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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a more basic question about the Seaward Way crossing.

    Local people will know the length of time that a crossing of some description has existed at this spot and which came first - the railway or the road. Over the years, I'm not certain that the intensity of rail traffic will have changed that much if you compare a typical busy day at Minehead around 1880, soon after the line opened to, say, a typical summer day in 2010. What has changed is the volume of traffic over the crossing especially in recent years with access to Tesco's and Butlins. So whilst there may have been changes in the signalling protecting the crossing over the years it is the nature of the crossing itself that has needed changing to take account of new safety measures and, importantly, the increased volume of traffic.

    My point is that changes to the crossing have been brought about by changes to road traffic and not the railway. Is it not beholden on the organisation responsible for maintaining the road to make such improvements as are necessary to accommodate these changes? Is it not also the responsibility of that same organisation to do so in such a manner and with sufficient speed so that it does not interrupt rail traffic?

    So if trains cannot run because the crossing maintained by the Local Authority is not safe and it hasn't got around to doing something about it then who has priority at the crossing - rail or road? Common sense suggests that the road has to be closed so trains can run and the road can reopen when the appropriate authority has made it safe again for traffic to flow.

    Any answers?
     
  2. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I think at a PR level (ignoring any questions, legal or otherwise, of "who was here first") the one thing that could be almost custom designed to get the backs up of local residents is to cause traffic disruption. So I'm not sure the above would be the wisest course of action - even though the railway is (in normal times) a major generator of revenue in the town by virtue of the footfall it creates, I would have thought it is far from certain that it is universally popular, and no doubt there will be some sections of the community just itching for a chance to close it.

    On the more general point, as I understand, SCC (as the Highways Authority) is already "accommodating the change:" by virtue of paying (because the road came second). But they aren't experts in railway signalling, so the design has to come from the railway so that it interfaces correctly with the signalling in the area. In practical terms, any large project like that will never be an either or: the two parties are inextricably linked and have to co-operate to get the work done. My naive assumption would be that the winter is the best time, from both a railway and road / town point of view.

    The big question is still unanswered though, which is why wasn't it done last winter given that right into March, the railway was still planning to open and operate a full service through the spring and summer.

    Tom
     
  3. Faol

    Faol Well-Known Member

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    To answer your question simply the railway was there first by many years and hence the County Council are responsible for the costs of maintaining and renewing the crossing as and when it is needed. I am afraid I am too out of date to answer any of the other points. Ken
     
  4. gwilialan

    gwilialan Part of the furniture

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    There does seem to be a significant attitude of "Ignore it and hope it goes away" which has been ongoing within management circles for some time.

    And if anyone in management (or their supporters) thinks that is not a fair comment then the answer is simple... Communicate with the membership and show us all you are actually doing things rather than just ignoring what doesn't suit your plans.
     
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  5. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    What puzzles me is this. Seaward Way is not a new problem that has blindsided the railway in say the way in which landslips might be. Rather it has been on the agenda for a number of years. It strikes me as a rather serious failure of management that the line has been told to go back and sort it out again.

    It shows that covid was an excuse not the reason for not running trains this year. Thus this failure has worsened the financial situation for the railway.

    Moreover, the railway will be against the wall to ensure the crossing is sorted for the next running season, at a time when resources are already stretched. Again, damaging the railway's financial situation.

    This strikes me as a categorical failure by the PLC board. Seaward Crossing and fixing it should have been their number one priority last winter and this summer, but instead they wasted time and energy on trying to kick out the S&DRT and macho posturing in the press.

    I appreciate that it is the vogue to never apologise, never explain and never backdown, but the PLC board should be taking responsibility for this failure because they have no one to blame but themselves.
     
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  6. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Great one Tom. You've just trampled all over the eggshells I had decided to tiptoe over! :)

    I'm genuinely bemused that something as basic as the main crossing on a line at one of the destinations on the line seems to have fallen off the edge of joint planning. To be honest I'm pretty certain that the County Council and the local shoppers are delighted that the crossing is permanently set for traffic and that the line is closed. Aside from the financial dimension the free flow of traffic, such as it is currently under lockdown, must be very welcome.

    To take a far more disruptive arrangement at, say, Grosmont, I would be amazed if the NYMR and North Yorkshire CC would allow any local difficulty to hold things up on road or rail for long.
     
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  7. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator Friend

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    I seem to remember there was a post many pages ago which claimed the crossing work had been planned and approved for SCC to do the work. However, the WSR board then decided they didn’t like the plan so rejected it and it was back to the drawing board, this being one of the reasons for the delay.
     
  8. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    Yes I recall that as well.

