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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. Chris86

    Chris86 Member

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    It is a bit of strange situation at the moment, spending on 'luxury goods' apparently is up as a chunk of the population have more disposable income as a result of not being able to go out spending money and socialising as much for the last couple of years.

    At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who have not been in a position to work from home or receive as much income support who for the next few months or years are going to have to very much cut their cloth accordingly.

    I guess as a family we fall somewhere in the middle, we certainly saw a significant hit to our income and having set up a business in the year before the pandemic we had spent significant sums on establishing the business. I wouldn't say that our situation is precarious, but the rainy day funds are looking very much depleted so budgeting is very important- and I suspect that there are a lot of people in a similar situation.

    Regards

    Chris
     
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  2. 6960 Raveningham Hall

    6960 Raveningham Hall Member Friend

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    I’ve no idea what other attractions you are comparing with. Is it like for like? The WSR ticket will enable the family to catch the first train out of BL at just past 10am and return at 6pm, on the Red timetable. With favourable weather that’s the whole day taken care of.
     
  3. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I can only speak for myself, but if the "attraction" offers those timings, then I am also considering what additional costs may then follow. I've not holidayed in WSR catchment, but from experience as an NYMR customer for Whitby, that equation has had to consider food and other purchases in Whitby, plus how to keep kids occupied. As a non-beach going family, that's one option ruled out, while if we were beach bound, we would probably want the flexibility the car gives.
     
  4. Paulthehitch

    Paulthehitch Member

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    Surely a tourist railway has to be something rather more than a means of killing time?
     
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  5. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    Which is actually the key question, before one starts discussing pricing strategies. What is the railway there for, in the eyes of potential customers?
     
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  6. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    The cynic in me suggests the same applies to anything beyond eating, staying alive and popping out sprogs to do it all over again! Please someone, anyone, prove me wrong. :Meh:
     
  7. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    A lot of this discussion seems based around whether the railway is, or isn't, serving the needs of one specific customer segment - i.e. the family on a day out.

    The risk is therefore that the railway is particularly exposed to changes in fortune of that segment. If families are price-sensitive, then you hedge against that by also looking for segments that are less price-sensitive. (The comment was made by @Chris86 about the relative strength of spending on luxury items).

    When I look at the WSR, I don't see a very diverse income stream: based overwhelmingly around serving the day trip market (either families, or coach parties). Apart from the footplate courses (which appear to have been popular, but are dependent on having a spare loco available) there seems relatively little diversity in income streams.

    That's not to decry the core market: it will always be the core. But I wonder what business development is going on to diversify from that core? The ideal would be that you had different business streams that were not all coupled to the same business cycle, so a downturn in one would be ameliorated by another doing relatively better.

    Tom
     
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  8. Martin Fuller

    Martin Fuller New Member

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    The core business of all heritage railways is carrying families, everything else is welcome pocket money. Unfortunately the enthusiast market is dwindling, and the contract engineering business is dependent to some extent on miles run, if engines aren't doing so many miles, they last longer before needing bottom end work.

    Not a problem when the railway isn't running Mondays or Fridays!
     
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  9. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Administrator Moderator Friend

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    I’m comparing it to the other tourist attractions my family would like us to visit. We usually stop off in Minehead on our way into North Devon, the attractions I’m thinking of are also all day places.

    An example would be the Big sheep. Now for a railway enthusiast such as myself, the WSR wins hands down against it, but, as a family attraction you could argue there is more on offer at the Big Sheep than the WSR which as nice as it is only offers a train ride really. Ive said this before but a nice play ground such as the Mid Hants installed at Ropley, which also has a miniature railway, both things the WSR doesn’t have but for keeping my young children entertained is a big bonus as you can break up the train ride with some time on the playground. These are the kind of things I look for, another example in the same vein was why we chose to visit the SVR over the GWSR during Covid operations. I love both railways but my children love the engine house at the SVR. At the time the GWSR was offering a round trip which wasn’t as attractive with two young children so the SVR got the visit. I guess apart from value for money, the other consideration we make for family railway visits is the added attractions which collectively offer more than just a train ride, especially if the journey on the train is of a long duration.


