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The Bluebell Railway Giants of Steam ticket pricing

Discussion in 'Galas and Events' started by Martin_England, Oct 13, 2021.

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Is £100 a fair price for a family to enter a heritage railway event?

This poll will close on Oct 13, 2022 at 10:12 PM.
  1. Yes it is fair

    77.8%
  2. No this is far too much

    22.2%
  1. Martin_England

    Martin_England New Member

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    I have accepted in life that not everything is open to everyone. I don't shop in New Bond Street, lunch at the Savoy Grill or wear suits from Saville Row. I don't have a problem with this; however, I never expected to be adding the Bluebell Railway to this list.

    I try to attend at least one gala a year and understand the need for a higher ticket price, however I would have expected increased ticket sales to have been the main source of revenue for these events. This year’s Giants of Steam without advanced ticket purchase costs £40 per person or £100 for the family. I am unable to buy tickets in advance due to the need to travel on the notorious M25 motorway, frequently at a standstill for hours even before Extinction Rebellion became involved. Without families visiting where will the next generation of railway enthusiasts come from?

    Whoever is responsible for setting the ticket pricing is in need of a reality check as they must be living in a bubble out of touch with ordinary people. If they choose to follow this route they are effectively rationing by price then the railway will have to accept very much lower visitor numbers during this decade than the last with the corresponding loss of public support as well as trade for both the shop and catering. Videos posted on Youtube indicate only moderate attendance with too few younger visitors. I wonder what the founders would think of that? In the Bluebell spring news 2020, Colin Tyson wrote, "Hopefully, when virus restrictions are lifted, we can all get back to enjoying our ‘railway for life’." I mistakenly thought I was part of the "our".

    Whilst I will still enjoy the Bluebell Railway on YouTube, my visits may now be just a thing of the past as the railway seems to be going down the path of exclusivity where only the seriously wealthy are welcome. This is particularly disappointing in view of the vast amount of public money the railway has received during the last two years. This should have come with a requirement for reasonable public access. To me Bluebell Railway today is about as open to everyone as the Ritz hotel!

    I would appreciate other peoples input on this. Am I being unreasonable or should the Bluebell Railway be more open to all? What do other heritage railways charge for similar events?
     
  2. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    Event pricing is a growing topic across many railways especially as railways try to recover from covid losses .

    My inclination is that pricing will continue to go one way and that is up . Costs of operation continue to increase and running increasingly vintage engines and rolling stock consumes cash in ever more alarming amounts . The downside is an interest that was once accessable to all will see people priced out of it as railways pursue passengers who can afford to pay for what will be increasingly marketed as "experience"
     
  3. alts1985

    alts1985 Member

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    We paid £40 each to travel at Mid Hants the Sunday before, my son just getting in for free as he wasn't turning 5 till the 12th. Due to work commitments I could only attend Mid Hants on the Sunday and Bluebell on the Friday, on the day my son was at school and as we are family members of the Bluebell and I went on my own and could access the site as a member we choose to not travel that day and only travel at the Mid Hants, in part as we traveled at the Bluebell for the 60+1 in August. Usually when we do Severn Valley we travel one day and watch another, in Spring for the Steam up we paid platform tickets for Hampton Loade - £10, having done lineside spots in the day, then had a compartment for the Sunday at £120 or so. Its pricey, but then my Brighton season ticket is £35 a game average cost. I like to treat it as a donation as all the money is put back into the line, but we do pick and choose our events as we can only afford to do 2/3 in spring and 2/3 in autumn, but work commitments is first call, then hotels, travel time, what's visiting, then ticket cost as they all seem to be in the same league. Just my opinion!
     
  4. Anddy

    Anddy New Member

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    I don't think that £100 was an abnormal price for a family ticket this year although I must say the prices were generally higher than recent years. Personally I think this comes down to supply and demand just like any business. The community was generally more willing to spend to go to a gala given the rarity of such an event and so they could afford to charge more as the demand didn't reduce. Now if a railway charged £70 an adult and nobody bought tickets it wouldn't work but it's the railway's jobs to find the max price the majority will still pay. Some railway's perceived it to be higher than others especially considering the difference of their events, lines and visiting locomotives. I went to the Great Central this Autumn but I want these railways to survive so I was happy to pay it even if it felt a bit steeper than previous events.
     
