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Swanage Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Rumpole, Oct 10, 2012.

  1. ady

    ady Well-Known Member

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    I don't share you optimism.

    As we know, the reason why the water tower was paused was due to people not realising, after they already gone ahead and spent aloud of money already on said project, there was a £250,000 fee to pay to extract water from local sources. That was the fee a decade ago. So wouldn't that fee have now gone up like everything else? So how realistic is the tank going to be built now with the railway reporting 20% down in numbers.

    We don't even know if the carriage shed is going ahead this winter yet as there is 'planning issues'. Not helped the money raised in the appeal last year could now be useless as it no longer enough to pay for the steel needed now thanks to inflation.
     
  2. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Even were space available, I don't think incoming charter traffic is as lucrative as you think - where does the money come from? There are really two possible sources for the heritage railway - whatever access fee they arrange, and secondary spend.

    Taking the second of those first - secondary spend. It's already been stated that the opportunities at Swanage station for catering are fairly small, but in any case, even the largest railway would struggle if 400 people all turn up at once and want serving. All the more so when there are plenty of pubs and cafes just across the road. So realistically, that source is likely to be small; most people will disembark nd go straight into the town. An incoming charter is potentially good business of the town, but less so for the railway, particularly a railway that is situated very conveniently for a nearby town, and you don't get much more convenient than Swanage in heritage railway terms.

    Which then comes to the access fee. Now, as far as I am aware, the promoters of such trips aren't rolling in spare cash. So do a thought experiment of a charter starting some hours away, and having the choice of turning left at Worgret junction, or continuing straight on to e.g. Weymouth. The locomotive costs, crew costs, the fee charged by Network Rail, and the basic business costs are likely to be very similar in either case. In which case, the money paid to Swanage is essentially on top of a fixed set of costs that don't go away. By definition it can't be very high, because if it was, the money isn't there. Potentially you can charge for services - water and coal, so that they don't have to be arranged separately - but they have a cost to provide anyway. I'd really doubt if the income to a heritage railway from an incoming charter amounts to more than a low single figure thousands at most - how can it be more when the gross income to run a train of, say, 400 people is probably only £50 or £60k? And how many might you expect in a year - two or three at best?

    I don't see charter trains as really being anything more than a bit of icing for a heritage railway - they certainly aren't something that I would be making big plans to accommodate, least of all expensive ones such as re-modelling the infrastructure to cope with them. Extending the platforms at Swanage to deal with much longer trains would seem to me to cost a lot of money for a very small return, while at the same time destroying one of the features of Swanage which is that the station structures are still (largely - not completely) unchanged and carrying out their original functions.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2022
  3. Sim

    Sim Member

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    Where on earth did you find that number from? You may want to revise your post with some more accurate information! I've never seen anything purporting to be a fee of that magnitude mentioned anywhere else!
     
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  4. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I recently heard the fee charged by a church to mount a carol service for a visiting railtour. The amount in question, especially with donations and shop spend on top, is definitely very welcome to that church. But it is also nothing like enough to justify capital investment in facilities and, even if such income were routine and regular, would have a very long payback period.

    Looking at some of the ballpark figures quoted above, and extrapolating very crudely from the figure I’ve heard, my hunch is that the purely financial case for developing facilities for incoming railtours is I suspect awful, with a return on investment measured in decades, not months or years.

    If these projects are worth doing - and I largely believe that they are - then the case for them needs to be based on the needs of the railway, with railtour income as a bonus. Those needs, I will note, may include historical needs.


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  5. ady

    ady Well-Known Member

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    Because that was figure quoted here on this bloody forum about 6 or 7 months ago when it was last discussed.
     
  6. oliversbest

    oliversbest Member

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    Restore a quality catering operation to Swanage. I visited the Tallylyn,W& L,Bala lake,Ravenglass. And the SVR. All had good catering facilities at at least one of their stations. I realize that the carriage shed is not a repair facility but interior refurbs could be possible,
    …and they are needed!
     