    That is not the whole day taken care of and somewhat reliant on external unconnected attractions which with them bring additional costs to a family. What I think you are really saying with this suggestion is that the WSR are providing an expensive park and ride service to the beach and seaside attractions. Out of the 8 hour suggested day you are only spending a maximum of 2.5 hours on the train and maybe 3.-3.5 at the railway in total. The rest of the time the families are lining the pockets of attractions such as the arcades etc in Minehead and really what the WSR should be doing is trying to increase the time spent (and money spent) at the railway directly. This would be a win win situation in that it would add value and increase income to the railway.

    Exactly Paul, especially if you have young children who get bored easily.
     
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  10. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Is it? It's an important segment, but my trips on heritage railways suggest that the audience is a lot wider than (grand)parents and their children.
     
  11. Springs Branch

    Springs Branch New Member

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    Correct, my nearest major heritage railway generates over a million £ per annum on its diner services, with children nowhere in sight.
     
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  12. martin1656

    martin1656 Nat Pres stalwart Friend

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    Railways can't compete by just offering a ride from A to B, It has to be more, As you say, Dining does make money,
    Dining trains, make more profit, if done right, and from past experience often get booked up well in advance it was nothing to hear the manager of the ones i worked on saying we are fully booked up now till next year, and this was early season, but the product has to be right, it has to be high class and the diners left feeling it was money well spent, lines that can tap this market, and who have done for years, now know their markets, this year, if normal numbers are down, the dining option may turn to be a saviour,
     
  13. JBTEvans

    JBTEvans Well-Known Member

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    I don't use my membership perks at the railway I am a member of for this reason.
     
  14. JBTEvans

    JBTEvans Well-Known Member

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    That's a lot of meals!
     
  15. JBTEvans

    JBTEvans Well-Known Member

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    Write a suggestion they put these facilities in at Washford. It has the space.
     
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  16. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    That feels like a recipe for decline.

    Without thinking very hard, possible income streams for railways would include
    • Ordinary fares
    • Shop sales (including mail order)
    • Fixed catering (cafes etc)
    • Premium (i.e. on train) dining
    • Film / location services
    • Wedding / special occasion services
    • Venue hire
    • Footplate and other enthusiast courses
    • Photographic charters
    • Incoming railtours
    • Professional services to the rail and related industries
    • Engineering and related services to third parties
    • Support body memberships
    • Altruistic donation
    • Grant funding
    Not every railway would manage every income streams, and clearly they are only worth doing if they generate a net surplus. But diversity is good: it helps insulate from a cyclical downturn in one area if you have other areas in your portfolio. If the core market is price-sensitive, it helps to have other streams that might be, for example, quality- or time-sensitive but not price-sensitive. Or at least have their business cycles out of sync with the core.

    The core will always be the core - but by no means should it be the only, or dominate, revenue stream.

    Tom
     
  17. Chris86

    Chris86 Member

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    That seems like a pretty good list.

    The film/location services one has the potential to be quite substantial over the next few years- the UK film industry is doing very well and has ridiculously deep pockets, Heritage Railways need to be making sure they take advantage of any opportunity to try and empty them!

    Regards
    Chris
     
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  18. nanstallon

    nanstallon Part of the furniture

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    Profit is not a dirty word. Significant profits are needed to pay for maintenance of track etc. The failure of the WSR to make significant profits in the past is why there is now a crisis over the state of the track etc.
     
  19. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    There are profits and then there are profits. If there's a valid way to discount depreciation, it's one which has certainly passed me by. Recall the old adage about how to make a small fortune out of running a railway?
     
  20. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Well-Known Member

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    I'd argue that if you are not banking enough to pay for track renewal etc on a sustainable basis, you are not actually making a profit at all!
     

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