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GWSR - Cheltenham Spa and possible extensions

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by JMJR1000, May 11, 2012.

  1. Stuart666

    Stuart666 New Member

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    Please dont misunderstand me, I can entirely understand why the GWR want to do it that way, it must bring in a tidy sum and there will I think ALWAYS be a call for such a service. But one of your own members made the point about HSTs running over the line from Honeybourne, which would be part of a Racecourse service bringing in people from London and elsewhere. its hard to see the GWR making much money out of such a thing should it come to pass. If actually bringing in trains from the national network is the ultimate aim, rather than just a connection TO the national network, a link in the south has more to offer particularly in view of the number of decent connections you can get to from Cheltenham, ie London and Birmingham.

    Not saying thats what WILL happen. Indeed trained drivers would remain a likely problem, as is the not inconsiderable problem of creating a new connection. But I dont see a connection in the south could stop a heritage service running from the North.
     
  2. Stuart666

    Stuart666 New Member

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    Well thats a highly convincing argument. Care to expand a little upon that?

    If someone 20 years ago had suggested that at the Bluebell a connection to the national network and running limited through services was viable, presumably you would have said the same thing? Or the North Norfolk Railway 15 years ago? Or Swanage 30 years ago? What about the North Yorkshire Moors railway? Minehead? For your argument to be valid, it would have to not happen elsewhere, and demonstrably it has. Not a regular service, but that's not what I advocate anyway. You really think Vintage trains would shy away from running through to Cheltenham?

    When you consider most of these lines were lost as part of (or as an ultimate result of) the Beeching report, and that their existence is nothing short of a miracle anyway, you can argue the whole subject of railway preservation is fantasy island. It didn't stop it happening because somebody could see the validity of it. It also doesnt mean that considering the continued future of the subject is a waste of time.

    Of course Broadway has to be the objective, as is Honeybourne. These are solid objectives and of course ought to be worked on first. My argument is, its worth considering WHAT that means after that point if Stratford on Avon IS linked back to the national network by Network rail. Because you can bet your bottom dollar that someone will be running railtours over it, even if the GWR wants to play no part in it.

    Just my view FWIW.
     
  3. Stuart666

    Stuart666 New Member

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    Possibly the wrong thread to put it in, but there is an interesting computer animation of the envisaged plan to link up Stratford on Avon with the the missing 6 miles of track to Honeybourne.


    There is also a couple of reports (including one from Stratford on Avon Council I saw last time I looked) on the Shakespere line promotion website.
    http://www.shakespeareline.com/notices.htm

    The configuration chosen looks good for railtours. I had a feeling they might cover with a covered cutting making smoke a potential problem.
     
  4. quarterjack

    quarterjack New Member

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    Having re-read this thread from the start (it took a few days!) there are some very interesting points being made over what might happen in the future. To recap: It is a certainty that Broadway will be reached in a few years' time; Honeybourne probably will be reached in about 10-15 years' time and it is highly desirable to do so for reasons already given. Extension through Cheltenham proper cannot be achieved without substantial external funding and this funding's business case may well be linked to a reopening of Stratford-Honeybourne by NR. I would conclude that NR might consider opening the latter line only but the real challenge (for the GWSR) would be if NR could only consider it if it was part of an overall plan to re-open the entire line to through traffic which, I think, imply new track, signalling etc and no room for 'heritage' activities, unless it was along the lines (excuse the pun) of Quainton Road. Yes we can, on this forum, contemplate any number of scenarios (including complete relocation to another disused railway) but the preservation movement and NR are in new territory if it was deemed necessary to completely reopen a through route already partially occupied by a established heritage railway company. Despite the current economic conditions, investment in infrastructure projects is considered a priority and very soon, NR and the preservation movement are going to go toe-to-toe and the outcome will set the precedent. If a heritage railway is made to vacate, will it be by compensation and a fixed exit date or will they have a new (old) stretch of disused railway compulsorily bought for them and assistance provided with relocation/rebuilding costs? There probably is no template, at least not one that NR is willing to make public yet. Doesn't make them bad people. At least they want to expand the network, unlike BR, even if neither organisations are/were masters of their own destiny i.e. funding.

    I could start a new thread along this train of thought (sorry about another pun) e.g. Mid-Hants moved to Knowle-West Meon to allow Alton-Winchester to be reopened throughout and I might do so when I've got an idle moment - perhaps not as I think people would get upset at such speculation and starting thinking that (not for the first time here) people were formulating official policy!

    Anyway, start looking around to see who will be in the vanguard. The whole movement will take an interest, I'm sure, but some former through routes - such as the GWSR - will be watching every move. I hate to pick on a railway but my money is on the first one being....Isfield. Over to you.
     
