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Recommissioning after Coronavirus

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by johnofwessex, Mar 24, 2020.

  1. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Which raises interesting questions about the applicability of railways' experiences from running in 2020 for 2021.
     
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  2. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Both my parents have several non-railway enthusiast colleagues who have visited the railway in the past who have no interest in visiting at the moment for exactly that reason. A one trip out and back was ok last Summer, but now there's an end in sight, everyone is waiting 'til they can do what they actually want to do. The sooner railways can get back to doing that the better, no amount of scolding will change that.
     
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  3. Wyreman

    Wyreman New Member

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    This is pretty much where I stand too. The SVR is still offering nothing at all for below £50 (before any discounts), even on term time weekdays which surely cannot have a large family market to serve. It's one of the most expensive lines in the country for solo travellers right now. Until that changes, I can't see myself travelling as the combination of high cost and limited flexibility doesn't add up to good value. Supporting my local line is a good thing, but certainly as someone who often travels on my own I don't feel especially wanted by the SVR right now.

    I'm exploring other options though. Once the mainline issues are sorted out, the GWSR may be on the agenda. I went to the Chasewater Railway some years back and enjoyed it, and if they get up and running properly this summer a trip there (including transport to Brownhills) would be about half the price of a day at the SVR. A very different experience of course, but it's tempting.
     
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  4. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

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    Same here with the Kids. Last year GWSR lost out to the SVR on a visit with them as it was just a round trip, with little else to do. We did visit the SVR as at the time you could visit the engine house and break the trip up a bit.

    Although I’d visit by myself, we have held off visiting anywhere as a family this year, as hopefully soon if everything goes to plan there will be more open and we have more freedom to choose what we do on the day.
     
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  5. 5944

    5944 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Likewise. A simple out and back on the majority of lines doesn't appeal to the missus. Reduced number of services isn't helping either, as timings often aren't great. I've been looking where to go for father's day next month, and Quainton seems like the best option at present. Timed entry, but unlimited rides once in so enough to keep a 4 year old happy for the day. And a 37 year old...
     
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  6. Paulthehitch

    Paulthehitch Member

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    I must admit to being surprised at this response. You will be (or at least ought to be) aware of the sheer amount of work needed to ensure carriages are kept disinfected and that social distancing is enforced. In the present circumstances you just can't have people hopping in and out of different carriages and on different journeys as their whimsy takes them. Hopefully, this will be resolved shortly.

    A fairly casual look at responses from passengers suggests that non enthusiasts are actually relieved to see these precautions being carried out.
     
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  7. gricerdon

    gricerdon Well-Known Member

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    Mid Hants allowed freedom to roam at their recent Gala. See latest Heritage Railway magazine
     
  8. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Sure, everyone who turns up is relieved to see those precautions being carried out (even if many of them are more for show than anything else), but the majority of people who'd normally be riding the trains have decided it's all too much hassle and not what they want. It's tricky when railways can't easily do what their customers want them to, but if possible, it's worth having a rethink to see if there are any ways where some of those potential customers' desires can be met. E.g. on the GWSR we've just started selling tickets for round trips beginning at Cheltenham giving a little time at Broadway, as that was where our largest market was pre-pandemic, which we haven't catered for at all since.
     
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  9. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I must admit to being surprised at this response :) Of course I'm aware of the efforts needed to maintain covid security. But if passengers don't want to visit under those conditions (and the general numbers seem to show there wasn't an immediate uptake of services as soon as it was possible), then what do you suggest? I don't think just marketing based on "hey look, we're open and we're clean" is sufficient to entice people out, even though both qualities are essential starting points.

    I'm with several others on this thread in thinking that while last year there was a degree to which people were grateful just to be able to do something; this year I think there is more of an attitude of "why have an experience that is not optimal now, when possibly in a few months there will be a much richer experience available".

    Tom
     
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  10. Platform 3

    Platform 3 Member

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    As a casual visitor to railways, I have only undertaken three visits since the start of the pandemic - two to the SVR and one to the IOWSR. I felt safe on all visits, which is an important consideration for me, and I personally also rather like the ability to book a compartment for me or my family and know that I don't have to stress about finding a seat or being bothered by others if I don't wish to be! Personally I am happy to spend more for the privilege, but I appreciate that many will not be given that prices remain - particularly on the SVR - far above what they would have been until last year.

