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GWSR General Discussion and Operations

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by michaelh, Aug 25, 2013.

  1. jnc

    jnc Part of the furniture

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    One of the posters there wrote "given the current situation the ownership by the local council and lease by the Railway seems to be a good compromise that secures the future extension without unnecessarily risking the railway's financial survival", which was my thought exactly, given the circumstances (although RPL has decided they don't want the trackbed to Honeybourne, and want to give it to the QWSR - which would be absolutely fantastic - the DfT won't allow it - total 'bummer').

    The only potential fly in that particular ointment would be if the council gets the trackbed, but decides to do something else with it - but that seem to me to be low probability, the GWSR seems to get along with its council pretty well (see, e.g., the car park at Broadway). But one never knows for sure, with an independent political entity... (Although I can't think offhand of a heritage line that has been shafted by their local government, I have this vague memory I can't put my finger on of one - although I suppose things in Cheltenham sort of count).

    And I'm actually glad to see the GWSR 'management' being cautious; as several other lines have shown recently, being too aggressive (in extending the length of the line, for one) can put a line in real difficulties. The GWSR seems to have always maintained a good balance between growing the enterprise, but doing so safely and securely.

    Noel
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
  2. jnc

    jnc Part of the furniture

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    DfT may see an opportunity to offload the responsibility to the shoulders of some other part of government (civil servants probably don't trust private organizations as highly).

    Noel
     
  3. nigelss

    nigelss New Member

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    This new approach makes no sense to me. It should not be a surprise for me, given the completely useless bunch of lunatics currently running the asylum in my 'umble opinion. I would have thought that an existing heritage railway with an established operation, already maintaining a significant number of structures, can be trusted to take into account the costs associated with taking over additional assets before making the decision to do so. In all cases, all that should be required is evidence that a strategy to maintain the structures in an appropriate state (i.e. before and after restoration of service) exists, along with details of how the costs would be met over time.
     
  4. Breva

    Breva Part of the furniture

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    There are actually three counties involved. Most of the GWSR is in Gloucestershire, then there's a bit of a bulge with Broadway in it that is in Worcestershire, and somewhere north of that it briefly reverts to Gloucestershire (IIRC), back to Worcestershire for Honeybourne, and then - Warwickshire up to Stratford.
    Just hope that's clear :)

    The hot potato is the 8 or 9 bridges, mostly road over rail, some of which are so neglected they've had to be propped, despite the heavy lorry traffic allowed over them from industrial sites in the area. Two bridges are in good condition - Broadway bypass over the line, and the OWW bridge over the trackbed, both of which are relatively recent.
    The actual railway trackbed is fairly straightforward, with virtually no cuttings or embankments.
     
  5. Biermeister

    Biermeister New Member

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    I'm wondering whether it might now be easier to get something moving between Broadway and Honeybourne if Sustrans/RPL are out of the picture...
    Just about everything I've read suggests that Sustrans are difficult to work with. Let's hope that council ownership can eventuate followed by a lease to GWSR.
    Certainly GWSR management should now declare its interest as there doesn't seem to be any advantage gained by continuing to avoid the issue.
    Concerning road over rail bridges: are maintenance issues the responsibility of the railway? I would have thought that would lie with the relevant highway authority (but then again what would I know?)
     
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  6. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    That has never been the issue really as far as I can see. It's not the first time RPL have tried to offload responsibility of that land to us as far as I'm aware. They don't want it. The issues have always been whether we actually want to go to Honeybourne or not. My gut feeling is no, mainly because it's too long, and also because of the responsibility of the bridges, Stanton road is giving us enough headaches as it is. Certainly being responsible for bridges that aren't even part of the operational railway is not a lot of fun, and that would inevitably be the case for at least the next 10-20 years even if we did decide we want to go to Honeybourne.

    Operating a 20 mile heritage railway would not be easy. We'd need to run an extra train every day to maintain any kind of service frequency. 5 miles more track maintenance. And where does the extra revenue come from to balance that? I don't see it, there's nothing at Honeybourne other than a mainline connection, and I don't think that in itself is enough to pay its way.

    That said, I also agree with our stance that we should actively campaign to stop anything that might make a future extension more difficult. I don't know enough about the other options to consider whether owning the land plus bridges is the only/best way of doing that though.
     
  7. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    To play Devil's Advocate - in recent years ORR have been increasingly concerned about heritage railway operations and concerns over safety and maintenance. I can not help but wonder if the concerns about heritage railways being able to maintain bridges stems from that. (As I recall bridges were a concern on the WSR and the lack of bridge survey - happy to be corrected if wrong).