  5. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Member

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    Worth a new thread I think but what would be to stop NR owning up to a boundary on each side and the mainline TOC operating over the preserved railway's track with permission (assuming diesel traction and lower line speed limit etc)? Why would NR have to own throughout?
     
  6. Stuart666

    Stuart666 New Member

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    My own view is that it would be easy and it would be very difficult.

    It would be very difficult to run modern diesel traffic over a heritage line whilst heritage traffic is in operation. They both use different signalling for starters, and you would have to ensure signallers remain qualified to a present NR level, long after NR abandon mechanical signal boxes. Not going to be an issue now to expect a freight loco driver to understand mechanical signalling, but future generations is going to require a lot of training that might otherwise be unnecessary.

    That said, as far as freight traffic is concerned (travelling at night), Im not sure there is such a problem. With envisaged future signalling moving away from any signalling outside the cab at all, its not that hard to imagine installing signal masts near a railway line, but not so near its going to interfere with its heritage operation. And even in BR/W days, it was not unknown to lock signal boxes out of use. Assuming you disabled ALL the heritage signalling overnight and told the driver to ignore any signals at halt other than in his cab, there is clearly a work around here.

    Sharing the line with heritage operations would be rather more difficult I would think. Im not sure how you would integrate a modern passenger operation with a heritage one, particularly as in no small part you are stealing the trade they need for their survival. Unless you pay heritage price tickets, at which point any passenger operation is going to be priced out the market.

    Its probably right, it warrants a seperate thread, and Im sure there are a lot of technical issues to discuss. But as far as the GWR is concerned, I can see the advantages of it returning as an alternate freight route, and for the occasional railtour (not least because both would provide money to the GWR in hours when they might not be operating).

    I can entirely understand the GWR not wanting to discuss any potential for this until they get to Honeybourne though. You only have to look at the planning documents for Broadway to see its clear they dont want discussion over the future of the Stratford-Honeybourne connection getting dragged into Broadway planning permission, and I guess I cant blame them.
     
  7. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

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    If the Govt/NR ever conclude that re-instatement of Stratford-Cheltenham (unlikely through the town at the southern end and more likely to a new connection north of Cheltenham) is in the National Interest, then Compulsory Purchase powers would be used - there won't be any fannying around trying to find them an alternative location.

    GWSR Shareholders might receive an unexpected bonus.
     
  8. quarterjack

    quarterjack New Member

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    I think you've largely answered the question Stuart: I simply cannot see NR investing a large sum of money at either end to be only capable of running at low speeds over rented track in the middle, at night, even if the 'boxs could be switched out. If NR want the route I'm thinking they will want full access 24/7 to justify the outlay. Look at any piece of NR's modern infrastructure. Sanitised, welded rail, modern signalling, high line speeds and so on. Even the more remote single track routes in Wales and Scotland have long had radio signalling and more modern systems are on the way. I know I'm sounding like a doom mongerer here - and I really don't mean to be - but I do think that the 21st century national network and the TOCs don't mind rubbing shoulders with heritage railways at such places as Paignton or Alton but operating regular passenger and freight 'through' services is a completely different ball game and a whole set of economic forces come to bear. If the TOCs out there want the paths and their business cases stack up then NR is under remit to accommodate them as best it can. The scenario of readmitting through access to the national network when a resident heritage railway is already part-using the route is going to come to reality at some point (sorry, another pun not intended), not necessarily in Warwickshire or Gloucestershire, and the heritage movement should be ready to react in a constructive manner. Over to you David Morgan?
     
  9. Corbs

    Corbs Member

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    Such a thing may end up with the 'ousted' railway consolidating with another, or moving to a site not previously available, which could in itself offer more opportunities....
     
  10. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

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    Or the shareholders just taking the money
     
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  11. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Were I a betting man, I'd maybe put a tenner or so on Isfield being the first line to be put in that position.

    Now, if they were offered an equivalent length of line in the general vicinity of Barcombe bought up to running standard as an incentive to move, with a connection and cross-platform interchange at Culver Junction (renamed "Lewes Parkway"...) then things could get very interesting :)

    Tom
     
  12. John Petley

    John Petley Well-Known Member

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    Indeed, Tom. Reopening the Uckfield-Lewes line is an idea that won't go away. Mind you, given that the Wealden Line campaign http://wealdenline.co.uk/ has been going for 27 years without achieving this goal, I don't think it's a dilemma that the Lavender Line will have to face any time soon.
     
  13. 1472

    1472 Well-Known Member

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    But really consolidation and further improvement of existing sound schemes would probably be preferable for numerous reasons already aired at length on this forum.
     
