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FR & WHR & WHHR News

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by AndrewT, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. Enterprise

    Enterprise Part of the furniture

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    Not just older people. For 40 or so years, I and my wife have used heritage railways, including the FR and WHR, as aids to walks and cycle rides. Most recently, last autumn, we used the GWSR, and the NYMR despite the inflexibility of their ticketing system and the associated increased cost.
     
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  2. meeee

    meeee Member

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    Porthmadog and the area around it is a popular tourist town with or without the railway. So I think it would be fair to say it isn't just special to railway nuts.

    Most preserved railways don't exactly run though a some sort of urban metropolis with art galleries, museums, theme parks and Michelin star restaurants at every stop. The Ravenglass and Eskdale is an incredibly sucessful preserved railway but it runs from just outside the middle of nowhere to the exact centre of it. The Cumbres and Toltec starts in a one horse town where the horse bolted years ago. Yet it is the kind of once in the lifetime experience that people will happily pay over $100 to go on.

    What sort of attractions are people expecting at to find at intermediate stations? The WHR and FR are both stunningly beautiful train rides. My partner who has no interest railways described it as a fairy tale. That is the thing you are trying to sell and that is what will make you your money. Things like petting zoos, miniature railways, or a museum of tin advertising signs are great if your journey is a bit pants. But if your journey is your asset do you really want to be investing in distractions from it?

    Tim
     
  3. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    That depends on the target audience's willingness to just sit back and enjoy the ride and view. At the right price, a WHR trip would give somewhere to go at the end of the line for me to take the family before the return trip; the Ffestiniog, less so. And, when it comes to pre-booking, that opens up the issue of why people will travel - where a dependency on pre-booked tickets makes just using the train to go for a walk less practical.
     
  4. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Slightly ham-fisted wording on my part. Keeping in mind I'm driving at what is likely to attract more tourists (i.e. bums on seats), my point was more that, F&WHR aside (unless something's changed big-time since I was last round that way), there's honestly little to differentiate the town's facilities from, say, Barmouth or Pwllheli.

    Perhaps you recall a post of mine, lamenting the lack of services originating at Blaenau Ffestiniog and speculating on the reasons for that? This latest is in similar vein, and please don't take this as having a pop at the F&WHR, as the same considerations apply to many heritage lines, most especially with regard to intermediate stations and halts ... and covid has just added to already existing challenges.

    On the 'big railway', passenger footfall is recorded and publicly available. I doubt I'm going out on too much of a limb here, but would I be correct in suspecting 90% of F&WHR traffic originates at Porthmadog or Caernarfon? The last two years have been anything but typical (Thank Bob!), but even before the lurgi struck, what was footfall at any or the intermediate stations?

    No-one (in their right mind, at any rate), expects Dduallt or Tryfan Jnc to feature on any busiest station list, but Minffordd is effectively the station for Port Meirion. Rhydd Ddu originally carried NWNG hopes for those heading for Snowdon, Beddgelert is the local honey-pot and others are close by campsites and caravan parks. How to tap any markets there? Timetables are (understandably and unapologetically) designed around optimum traffic flows from Porthmadog and Caernarfon, but does that perhaps overlook other potential traffic flows? Honestly, I don't know, but harbour a suspicion there's an expectation, perhaps born of experience, that customers will invariably use their cars to get to main stations.

    Away from Porthmadog and Caernarfon, the only times I've been aware of much traffic originating has been when a rail tour rocks up at Blaenau, or some station on the line is a coach party destination (specifically thinking of Beddgelert here). Dinas (Llanwnda) seems gratifyingly busy during special events, but away from those, how often are two platforms needed? Without benefit of an MPD to entice even occasional visitors, ditto Tan-y-Grisiau, which is only (and too infrequently) somewhere to cross trains.

    What I'm emphatically NOT seeking to do is suggest this, or that additional service on a 'suck it and see' basis. What seems needed goes well beyond the remit any of the wonderful lines in Gwynedd and that's some serious market research, followed up with publicity and marketing based on the conclusions of that research. ie.e some joined-up thinking.

    Obviously, much depends on interests beyond the station entrances, but rightly or wrongly, it often appears the F&WHR is shouldering far more than it's share of publicising the area.

    I should say that if it can be shown my view is wide of the mark and I've missed some major traffic sources, any objective correction will make no-one happier than me!
     
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  5. NGChrisW

    NGChrisW New Member

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    As both an enthusiast and somebody who regularly combined "short journey" use of the FR with walking I'd clearly prefer a return to "normal service" but I recognise that the "packaged" approach has appeal to a lot of people. Indeed I have used it a couple of times over the last two years and enjoyed it as the only way of managing to travel on the FR/WHR. Certainly much better than the alternative.
    Two of my own concerns are not therefore so much with the ethos of the "packaged" approach itself, but with the associated uncertainty around how many trains might actually be operating on a specific day and the potential impact this has.

    If for example you want to book the Woodland Wanderer at present for April, May, June you will find yourself presented with the 10:55 being the first departure of the day, which isn't exactly early. So you may well need to kick your heels in Porthmadog until then and by the time that train gets you back to Port it has effectively used up the middle part of your day with little time to do much either beforehand or afterwards. The reality however is that if there is sufficient demand there could actually be one or two trains running before that "first departure" which might have been a much better option. So do you risk not booking early in the hope that better timing options present themselves subsequently?