    Unrelated - has something happened in the Hayling Island region? This is a discussion about an extension and there have not been grim warnings about extensions and gricers. I am worried.
     
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  8. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Possibly, but the WSR bridges were rail over road bridges and here we're concerned mostly with road over rail bridges which is a rather different kettle of fish.
     
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  9. Breva

    Breva Part of the furniture

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  10. jnc

    jnc Part of the furniture

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    Yes, but... nobody has a perfect crystal ball, so a heritage line taking over a significant number of structures might run into trouble after unforseen events, and create a situation that might take some work to straighten out. From the DfT perspective, giving it to a local authority means the DfT can totally forget about it. And if the local authority wants to turn straight around and lease it to a heritage line, that'd be fine with almost everyone - there's still no chance of it winding up in DfT's lap. So I can kind of understand their position.
    Thanks for straightening me out! Now that you mention it, I recall when the track laying to Broadway crossed the county boundary...
    Maybe you meant to say 'because of the heavy lorry traffic allowed over them'? :)
    Hmm. Good points. It would be nice to connect up at Honeybourne, though, especially since NR was nice enough to arrange things there in the recent works so that it wouldn't be too hard to do. I wonder if being able to handle incoming specials from London to Cheltenham for the races (even if the passengers had to switch trains) would help make it pay?
    Thanks for pointing that out; things appear there so rarely (this is not a complaint) that I don't check it often. Is the GWSR going to have to pay for those repairs - especially since it seems that some of the damage may be down to work done by others? (This also relates to @Biermeister's question about if a relevant highway authority is responsible for road over rail bridges; the ones on the Honeybourne line should be in the same category as the Stanton one, I'm assuming?)

    Noel
     
  11. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    I've often thought the races angle has been overegged somewhat. It's just a few days a year, is it really worth it for that? It's not long before you run out of room to handle any more trains there in any case, we already send 3 down there on Gold Cup day, more than that becomes logistically difficult. It would be nice, but I'm minded to class it as WIBN! There's lots I'd rather do on the railway with £10-12 million than add an extra 5 miles of infrastructure draining even more money as the years go by. Just a personal view though. :)
     
  12. Breva

    Breva Part of the furniture

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    Now that you've seen the issues of the B4632 road over rail bridge in the latest blog, you can imagine the state of the road over rail bridges on the 4 1/2 miles to Honeybourne West Loop. They are of identical construction, built to serve 1904 needs and weights. In the area there are several rock quarries, a concrete works, a scrap yard and two industrial estates on former airfields served by 40 ton articulated lorries. AFAIK these bridges have had no maintenance on them since at least the closure date in 1976, and 3 (4?) are now propped to hold them up. That's a terrible indictment as to their condition.
     
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  13. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    If the bridges are currently the responsibility of RPL, and they have neither the will nor the means to maintain them, did someone else pay for the propping? Whoever did that must be tempted to finish the job by pouring a lot of concrete, as has infamously happened elsewhere recently, and that would make the already-weak case for re-opening to Honeybourne much weaker still. So it is to be hoped that some sort of deal can be put together.
     
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  14. John Petley

    John Petley Well-Known Member

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    It's a difficult call for the GWSR. From its inception, its objective was defined as (and still is, as far as I know) the reopening of as much as possible of the Stratford- Cheltenham line. It therefore makes sense from that point of view to try to ensure that the Broadway-Honeybourne formation doesn't deteriorate further - and indeed, if objections from DfT can be overcome, to acquire the trackbed - especially as the asking price may be fairly minimal. However, the case for extending a 15 mile line a further five miles to a northern terminus that doesn't actually have a great deal to offer as a destination in and of itself isn't compelling as things stand. How much would be gained by the main line connection? The Bluebell's East Grinstead extension gave a short term boost, but the increase to numbers, say five years after the extension was completed wasn't that massive. A closer parallel might be the Rother Valley Railway where the promoters clearly believe that there is a market for travelling from a Network Rail interchange serving a town of no great significance to a tourist hotspot. However, that extension is backed by people with deep pockets. A substantial appeal would need to be launched were the GWSR to find itself taking on the liability of five extra miles of trackbed just to deal with the bridge problems. Would members, supporters, etc, stump up what would need to be at least a couple of millions merely to ensure the dream of a future extension can be kept alive when the extension itself probably wouldn't even be started for at lest another five years?