    But my enthusiasm for visiting is certainly dimmed if I feel that I'm not able to get the same experience that I have previously had on the same railway. So I haven't been to the GCR because I wasn't tempted by a run which didn't include going to Loughborough, and neither have I wanted to go to the Ffestiniog. Now museums are opening again there are a few places that I may add to my list, and I am tempted by the GCR's 'First Hurrah' event.

    Sent from my SM-G770F using Tapatalk
     
  11. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I'd suggest that we are in a liminal period. Some people are chafing against restrictions and don't want a highly regulated experience, whereas others perhaps who are perhaps concerned about covid transmission and are concerned about reductions in social distancing etc. I suspect that the two demands are fundamentally incompatible and it is going to be hard for lines to strike a balance (look at all the concerns in the MHR Gala thread).

    Also, it is hard to compare to last year as I don't think it was until June/July that many lines re-opened.
     
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  12. Wyreman

    Wyreman New Member

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    It's possible both to appreciate that a 2019 style service is not currently feasible *and* to believe that the service currently being offered is not good enough value to be worth it for oneself personally. They're not mutually exclusive.

    As an example: the SVR's "Explorer" service is actually one I would consider at the moment. You book a specific place in a specific set that runs two round trips. You *are* allowed to get on and off at intermediate stations as long as you always sit in the same place on the same train. So for example you could join at Kidderminster on Trip 1, alight at Arley for a break and walk by the river, travel to Highley on Trip 2 northbound for a quick look around the Engine House while the train continues to Bridgnorth and then catch it back to Kidderminster on the final leg. I think it's quite a good offering in current circumstances. *But* it's much too expensive for me.

    If the SVR was doing what the GWSR is and offering at least a limited number of £25 fares for single travellers, even if they were confined to lower-demand weekdays, there is a good chance I would already have booked an "Explorer" trip, especially as I've had both vaccination doses. That applies even with absolutely no change to the rules on masks, distancing and so on. But at £50 it is simply not good enough value. My hunch is also that at least some families will also feel that current fares are too high for the SVR to be more than a one-time treat. A family of 5 needs a 6-person compartment at £150. That is Alton Towers prices.

    I'm well aware that heritage railways have very stretched finances. But so do their customers. I can't afford to support all the good causes I'd really like to. And as someone likely to travel alone, when the SVR apparently sees me as a bit of a nuisance but the GWSR offers me a reasonable value fare... the balance in my mind starts to tip towards going to the GWSR and not the SVR.
     
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  13. Paulthehitch

    Paulthehitch Member

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    Most income comes from the general public and not from enthusiastic which, from this discussion, is probably a relief! Having said that, the pandemic must have had an effect on disposable income. Perhaps the traditional gricer attribute of being as tight as the proverbial duck's rear end might be a little unfair.

    One peculiarity of Covid legislation has been that whilst tourist railways could operate, their museums and viewing galleries' had to remain closed. As from today they can open. Incidentally I do tend to agree that selling seats per compartment rather than per person is pushing things a bit.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2021
  14. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I know, we all know!! But as I said above, from all the anecdotal evidence I have from members of the general public normally inclined to visit heritage railways, they're currently not keen due to the inflexibility of an out and back ride. This is born out by the evidence all around us, that heritage railways all around are currently much quieter than they'd like, even accounting for the reduction in numbers inevitable with the restrictions in place. I don't think it's got too much to do with price. After a year and a bit of varying restrictions, holidays abroad a distant hope, plenty of people may actually have more disposable income than normal. Some of Dad's colleagues at work were asking him about what the deal was on the GWSR, all people who, Dad assures me, money is not the limiting factor for a day out, but they just weren't interested in what was on offer.
     
  15. Paulthehitch

    Paulthehitch Member

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    Exactly .why a more varied experience than just trains is needed. The problem is that until today ancillary indoor facilities have remained closed. Experience last year varied considerably, railway to railway.
     