  14. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Dragging up a reasonably old thread I know, but seeing as it's been mentioned here, particularly "And in the longer term ... may be even an extension south towards Cheltenham" interested me. It's now looking more likely that once we get up and running at Broadway and have a consolidation period, we will once again be looking south going further into Cheltenham, as opposed to continuing north to Honeybourne. Given that many people have written a mainline connection that end off, I'm struggling to work out the advantages of extending south. We won't be able to extend much further, not of any significance in getting towards the town centre (not even as far as Cheltenham High Street Halt (which was never particularly close to the high street in any case)) All we'd be doing is getting closer to the higher likelihood of vandalism. As it is stock in Hunting Butts has been burnt out. The only advantage I can see is that we don't actually own the car park at CRC. On the other hand the extension to Honeybourne mainline is not going to be cheap either, and it is probable that if this was opened this section would only be used on special events or to accept incoming rail-tours.
     
  15. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    I'm not hugely well up on the GWSR so don't know the ins and outs of either but, if your last sentence is on the mark, it would surely only be an option if there was a benefactor prepared to fund the lot for the sake of doing so. I can't see the logic otherwise, unless you tell me that extending to Honeybourne is only going to incur minimal costs. i.e., the formation is good and immediately serviceable and the track is to hand with many willing hands waiting to stick it down and then maintain it.
     
  16. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    That it is most definitely not! I saw a laughable suggestion of £750,000 on an old GWSR news article a while ago, this is millions of pounds off the mark! There are two positives for going to Honeybourne - mainline connection and the fact that passive provision has been made, and apparently it will be good for tourism (not that I'd ever heard of Honeybourne not in the context of the railway!). Extending part way to Honeybourne will have no benefits as far as I can see. Extending all the way to Cheltenham also has similar benefits, although it is a shorter distance and probably a better aim IMO, bigger centre etc. (if going either way were equally possible).

    So far the only reason I've heard for extending towards Cheltenham is that the car park at CRC can't be relied upon for ever (but if we go south - where would you put a car park?) Perhaps the initial extension up to where we own the trackbed is only the beginnings of a more forceful attempt to really get into Cheltenham proper - who knows!!! Obviously there is the "Millennium bridge" that will have to be rebuilt, but although difficult, it is technically feasible (I vaguely remember a figure of £3million, although that could be completely wrong). Another thought that has just popped in is that we might be going south to meet the council coming the other way - suggestions have the sort do keep appearing now and then, if we were a little closer perhaps might become more of a reality. If the council were to help in making it proper public transport that would certainly help.

    An interesting comparison would be to look at the cost of extending to Honeybourne including bridges, formation, track etc, vs that to Cheltenham. It looks like Honeybourne is going on the back burner for now at any rate, which in some ways is a shame, but in others, probably practical. Paul Hitch will be extremely pleased to learn that after our Broadway extension, I'm going to be sceptical about the merits of any future extensions.


    I hasten to add all this is supposition on my part, nothing official or anything like that. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2015
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  17. JMJR1000

    JMJR1000 Member

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    I can't help but chuckle at the sense of irony these recent comments have, since when I starting this thread, opinion was very much against the idea of going south over heading northwards, with even suggestions that going into Cheltenham would be as costly if not more so then going all the way to Honeybourne!

    Now it would appear however that the Cheltenham direction has become more favourable... funny how things can change over a few years huh?

    In all seriousness though, I'm very fond of the GWSR and as such will be more then happy to see it expand ever further. Whether it be north or south, will have to see, though I'd say there's equal merits to either directions. I would however note a thought of caution that as the railway has said many times, it is best to consolidate first once Broadway is reached, then thoughts can turns to further extensions.
     
  18. JMJR1000

    JMJR1000 Member

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    Oh and on a side enquiry, why have I been hearing people reference Paul Hitch in an almost infamous regard once in a comment or so?

    Been hearing his name mentioned a fair few times now...
     
  19. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Paul Hitch has displayed some, well, perhaps puritan views on steam railways on this forum I think is best to put it...

    It is indeed ironic the preference has changed towards Cheltenham. When I first joined the railway o was told Honeybourne by 2020! Although I didn't believe that even then. As you say, a period of consolidation will be needed after Broadwayat least everyone agrees on that. Who knows, after that favour might have swung back to Honeybourne.
     
  20. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Yes, cast the spell and the demon king appears! It is good to be broadly in agreement with Flying Scotsman 123 for once. Broadway is a very logical place, as a tourist attraction, for a tourist railway to terminate, unlike Honeybourne. It leaves the GWSR rather longer IMHO than is desirable for such a line but there we are.

    My thoughts on steam railways are not really puritan at all. Just be commercially aware and realise it is a very different business than one providing a public transport service. Quite a few heritage railways carry the occasional local passenger which is not the same as warranting a local transport service.

    PH
     
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