfon one day recently. It was repaired and back in service by the end of the day. It does demonstrate, though, that they are able to cope with unfortunate eventualities. I just wish I'd been there with my camera!

    Steve
     
  19. mickpop

    mickpop Part of the furniture

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    Apply that logic to those that ran the banks that nearly went bust - there is no reason to believe those that run a business know best how to run it profitably - although I am in no way saying this applies to WHR/FR management. Preserved railways have to be run as businesses, not as train sets for the enthusiast, and therefore need to attract clientele beyond railway enthusiasts. This means attracting customers outside peak holiday periods and maximising profits, not just being satisfied with covering costs but allowing for investment in new plant and covering unexpected disasters, for example the GWR landslip. After all some costs are fixed whether trains run or not. If I can let holiday accommodation for ten weeks in the off-peak period for £350 per week instead of the £600 in high season I have £3500 to reinvest in the property or on a railway trip abroad and it adds little to my fixed costs such as business rates, insurance, advertising. i am sure preserved railways can use extra revenue to fund loco repairs and purchases for example.

    People coming to North Wales out of the summer period are not coming for the beach and an £18 return fare Porthmadog to Beddgelert is not going to draw in too many customers. A more attractive fare , a BOGOF,advertised cleverly and booked in advance to allow some certainty in terms of expected passenger numbers for example, might bring in some customers who make the visit in a planned way to ride the train. [Hides behind the sofa waiting to be abused ]:behindsofa:
     
  20. lynton&barnstaple

    lynton&barnstaple New Member

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    Well, thanks for pointing me to the phase 5 as the ten coach shopping list now makes sense to me.

    Mickpop, I think it is a bit of a stretch to suggest that Paul Lewin and Co stand with the bankers!:peace:
     

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