  5. Ben Jenden

    Ben Jenden New Member

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    £30-£45 seems to be the new gala pricing norm. Being a Bluebell member costed me £45.50 for all three days which is exceptional value. £40 per adult for the gala is very much worth the price, don't forget "Clan Line" was making its only second heritage line visit in preservation and is a small price to pay in comparison to its Belmond Pullman commitments. Also in version 1 of the planned roster would've saw a rare chance of three visitors at a gala but this was before the S160 failed earlier in the week. - Gala planning sadly doesn't cost cheap in particular with visiting engines which road movements or rail light engine movements also cost money. The ticket prices certainly didn't matter for many as it was one of the busiest days I seen Bluebell.

    In general I mainly base my thoughts on the gala and whether I want to spend that money based on the line-up themselves. I had the choice of GCR or MHR on 2nd October as I was unavailable the remainder of the weekend. I chose GCR as it had brought in two locomotives I haven't seen before.
     
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  6. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

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    Of interest, SVR was charging £100 for a family ticket at one point, now dropped to £80 on a normal day, prices are higher not just for galas.
     
  7. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    The Mid Hants Gala the weekend previous was comparably priced as I recall. It's also comparable with other non-railway attractions: for example, a ticket to an air show at the Shuttleworth collection or Duxford is generally about £40 for non members (and you don't even get a ride for that!)

    Also worth noting that member tickets at Giant were discounted - half price for members, free for life members (which represents tremendous value). Since an adult annual member costs £30 per year, you would recover that (and some) from two days at the gala, and in addition gain the other benefits year round including a significant discount on all normal tickets, shop discount etc.

    As I understand, numbers for the weekend were considerably up on GoS 2019 so the price clearly wasn't a significant deterrent. My impression from Saturday (the only day I was there) was that the railway seemed very busy.

    Like it or not, running a heritage attraction such as a railway is very expensive; and most railways are in addition in the process of trying to rebuild their finances after two very tough years.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2021
  8. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    A broader perspective. I’m involved in my church. We have faced a significant hit to our income over the last year, and have had our volunteering disrupted in many ways. Our fuel bill, already huge, is only going one way.

    On the other hand, much (not all) of the giving we rely on is still based on very old ideas of value. Pre Covid, people dropped £1 coins in the donation box in the same volumes as a decade or two ago -yet the value of those donations had fallen.

    I’m therefore not surprised that event prices are rising - if anything, I’m surprised they haven’t already, as railtour prices have done. We enjoy an expensive hobby, and there are plenty of threads on here bemoaning the difficulty of fund raising for “10 year” overhauls or infrastructure replacement.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
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  9. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    out of interest , what do you consider to be a fair price for a gala ticket ?
     
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  10. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    The Bluebell Railway itself says that compared with their last gala in 2019, numbers were up by one third. As @Jamessquared says, the price was definitely not a deterrent and so I don't see what all the fuss is about. Without any knowledge of what they did, it looks to me as though the management thought about the product, decided on what additional resources they could bring to the event to make it attractive - e.g. Cheltenham, Clan Line - set a price point, advertised the event.....and got it right.

    Nothing to debate imo and plenty to admire. But we are talking here about the Bluebell Railway.
     
  11. Fireline

    Fireline Member

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    The price of a gala is only a deterrent if you aren't really interested in what the gala is giving for that money. For example, if I didn't like Southern steam, £40 for a day at the Bluebell might seem excessive. On the other hand, if I thought that the Merchant Navy and/or Schools were the finest design ever, £40 would seem cheap for the day.

    I have attended numerous galas in the years prior to Covid, and I have always based my attendance on where it is, what the Gala is offering, and how easily I can get there. To be honest, I haven't really considered the ticket price. I do remember that two days attendance at a North Norfolk Gala seemed good value, as did the evening Inspection train at the Dean Forest. In that same period, however, I attended several lines that weren't running special events, and paid a considerable sum for "nothing special". To me, it's what's on offer that makes the price acceptable, or not, as the case may be.
     
  12. Bikermike

    Bikermike Member

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    It's a bit less than a santa special at another railway.

    If you assume 4 people that's £25/head.
    If you do one gala a year £100 is £2.08/week to save.

    I don't think that is "exclusivity" or the preserve of the "seriously wealthy"
     
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  13. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Well-Known Member

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    Well to me not a lot. My local theatre here in Swanage charges £12 when they show films (so max 2 hours). Chelsea as a random soccer club (not my sport) showed £53 as the cheapest for 90 minutes play. £40 for a whole days travel seems good value to me against that, especially as many lines are around £20 for a return journey.
    I too would like to know what the OP thinks the price should have been.
     