    The second concern is more around the inability to deal with "on the day" demand. Putting the WHR to one side, lets say mum and dad + kids (or anybody really) wakes up, draws the curtains of their holiday accommodation and finds that the Welsh weather is not exactly conducive to walking or visiting the beach (I'm led to believe it does rain in Wales occasionally......)
    They have heard of the FR or may have visited previously and so a train ride sounds like an excellent alternative. So they meander down to Porthmadog station, only to be told, "sorry, we are only running x number of trains rather than 5 today and they are all fully booked. If you check on our website you may be able to book something next week".
    Exit disappointed punters and their associated revenue. Even if there is a chance an extra service may be run, chances are they won't want to hang around for it.
    Hopefully, on their way out they might pick up a leaflet for the Talyllyn where they can see exactly what trains are running when, are able to buy an Explorer ticket on the day and they can hop on and off trains as they wish.

    I really hope that a compromise solution can be found, and quickly. A large proportion of the standard gauge operations successfully moved to a "mixed" model last year, as indeed did several other welsh NG lines, so whilst I recognise that every line is slightly different, it clearly isn't an insurmountable problem. What is potentially more of an insurmountable problem however is if the lack of guaranteed turns for volunteer crews starts putting them off and you suddenly find that you can't actually run your optimum number of revenue earning trains, an issue I believe which is already rearing its head.

    On a different topic, I'd have thought details of "The Friends of the Ffestiniog” event at the end of April would have at least have had a mention on the FR website by now. It doesn't even appear on the events page yet. I'm sure some of us would quite like to be able to start planning for that, particularly if we still have to book trains or packages in advance!

    Chris
     
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  6. pgbffest

    pgbffest New Member

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    This is probably where the insider knowledge helps. Generally there are four compartments which aren't available for booking as the system will show "24 +4", the four are the excess which are available to be booked up on the day. The term "advance booking" can mean up to a few minutes before departure if required and there's no harm in that. Now, yes, from time to time you will find a train full and you'll have to wait for the next one (or be presented with another option).

    The releasing of the 1055 / 1355 is based on looking at the way trains loaded last year and it was discovered that these trains went first and were normally the best loaded. The 1245 is the next train to be released and is certainly available for the Easter Week from the Good Friday. Looking at the bookings for the week I suspect that the 0945 will be opened up sooner rather than later.

    The other thing is that the larger trains are being sold on a 4 + 2 basis. Now, I don't know the details behind this bit, but the bays are being sold in bays of 4, bays of 2 or bays of 6 based on how many people are in your group. If you're in a bay of 4, but there's only two of you, you may well find people on the 2 seat side on the opposite side of the coach.

    Remember, that the Company is still learning how to operate to a new method (which again is slightly different from last year) and it'll take time to adapt. The way things are at the minute, you can probably wait a while before you start to book your trip as loadings are slow - probably due to a variety of reasons - fuel being one!
     
  7. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I see from this that the single passenger supplement is still
    in force. I fully understand the economics, especially under pandemic conditions, but it is yet another deterrent to travel - it was part of my not travelling last year. It is also ethically dubious as has been an issue for travel firms for decades.

    You also mention inside knowledge. That’s fine, and were I in the area I might use it. But my experience is that holiday trip planning is often a night before activity - meaning that I’ll never even turn up to the door if the website says fully booked.


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  8. Paul.Uni

    Paul.Uni Well-Known Member

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    You might want to look at the ticket site.

    Eg The 1055 Woodland Wanderer on 9th April:
    *compartment for 2 £50
    *additional adults £25
    *additional children £1
    *solo adult £25

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  9. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Thank you for clarifying, and I’m delighted to see it. Now all I need is to arrange to be in the area!


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  10. 5944

    5944 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I think I've managed to persuade the wife that our summer holiday this year should be in Snowdonia. She's drawn the line at staying in an apartment that overlooks the buffer stops at Porthmadog though!
     
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  11. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Mine has a once a decade tolerance for N Wales. Max.


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  12. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

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    Stayed on South Snowdon Wharf last year and Domestic Facilities management is considering it for next year.............

    She's no train fan either but enjoyed the FR & WHR as well as the Snowdon Mountain Railway
     
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  13. Steve B

    Steve B Well-Known Member

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  14. pgbffest

    pgbffest New Member

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    From memory, the booking system will show "ring for availability" under certain conditions which will guide people to ask.
     
  15. goldfish

    goldfish Resident of Nat Pres

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  16. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    Landmark Trust properties are always expensive, I'm afraid. I guess they have to be - the Trust's purpose is to restore old buildings which have fallen into disrepair, and they need to bring in money for their ongoing maintenance. That said, they tend to get booked up well in advance, so there is obviously a market for them.

    (I have had the pleasure of staying in a couple, at my parents' expense...I can confirm they are very nice! )

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  17. NeilL

    NeilL Well-Known Member

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  18. RedDragonofLondon

    RedDragonofLondon New Member

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    I've got to say, after attending a full and frank talk with Paul Lewin about the issues facing the railway, the way they are operating now is disappointing but very understandble. Frankly, given the issues involved, railways are either going to have to radically overhaul the way they run, or they will go the way of the Llangollen or worse.
     
  19. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    What is "the way of Llangollen? As far as I understand it, their engineering company went under for engineering reasons.
     
  20. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    ...and dragged down the rest of the company with it.
     

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