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SVR General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by threelinkdave, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. Johnb

    Johnb Nat Pres stalwart

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    No one wants the railway to go under least of all me. I was a member for 52 years having some happy times in the early pioneering days and didn’t judge it on the last two months, I’ve had reservations for quite a while. The SVR is one of the big players but that doesn’t mean it has a right to expect everyone to support it, it has to earn it. I have decided to transfer my support elsewhere, it doesn’t mean I don’t want the railway to find its way back.
     
  2. acorb

    acorb Part of the furniture

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    What would the railway need to do to earn your support? Clearly you still care about the railway and yes I can see you wish it well, but choosing not enough to travel on it or support a major enthusiast event does seem counter productive if you still care about it, especially during tough times. Unfortunately, a business' survival depends on bums on seats and £ in the bank.
    I don't agree with every decision the railway has made. Taking on the loan was short sighted and the shareholder debacle was a severe low point. I also think its a mistake having a low key season opener event in April - 1 engine in steam isn't enough to tempt me over from Wales (not with the gala a couple of weeks later). Had they advertised Hagley and Erlestoke, plus a couple of diesels that would have been a bit more special and a good 'we are back in business' message.
    But if they do something that is attractive I will definitely support it, as that will demonstrate more than anything to management they are heading in the correct direction. With a new GM in place, now is a great time to send that signal so we can all ensure the railway is in a better place in 2024.
     
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  3. D1039

    D1039 Guest

    Two comments. Taking on the loan in 2020 (I think it was) was IMV a no brainer as interest was deferred and times uncertain, had they not done so and had run out of cash it would have been very bad news. As late as end of 2021 the cash position exceeded the loan. The problem was the model changed, partly post the pandemic restrictions and partly Russia, fuel prices, cost of living etc. There’s the foresight/hindsight argument about when that strategy should have been reviewed, but that’s a different question.

    The other is Open House described as a low key opener. I’d argue the opposite. IMV your point is about the timetable, again a different one.
     
  4. acorb

    acorb Part of the furniture

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    Both fair points, but no doubt that the loan is a major issue now - but highlights the difficulty of managing through the pandemic and no such thing as an easy decision in emergency times.
    Regards to the Open House - yes my criticism is the timetable, but I would argue that is part of the event and sets the tone. One extra train and some thoughtful rostering would create another attraction. Open House should be the railway showing off a bit, 'come see what we are about', 'this is what we have been up to', 'we are back'. I actually agree with the decision for one steam / one diesel for low season running (but I think there is room for income maximisation, I will touch on that in the future), but Open House is an opportunity to make a statement and they have done so in the past. 75069 was launched just a couple of years ago for example with lots of publicity. They have 2 fresh steam locos which have barely seen any use and is the class 33 or 42 ready? Use all you have to maximise interest.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2023
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  5. D1039

    D1039 Guest

    All fair points, though using newly returned locos on an Open weekend season launch would then devalue their first appearances at the galas
     
  6. olly5764

    olly5764 Well-Known Member

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    Simple answer there is use 4930, 75069 or 43106 along side 7714 then, as none of those are making their debut in the gala
     
  7. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

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    I must admit I was surprised when I saw only one steam diagram for the open weekend. I guess the hope is the behind the scenes element is enough of an attraction. It will also be interesting to see how busy the steam vs diesel diagrams are on the day.
     
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  8. free2grice

    free2grice Part of the furniture Friend

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    Some very good points from all contributors. In general we all want the SVR to succeed but the railway needs to reconsider some of it's latest announcements. <BJ>
     
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  9. D1039

    D1039 Guest

    It plans to in mid-May.

    It needs to be solvent and, much as I would like to see more stuff, when it reconsiders its strategy it needs to be on that basis.
     