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  14. David likes trains

    David likes trains Well-Known Member

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    I bought a ticket in advance, and travelled by road from Colchester. In fact I have made quite a few trips down there on weekends over the past year, motorway traffic has not been a problem. Always busier on the way back in the evening, but never at a standstill.

    I thought the ticket price was reasonable, for me the two guest locomotives made it a must attend event. The prices for Mid Hants a week before were quite steep, I nearly didn't go to that when I saw it was £45. Again the fact that City of Wells was visiting was the deciding factor. That and the fact that I don't take these events for granted, even more so with the last 18 months.
     
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  15. theonlyadsrulz

    theonlyadsrulz Member

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    As others have said, it very much depends on what the individual believes is value for money.

    For comparison, I attended the Mixed Traffic Gala at Keighley back in September. I attended over all three days so purchased a three day rover in advance, which came with a 10% discount for doing so. It worked out to somewhere around £22-£23 a day, which saw a total of 13 locomotives (including two guests) plus the DMU in action over the three days. Now if that isn't value for money I don't know what is! Yes all 13 weren't out at the same time, but even half that number on any given day would still present excellent value in my opinion!

    For me, a gala ticket price somewhere in the region of £20-£35 a day is the sweet spot, though this obviously takes into account the factors of length of line, number of locos in use, guest locos, any extras that may be on offer etc. The smaller railways you may expect an even lower price than that. I attended the East Somerset Railway's gala event back in April and they charged all of £11 for the day which saw three locos in steam, goods run pasts, and as much riding as you could get in!

    Ultimately, everyone has a different set of circumstances, what it cheap for one could be expensive for another. And again, as others have said, prices are only going to go in one direction. Railways have to find that balance of pricing an event that will appeal to enough people to make a profit, and I can say with experience, that is not easy!
     
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  16. Martin_England

    Martin_England New Member

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    I would have thought that half that would have been sufficient as most people will spend more once inside however I can see that that is a minority view. I would wish to make the point that the Bluebell Railway is not a business as such despite needing to be on a business like footing. Tax payers money has been given and yet the same tax payer in some but clearly not all cases can't attend. I for one would not want to see any heritage organisation receive public money on that basis.

    However the poll indicates that most see the pricing as fair, it could be that this thread contains people with above average incomes or that I am just out of touch. Those posting here will or course conclude the latter!
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2021
  17. richards

    richards Well-Known Member

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    The "tax payers money" which you say the railway received was not to subsidise tickets. It was to keep a business afloat when their income had been hammered by COVID.

    Heritage railways are still looking at hugely decreased incomes, so they don't really have the option of offering cheaper fares. Unless you want then to reduce their service, operating days, loco fleet, maintenance etc.
     
  18. Robert Heath No.6

    Robert Heath No.6 New Member

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    I was happy to pay the asking price as a one-off, given 35028's exceptional rarity, and four winners in total. Therefore, I'd have to vote that it was a fair price under the circumstances, else I'd have not gone. Would I be willing to pay the same price for a future gala, and having now had all of the working home fleet for haulage? Not without a similarly big draw (what's left that's as big as 35028 was? Probably only Barry wrecks!), at least for a good few years until the home fleet had rotated. (Obviously at this point I'll be told how fickle I am, but that's the nature of the beast - the railway doesn't owe me a gala that interests me, and I don't owe the railway my attendance if what's on offer doesn't appeal for the price!)

    It's also worth bearing in mind the wider circumstances. 35028 was a big draw, but there's still this disease thing hanging around in the world at the moment. Sunday of the gala was busy but not horribly so. Knock £10 off the rover price and it could've been a "normal circumstances SVR gala" style crush, which would've been thoroughly unpleasant right now.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2021
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  19. Paul42

    Paul42 Well-Known Member

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    I spoke to a number of people who attended specifically for Clan Line, and agree fully with your last paragraph.
     
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  20. Enterprise

    Enterprise Part of the furniture

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    The gala prices seemed wholly reasonable to me compared to other leisure activities. Eg. A theatre visit is about £40 locally (Chichester Festival Theatre) and considerably more in London. A meal in a decent restaurant will easily exceed £40. A visit to Brands Hatch tomorrow for the Superbike Championship starts at £35.
     
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