    When I worked for a big corporate in London once upon another lifetime the Marketing Director once said to me: “PR lesson 101, Nature abhors a vacuum, if you leave one somebody will fill it”. So I’ll try and fill in some of the space left open about Seaward Way that I think I know.
    • SCC pay for the work. The WSR designs, gets it signed off by the various authorities (ORR & Highways Authority I assume) and then completes the work.
    • SCC had the money at least 3 years ago, they costed it at £850k and had funds allocated. This was announced in the local papers at the time and it was commented on this thread that it was a lot of money for a crossing, some may remember when exactly I’ve not gone back to look.
    • The following press release was put out by the BBC in January 2018: “A £850,000 plan to upgrade the level crossing over West Somerset Railway at Minehead has been signed off by Somerset County Council. Work to replace the gates and changes to signalling systems will take place later in the year.”
    • The WSR at the time said it was going ahead in that winter period, so that would have been the January-March 2019, just after the new PLC Board took over in October/November 2018.
    The rest is based only on rumour and internal talk, I don’t know anything that follows directly as I haven’t seen any other announcement on the crossing directly.
    • Some or all of the crossing components were ordered.
    • The new PLC Board after they arrived didn’t like what had been planned and stopped the work.
    • I hear a repeated rumour about replacing colour lights with semaphores in the design (personally something I like the sound of).
    • SCC had to get the funding rolled over into further financial years in order to keep the funding available.
    • Last week the atlas crane moved from BL to MD, it was seen unloading signal posts by the crossing so does this indicate that the work is going ahead without the ORR’s design approval? Perhaps they will be happy to sign it off later or perhaps it’s was just a good opportunity to drop the posts on site.
    Sorry if that raises more questions than it answers and I could be wrong on any of this so I’m happy to be corrected.

    The same question asked by others is still unanswered: How were the WSR going to run with Minehead as a Station in 2020 before Covid came along? There was no indications at the time that the line was only going to operate as the ORR report now says ‘one engine in steam BL to WN only’ for 2020, so how were they going to get around it?

    I’m sure the WSR PLC have all of this under control but most of the information about the crossing has come from outside of the WSR as they haven’t kept people informed, and that’s the issue. What’s the secret? If you want peoples help and money why keep them in the dark whilst saying ‘it’s all ok, nothing to see here’ as it is only ever going to undermine confidence in the WSR’s abilities which isn’t fair because previously the WSR would have completed a project like this easily and with as much positive PR as it could raise in the local community.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
  9. Ploughman

    Ploughman Well-Known Member

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    Are the local council using their own design staff or are they contracting out to a Network Rail approved design house?
     
  10. jma1009

    jma1009 Well-Known Member

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  11. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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  12. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    From what I can understand the WSR is doing all(?) the design and SCC are paying for it.

    From the document that @jma1009 posted the concern of the council in particular seems to be pedestrians and making sure the design is safe and suitable for the amount of usage.
     
  13. D6332found

    D6332found New Member

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    Do you remember the entire car industry laid waste in the 1970s due to strikes over tea break lengths? I was a kid but there was a lot of similar conflict strikes in that generation that now seems totally insane. Is conflict in the Boomer generation a major weakness?
     
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  14. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Very helpful. So one sticking point was that the WSR wanted semaphores when the design included colour lights?

    I get a sense of 'GWR authenticity' slipping in here rather than the main prize - i.e. a modern and safe crossing constructed in a timely manner. I wonder where the MHR would be now if they had insisted that the colour lights at Alton were removed and replaced with semaphores because this was now a heritage line and not BR?
     
  15. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    Actually, the MHR designed and started work on their installation at Aton as a typical mechanical installation with lever-frame and semaphores, but changed to colour-lights and panel AIUI in order to facilitate automatic working with the box switched-out at quiet times.
     
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  16. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    IMHO whether you have colour-lights or semaphores makes no difference to the safety of the crossing, but does effect how you signal it and the resultant cost.

    IIRC there were two unrelated issues originally:-

    1. For whatever reason (probably cost) the crossing was implemented as a (somewhat rare) locally-monitored AHB rather than full-barriers with CCTV, hence independent of the signalling.
    2. The Down Inner Home and its subsidiary PLS were provided as a C/L rather than a semaphore bracket (with main and subsidiary arms) because of the perceived problems with maintaining so many wire runs under the roadway (which is why the Down Home and Up Advanced Starting were done by motor rather than wire).

    If the means and equipment and funds now exist to re-signal in a semaphore format, then why not?
     
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  17. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Well-Known Member

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    I have to apologise for the slight thread drift but I had to laugh at the 1.5 minutes suggested for modern barrier gates in the SCC document. My dad who seems to have a thing about the gates at Wool (yes I know the trains are going a lot faster) seems to time his wait whenever he gets caught there. The record is 8 minutes to wait for one train only to pass. So not all new stuff is quicker it seems.
     
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  18. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    Indeed and if that's the case and the delay has been because the last lot wanted colour lights and the new lot want Semaphores (only a rumour) why not a quick redesign in late 2018 and still get it done in early 2019 as per original plan. Or if the timescales were too tight for that it could have been done in Jan-Mar 2020. So why not even a signed off plan now, nearly 2 years after any change was mooted ?

    My biggest concern would be the funds not being available now, Is there a risk of SCC sending an email: "sorry you left it to late, the ball was in your court for two years so we spent it on something else, we know you will understand how tough times are, Covid, not enough money for important stuff, budgets cuts, etc." What then ?

    Lots of questions to clear up which I'm sure the WSR Representative on here can answer and put our minds to rest as I'm sure we are all worrying over nothing and just filling a knowledge vacuum.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
  19. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    There are a few stories flying around regarding this . I'm more than happy to be corrected but I understand the Council were funding the replacement and NR did all the design work for free . So you have a bang up to date level crossing at on the face of it what seems like low cost to the railway which should have been done in the last budget year ? (pretty much pre covid) . So what stopped its installation ?

    anyone really object to the suggested colour light on the approach ?
     
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  20. Dennis John Brooks

    Dennis John Brooks Member

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    You talk about disruption of traffic at Seaward Way, it is negligable compared to Blue Anchor where you can wait for up to 10 minutes.

    DJB.
     
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