    So while the enthusiast in me says it would be good to see the GWSR link up with NR at Honeybourne, I can see why a note of caution needs to be sounded. The best outcome would be for someone else sympathetic to the railway's aims (such as a local council) to take on the liability of the trackbed so that the extension option can be kept on the table, even if firmly on the back burner for now. Who knows? An extension which may seem to offer only marginal benefits at the moment may be far more appealing in the future.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2021
  15. Breva

    Breva Part of the furniture

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    Things could change if the line from Stratford to Honeybourne were re-opened. The previous chairman said in response to this idea: ''If they come south, we will go north.''
    I agree Honeybourne station is a terrible place to be. On top of that there is minimal parking space availability, it was all sold off for more housing.
    What intrigues me more is Honeybourne West Loop yard, just short off the OWW bridge. It was 10 tracks wide, and a freight train long:
    http://www.hondawanderer.com/Honeybourne_West_Loop_Junction_1979.htm
    This picture, taken at the end, only shows the eastern half of it. South going iron ore trains met north going coal trains here.
    What could you do with this huge area, as a (temporary?) northern terminus? A few yards further north, it was turn west to Honeybourne station, or continue on to Long Marston and Stratford.
    This yard forms part of the former trackbed.
    I don't have an answer, but could this be turned to the GWSR's advantage? With a bit of brainstorming?
     
  16. brmp201

    brmp201 Member

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    The last 15 minutes of this video might be of interest:



    Looks like they've recently relaid the track into Long Marston and disconnected the sidings.
     
  17. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    On the flipside, at Honeybourne a lot of work has been done to accommodate the GWSR. For example when the NR bridge was replaced a couple of years back it was done in such a way as to allow the GWSR access. Likewise, the platforms and so on.

    With regard to race days - there are approx 20 a year and two major events (Dec and March), so in some ways they offer an opportunity to extend the season and the jumps racing calendar (Oct-April) is the reverse of the railway season. The obvious questions are who would operate trains off the mainline ie lets say wealthy train operator decided to run a train - who handles it from Honeybourne and who gets the money. Not much incentive if the GWSR loses money compared to current race day revenue.

    Honeybourne is perhaps in and of itself not much of an attraction but like Smallbrook jnc it does link into direct trains from London, Oxford and Worcester - all tourist markets. So rather than an end point for a journey it is a start point. ie 90 minutes by car to Broadway or Honeybourne by car from Oxford, but 45 by train and 90 mins from Paddington which puts it in reach of a day trip from London. I think that is the real advantage of Honeybourne.

    On the other hand - there is the cost of the infrastructure and that you probably need to move to a three set service and whether it makes the journey too long ie a 5 hour round trip is not everyone's idea of fun.
     
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  18. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    What are the (realistic) chances of restoring Stratford-upon-Avon's* southern link via 'the big railway'? I note a group exists promoting such a scheme
    ( https://www.shakespeareline.com/about/ ).


    *pre-covid footfall, around 900,000 p.a.
     
  19. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    What you'd probably end up with is a great deal of passengers starting at Honeybourne wouldn't travel all the way to Cheltenham Racecourse, nor would a great deal of passengers starting at Cheltenham go any further than Broadway. We'd in effect be running two separate railways with an overlapping middle bit. That could be quite fun to operate, but I'm not sure it could be made to pay. I look to the Bluebell's experience of extending to meet a mainline connection within easy reach of London and they seem to have been a little underwhelmed by the response after the initial surge. Never say never of course, but I just can't get past all the other things I'd rather the railway did before even thinking about Honeybourne first.
     
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  20. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I don't necessarily see having two separate traffic flows as being a bad thing. If people choose to go to Broadway and not Honeybourne or Honeybourne to Winchcombe as long as they are paying their fares and you are making a profit it isn't a bad thing.

    I've heard this argument being made about people splitting the journey about a number of lines going back a number of years but I am not sure I have ever actually seen any evidence of it happening or happening in a way that was detrimental.

    You cite the Bluebell but what about the MHR, NVR or IOWSR? If we are looking at NR connections then the SVR etc - let's be honest Kidder is not a tourist honeypot either. It might not necessarily be the pot of gold that it might sometimes be imagined but it is nonetheless a stream of passengers who might not have travelled otherwise. The roads north of Oxford are pony and put the GWSR out of reach unless you are really desperate.

    I don't disagree with you about priorities but there are two counter points - the issue of window of opportunity, in other words, if this isn't taken is there the possibility that the chance may go. For example the WHR was now or never. There is also relations with local stakeholders, ie councils, NR etc who the next time the issue of spending money to maintain access for the trackbed might turn around and ask why spend the extra since they have no interest? Plus, there may well be other priorities but if the extension brings in more than it costs then there is more money for other priorities including the nice to haves.

    In the end I can see both sides of the argument, and it is probably the right opportunity but at the wrong time.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2021

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