  7. Sim

    Sim Member

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    Mmmm! One of the issues with social media in general. If it's on the forum, it must be true. NOooooo! Have to be careful what you re-quote! I won't be saying what I understand the real situation to be for fear of being re-quoted! (or being wrong and re-quoted!)
     
  8. ady

    ady Well-Known Member

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    Well considering it was conformed by some from railway, you saying them and me are making it up?

    Why the hell has the project been abandoned for like a decade if it wasn't some unexpected cost come up?
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2022
  9. 5914

    5914 New Member

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    The project was initiated as a way of utilising an original item of LSWR infrastructure that had been saved from Salisbury. Any economic argument was marginal. Even before the project was launched, it had been pointed out that the levels of the Swanbrook were much reduced since the time that BR used it in the 1960s (when it was used solely to fill the loco shed tower - which was used far less frequently on a daily basis than the columns at Wareham).

    My supposition of subsequent developments is that extraction from Swanbrook is no longer possible, and therefore the prime justification of the water tower project is to replace the ex-GWR water tower with a genuine LSWR replacement (using either mains water or a mix of mains and extracted water). This has little economic benefit and the sole the marginal operational benefit that, if the replacement column were placed further from the end of the platform, a standard tank could face in either direction with a 5-coach set and still take water.

    The water tower itself will not unlock longer trains. Regular trains of more than five coaches do not fit within the already tight run-round loop, and the constriction of the throat means that the platform is as long as it can be as a double-sided platform.

    As a heritage 'nice-to-have' I suspect that its priority is behind other projects (such as the carriage shed) that do have a stronger financial case by prolonging the life of assets.

    (As an aside, I would not be surprised if the planning matter with the Carriage Shed is a need to renew some element of the permissions given the way the project has been prolonged due to COVID - hopefully a relative formality. However, pure guesswork!)
     
  10. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Part of the furniture

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    Yes but all those you have quoted (even the SVR at both Kidderminster and Bridgnorth) do not have a big selection of cafe's and pubs within a 5 minute walk of the station. So hardly a valid comparison in my opinion.
     
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  11. Sim

    Sim Member

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    I have just been in a conversation with someone at the root of this project, who has confirmed to me that the expected cost of a water extraction licence was, and still is, measured in the lower hundreds of pounds, so if you knock the last three zeros off your quoted figure, you might be somewhere near right! As for the reason for delay, that may well have something to do with cost, but nowhere near £250,000. I have neither the knowledge nor the authority to speculate about it, so please don't quote that!
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2022
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  12. Enterprise

    Enterprise Part of the furniture

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    Making quite a large assumption, in the future it seems to me that the best way to utilise steam charters is for the charter to stop at Wareham and those interested in visiting Swanage get on a SR train.
     
  13. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Part of the furniture

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    So if you have 200 out of say 350 on a DCE wanting to go to Swanage what do you do with all of them, probably will not even fit on a 4 car DMU.
    Add to that an inbound charter is only timed to have about 2 hours 30 at Swanage, if you add the transfer time, risk that the charter may be late, pathing with the service trains so you do not miss the return connection it all becomes marginal.
    I also believe that charters pay a fee to NR to stop at passenger stops, Wareham currently an op stop due the signalling and SR guard pilotman, so increases charter cost as well.
     
  14. ady

    ady Well-Known Member

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    I really wish people from Swanage would sing from the same sheet cause we definitely had one of them on here going it cost 100s of 1000's of pounds, and somewhere else said we need 250,000 to pay for it.

    I really beginning to think the main reason some of these projects get abandoned due to people on the management not wanting to do it
     
  15. 5914

    5914 New Member

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    It could be confusion over the difference between the overall cost of the project (£250,000 for construction of the base, restoration of the tank, fabrication and installation of columns, installation of pipes, manufacture and installation of pumping and filtration equipment, connection to mains supply for times when the stream is not sufficient) and the cost of the abstraction licence (a much smaller, component figure)?
     