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  10. acorb

    acorb Part of the furniture

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    I don't think it would devalue them, 4079 is by far and away the big draw for the gala and I think they are different audiences too for the 2 events. 4930 has already been used and will likely see more use so its novelty value could soon wear off, 7812 is being used at the gala and then it is off to the West Somerset, so this could be a rare opportunity for local folk (& poss EMF supporters) to get behind it who can't get down to Minehead.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2023
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  11. acorb

    acorb Part of the furniture

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    Totally agree.
     
  12. Johnb

    Johnb Nat Pres stalwart

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    Nothing now, I’ve replaced my membership and support to the KWVR where a certain locomotive owning group I’ve been involved with since 1967 is also based. I was also so impressed with the friendly reception we got when went down there with Clan Line that I became a member of the Bluebell. Both railways provide facilities close to my particular interests.
    I can’t support every railway and the priority at present is a big green Pacific currently residing in Devon.
     
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  13. Matt37401

    Matt37401 Nat Pres stalwart

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    John I understand where you’re coming from.
    If you don’t feel valued, or you’re not getting value for your time and money from project X
    All of a sudden Project Y can seem all that more appealing to both those things.

    I don’t think some of the previous management and certain board members realised those things.
    I hope Mr Dunster does.
     
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  14. acorb

    acorb Part of the furniture

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    I mentioned above that I supported the 1 steam, 1 diesel low season timetable, but that I felt there were more opportunities to maximise income on these trains. As well as the SVR, I am also members of the Strathspey and Ffestiniog / Welsh Highland Railways. So here is some thoughts and learning points from all of the above.

    -The pandemic changed general visitor behaviour for good. Visitors now seek added value, having become used to package deals at attractions - where everything is provided & day organised for them. The FR have stuck with this and now have 8 different options to suit different price points. Pre-booking is still strongly advised and enables services to be tailored to demand, with more quickly added if needed, eg coach parties. The FR believes the UK is the only country that doesn't operate its heritage railways in this way.

    -Passengers like to be able to eat on the train, but not at premium prices. Hampers, cream teas and light lunches are a feature on both the other railways on ALL services and sell very well. Pre-ordered and available to everyone, they add value to existing services.

    -The luxury market has held up and people are willing to pay more for additional comfort. Both FR and SR offer an observation saloon on all services. Is thus something the SVR could offer? They have several, which have barely seen the light of day since the pandemic. Charge an additional £10 (or £5 one way) for an upgrade.
    The railway has a number of special carriages, do they market or push them? Most of the time first class runs around virtually empty.

    -Passengers still value space and are willing to pay for it. FR / WHR still enable you to block book a seating bay and tables. Other railways enable you to book an entire compartment.

    All of the above are observations and some may not work for the SVR. But all are about adding value and different price points to an existing service. On the Strathspey last year I could have paid 4 different prices to travel on the same train, but with different experiences. The common theme was they were all full.

    Both Strathspey and Ffestiniog / WHR reported good years financially, but they had to work hard for it.

    Pre-booking is essential though to control numbers and excursion style services make make it difficult if you wish to change trains. Perhaps this is something the SVR need to reconsider for low season though, when running is considered marginal and when there aren't many other services to change too?
    A branchline wanderer service, with 813 / 7714 +5 GWR carriages, delivering people to the engine house for afternoon tea? Food for thought!
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2023
  15. jamesd

    jamesd Member

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    Interestingly, I’m also a member of the SVR and FR and the funny timetables and scripted trips on the FR encouraged me to not visit at all last year. I would normally have travelled at least three or four times but instead I went elsewhere, often to the SVR instead.

    On the SVR the previous two steam plus one diesel timetable was perfect for a day out and gave enough variety and options to vary your visit. The current reduced offering isn’t worth the 4 hour round trip for me afraid, so like the FR I’ll probably give it a miss until things change.
     
  16. olly5764

    olly5764 Well-Known Member

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    Having known Gus for many years, he is very much more aware of these things, and is more in touch with the volunteers and public than his predecessor.
    He is also, in my experience, receptive to sensible ideas if people were to put them to him, however, I will say, he is likely to be incredibly busy, as I'm sure you'll understand, so please be understanding if e.mails and letters don't get answered.
     