  16. LittleRedTrain

    LittleRedTrain New Member

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    The Mrs and I have been to three railways since the pandemic started.
    Didcot, Statfold and SVR. We've also done one railtour.

    In all cases we felt very safe. Didcot and Statfold didn't actually feel massively different from 'normal', apart from limited mask wearing indoors and on the trains at Statfold, and the smaller buildings closed at Didcot. I suspect places like this may well bounce back quickly.

    SVR, last September, was more restrictive, but for 2 of us plus dog, the private compartment setup worked well and we still got to have a look around the Engine House, which is probably what we'd have done anyway.
    We did however, decide against visiting the SVR again for the gala or in the past month, due to the Engine House being closed, so less 'off-train' interest.

    The biggest disincentive for us, as non-drivers, has been actually getting to the railways.
    Although the heritage railways themselves have been very safe and well organised, the rest of the public transport system sometimes feels a bit 'Wild West' at times, with a lot of people ignoring mask and social distancing rules. Also, having to wear a mask for 1-2 hours each way to get there is also not very pleasant, bearable for an essential journey but a disincentive to make 'leisure' trips.

    This has meant we've restricted ourselves to railways close to home, accessible by short, direct rail services we are fairly certain won't be busy, and no need for a bus/taxi connection at the end.

    It also hasn't helped that some railways we might consider visiting (WLLR, GCR, Chinnor, etc) are only running trains from the opposite end to their main public transport access.
    Understandable under the circumstances, and the latter is now allowing passengers to board at Princes Risborough by prior arrangement, but it does exclude those of us who can't get there by car and don't like the idea of a taxi, sharing air with the driver and previous passengers.

    I certainly expect our visits to pick up in the next few months, especially once we're both fully vaccinated, and we've already got two railtours and a visit to Chinnor booked, but don't think our trips out will be back to normal levels until 2022.

    We would consider a holiday to the Top Left Hand Corner of Wales for late summer/autumn, but aren't prepared to book anything until we know that the FR, WHR etc will be running full-line services.
    (Also not helped by NR closing Barmouth Bridge for a large chunk of the year, a replacement bus from Macc-Porthmadog doesn't appeal!)
     
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  17. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

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    Phew, I am in Porthmadog over half term but it looks as though Barmouth Bridge isnt closed until September
     
  18. LittleRedTrain

    LittleRedTrain New Member

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  19. ross

    ross Member

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    Many people I have spoken to are disquieted by the masks. Women say they went shopping, didn't enjoy it and came home. Not only do people not like wearing masks themselves, but so much of our interactions with others is my expression or similar, and others wearing masks prevents such normality.
    Now, maybe Bath is atypical, but many people say they consent to wear a mask, not because they believe it does anything, but out of respect for the feelings of others.
    Perhaps the public at large are simply waiting for us all to be allowed to go about unrestricted, at which point they will put 2020 behind them and go out and enjoy themselves.
    Every time some company puts out a message saying "we all wear masks and we've washed the curtains and carpets....", it just reminds those people that 2020 is still here.
    A VE day is needed
     
  20. Wyreman

    Wyreman New Member

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    On target audiences, yes of course I know enthusiasts aren't the main market. But even within the heritage sector there are large disparities in what is being offered. And in the SVR's case I think they may even be pricing out some families, though obviously they'll have lots of data I don't.

    On masks, I don't mind them as much as some seem to and they don't bother me in places like supermarkets, but I do find them irksome to wear for more than say an hour at a time. I've read in more than one place that even when mask requirements are dropped elsewhere, they may be retained for a while on public transport. Whether this will apply to heritage railways I don't know, though perhaps those which use public transport status to avoid charging VAT on fares may be caught.

    On public transport access, that's a problem even to some drivers who for example would like a beer during their visit so prefer to go by train. It doesn't help that there's currently a mish-mash of rules regarding compulsory reservations or not. XC requires seat reservations, GWR "strongly recommends" reservations (but by train, not by seat) and WMR doesn't offer reservations at all. Even if the GCR resumes services from Loughborough as hoped in 6 weeks XC's restrictive policy will put me off if it still exists then.
     

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