  16. Sim

    Sim Member

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    I think you've touched on it this time! The sheet that previous people may have been singing from probably involved a much larger project objective, of which the water tower was included as an enabler. Hence the silly numbers being pushed around. The tower itself was nowhere near these big numbers on its own.
    As for your second sentence, I couldn't possibly comment!
     
  17. Sim

    Sim Member

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    See my reply to #Ady above. The big numbers are probably covering a project of which the water tower and its installation is only a small part. And to be clear, the abstraction licence is lower hundreds of pounds per annum, just small change and hardly worth a comment.
     
  18. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    My view about the SR is purely my view. But just to clarify a little, I prefer other railways because I find that they provide more interest. The Swanage has an excellent location and there are plenty of other things to do around the place, but generally when I visit a railway I want to visit the railway not the surroundings. I accept that this is a personal perspective. My point really is that there are many viewpoints and that mine doesn't invalidate the efforts of the SR and it's staff nor those of the people that enjoy the line. It also doesn't mean I wish the railway anything but the best.

    Tom has pointed out that there isn't any money in incoming railtours. Certainly not enough to build a business case for platform lengthening.

    The Watercress Line remodeling was carried out to reduce the risk of sideswipe incidents and permit the platforms to be lengthened in the future if the need for 7 coach RATs etc was to return. Any impact on ability to handle railtours is a consequence of this, and very much a nice to have.
     
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  19. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    I find this discussion to be a rather curious one - specifically the charter bit. Two separate opportunities are also being combined and i view them as separate. By that I mean having a main line connection and being able to run charters onto the line. Can I give examples I know about?

    The Bluebell - The moment that the East Grinstead extension was built it was obviously beneficial to connect with NR. Main line locomotives could access the line, as happens. It is also a convenient access point to the line from the national network for foot passengers, as happens. However, a visiting charter is a nightmare if it goes down to Sheffield Park as it clogs up the rather cramped site. (SR, take note.) I believe that were a charter to visit the Bluebell nowadays it would be stabled further north up the line. That said, it is an option.

    The West Somerset Railway - This also benefits from a main line connection except that there is no interchange at Taunton and there continue to be ideas about running shuttles to Bishops Lydeard, although they are just that - ideas. Visiting charters are easy to accommodate on the line. They can run to Minehead where stock can be stabled without disrupting too much the normal services. They can also host visiting main line locomotives except for the fact that their infrastructure isn't really up to the axle loading of some visitors.

    The Swanage Railway - Another line with a useful main line connection for visiting locomotives such as Flying Scotsman. There is also the opportunity to run a shuttle from Wareham. This is a potential added value benefit as the area is a nightmare in the summer on the roads and you could easily see the locals in Bournemouth taking advantage of a day out at Swanage by trains from, say Bournemouth, Poole or Wareham. Yes there is the Sandbanks ferry but why not let the train take the strain especially if the arrangement between SWR and SR is integrated and publicised.

    My point is that all the above have main line connections with all the possibilities I've mentioned but as far as charters are concerned:
    The WSR can handle charters easily.
    The Bluebell can handle charters if necessary but it's not easy and it doesn't seem as though it's a major priority.
    The Swanage Railway does handle charters but it's not easy and for it to be made easier the infrastructure needs tweaking.

    So I just don't see the point in either encouraging charters or even considering what could be done to the line so as to manage them better. By all means move watering at Swanage so that five coach trains can be better handled. That's for day-to-day operations. But don't waste time on charters. Focus on using the connection to get main line locomotives onto the SR for special events and capitalise on it at other times for shuttles from Wareham. That makes sense and it's environmentally the right thing to do as well.
     
  20. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    But all of this takes us back to the case for a mainline connection, and what it actually is. The three railways mentioned are all different, and have different historical contexts for making those connections. But what I observe is common between them is that the economic value of those connections is disproportionately smaller than the symbolic importance, with the possible exception of the WSR and Norton triangle.


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