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  17. acorb

    acorb Part of the furniture

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    Have another look at the FR website, in response to this they have now done an easy read timetable and there is the option to travel on one train and return on another, plus pay on the day. The booking office are also always very helpful! On the Welsh Highland at least it doesn't make any difference, as the service pattern has always been out and back.

    The excursion style does seem to be popular though and all trains I travelled on last year, on both FR and WHR were heavily loaded. More importantly, it has enabled the FR to control costs. The statistic that sticks in my mind is that the FR reckon pre pandemic they were providing enough seats for 500,000 passengers annually but only carrying half that. 50% of services carried fresh air. That can't be viable any more.
    I don't think the SVR should copy the FR and go 100% excursion style, but for low season it could be a viable option to manage loadings and tailor services to suit, as you are not committing to a specific timetable. It is also an attractive offering to coach tour operators.
    Perhaps trial on Mondays and Tuesdays where currently there are no services advertised?
     
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  18. jamesd

    jamesd Member

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    I've travelled on a number of excursion style services on foreign heritage railways and I've always felt like I haven't really been able to see what I wanted to. On the Vivarais railway in France for example they offered a short or long trip ie half way or full length. We opted for the long trip which meant spending a couple of hours hanging around at Lamastre when we could have been doing something else of our choice. It was a similar experience on the steam trip on the Chemins de fer de Provence. Fine for some people I accept but not for me I'm afraid.
     
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  19. gwralatea

    gwralatea Member

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    I wonder (and I'm quoting you, because it has crystallised something I've been musing about, not remotely because I seek to put words in your mouth), whether we're not approaching another watershed in preservation - like it or not?

    I think of the people who saved lines thinking they were going to run a commuter service primarily - the actual Titfield Thunderbolt model basically rather than the tourism industry we created more through luck than judgement. I do wonder how many people walked away from the KWVR when it became clear that it wouldn't be available to get to work in the mills. I pick on Keighley there because from memory they were initially in the 'we're going to run a proper railway' camp?

    I've been involved in preservation since childhood. Since the first train out of Kidderminster in fact, though I moved away for university at the end of the 1990s and never moved back. I was part of the bold bad gang of feral children who worked at Kidderminster station when no one cared that you were only 8, and who one day got sent home aged 12 because the insurers had finally taken an interest! Then bobbed up again at 14 semi unofficially.

    I say all that because although I haven't volunteered since about 2001, I have put the hours in over the years building/painting cleaning etc - Kidderminster station, Bewdley MPD, Wribbenhall Junction etc. So I do love the SVR and the movement we've all created. And I wanted timetabled trains.

    But what if it just becomes a fact that pre-booking and flexible service provision, or continental style excursion running is just the way we're going to have to go? What if it's the lines that aren't currently doing much of that that are King Canute holding back the tide, and not the ones that are?

    I've got no answers particularly, and it's not a future I'd welcome, but I'm only in my early forties and what if it just is the future?

    I suspect there's a whole other thread here actually.
     
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  20. 1472

    1472 Well-Known Member

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    If the train service is reduced to a sparse level (as found on lines such as the Vivarais) then you are left with the excursion style out & back offering by default as hop on/off flexibility all but disappears. That means that you are then offering to particular markets but certainly not to all. To me that suggests that there should perhaps be a minimum of one particular day each week (Saturday?) when a t/t is operated which does offer sufficient service for hop on /off visitors. That would point to a three train service to give acceptable frequency using 2 steam + DMU/heritage diesel. The marketing would need to be clear and carefully distinguish what the different offerings entailed. Loosing the simple but flexible turn up and hop on/off service on a line such as the SVR which is close to large population centres would be a strange thing to do. That might be different in tourist areas such as the WHR.
     

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