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West Somerset Railway Operations

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

  1. Big Al

    Big Al Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator

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    Isn't it strange that it takes people like @Jamessquared and others to make observations that are simple but so well targeted at solutions that you do wonder why the collective brains of the WSR cannot do something similar.

    Take a look, for example, at the planned September timetable for the line. What it roughly offers is:
    Mon and Frid - 4 trains each way along the line.
    Other days - 5 trains each way.
    Only a marginal difference.

    By contrast, on the Dartmouth Steam Railway for the same period, we have:
    Tues/Wed/Thurs - 9 trains each way
    Other days - 4 trains each way.

    What interests me is that it's mid week when the most intensive service is offered on the DSR and it is obviously very targeted. I realise that the DSR also offers packages to include river trips and the local travel/coach companies make good use of the railway as part of their excursion programme. It is, of course, a much shorter line. But both the WSR and the DSR are located where people are on holiday whilst accepting that Torbay is a tad more dense an area than Minehead/Watchet.

    My point is that until I thought about it when I was using the line myself, it seemed counter intuitive to have your quietest traffic days at the weekend, but of course, that is right.
     
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  2. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Part of the furniture

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    A valid point that needs to be emphasised - especially during the "holiday" season - as Saturday tends to be the "changeover" day when holidaymakers leave from home / depart for home and Sunday tends to be the "familiarisation" day when holidaymakers stay locally to both identify local facilities and - in the case of self-catering - stock up with the week's supplies. I have noted an increasing number of holiday rentals are geared to "Friday to Friday" bookings which may have an effect on heritage line attendances but the weekend market looks increasingly to be the main market for dedicated Gala events aka the enthusiast market which is proving to be a lesser contributor to the annual income.
     
  3. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    The DSR does quite vigorously target tourism. It has staff, as far as I know, who are dedicated to that purpose. Publicity is given to a large number of hotels and places where visitors stay or frequent. There are many roadside banners and as far as the attractions in the area are concerned you cannot fail to see the DSR, Paignton Zoo and Kents Cavern well in placed in the publics eye. The WSR does need anew 'image' as far as I can see, the last few years of continual internal and inter 'family' strife has taken quite a toll on the line.
     
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  4. mikechant

    mikechant Member

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    If the WSR is going to rum more DMU services, they should be promoted heavily as the 'scenic' trains - even if you're not in the very front seats, a lot of seats on the DMU will give better views than the steam coaching stock. 'Enjoy the view in one direction, experience the steam haulage in the other direction'?
     
  5. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    This is just as I understand it. Taking things a stage further, IMHO there ought to be a long hard look at the economics of galas aimed at enthusiasts. If your line, despite financial support from a supporting trust, is losing money then the last thing it needs is a gala costing so much to put on that it swallows up any extra income produced plus more as well. There would be no compunction about doing away with financially unsuccessful events aimed at the general public and the same should be true of galas.
     
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  6. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Well-Known Member Staff Member Moderator

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    Would you say that the majority of volunteers are enthusiasts? If so then you are taking the fun away so an occasional loss leader would be acceptable as reward for their hard effort. However if it’s a case of sink or swim (without them), then as you say it’s time to consider prioritising the activities generating the biggest profit.
     
  7. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Well, I visited today with middle son (10) & the new Family Pass.

    Got the 11.00am ex BL, with an immaculate 33 on the front, even the cab interior shone (was that @Paul Whitehouse driving?) 5 coaches with the brake in the middle, very Cardiff Portsmouth as I knew it.

    Nice chat from the loco on the hills so no complaints there, & a buffet on board.

    Hopped over to the 12.30 ex MD & sat in a 'Blood & Custard' behind the 7F, nothing not to like. Again a crew on good form as we sailed up the banks.

    Now, before anyone advocates running fewer trains, there were a lot of passengers joining at intermediate stations in both directions which suggests people using the line to get around, possibly a case for another DMU? I might also add that the GWSR seems to run quite a lot of Diesel.

    We were in the Guage Museum where we were made very welcome & as departure time approached for the Minehead train, a staff member (Young Man with a cap) was making sure nobody got left behind & when we said we had done our trip he asked if we had enjoyed it - which we had.

    OK, thats the good news, again the coach interiors are clearly as they left BR which these days is a long time ago, and exterior cleaning is needed. The abandoned planters at Minehead have been refilled but Domestic Facilities clearly wasnt impressed on her last trip, & I dont think the coach interiors helped...............
     
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  8. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Rather take the "fun away" (there is something wrong if "fun" depends on having galas) than risk losing the railway altogether because it spends too much.
     
  9. If the Diesel trains are 1 Loco hauled, 2 well-advertised what's going to be hauling them,
    From my experience, quite a few "cranks" will show up.

    If it's not advertised you won't get the Sulzer lot traveling down only for one of the Meks to be out and vise Versa.
     
  10. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    A better solution to galas (and perhaps make them fun again) might be to go back to what the NYMR did in its early days - make them predominantly home based "anything goes" mixed steam/diesel events, rather than relying heavily on expensive hired-in locos - having just one rather than four or five would make a big difference to the bottom line.
     
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  11. Mike West

    Mike West New Member

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    According to the news item on this page http://www.wsr.org.uk/r-news201906.htm, the recent Diesel Gala exceeded fare revenue budget by 10%, so assuming they didn't budget for it to make a loss, it made money.
     
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  12. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    No-one will know until all the bills are added up.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
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  13. nick813

    nick813 Well-Known Member Loco Owner

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    I thought the Board consists of 1.
     
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  14. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Thinking about it,

    1. What are the movement costs of a DMU like relative to a loco hauled service ( I suggest the marginal costs are rather low)
    2. Maximise the use of the existing set
    3. It seems to me that there is a market between Watchet - Minehead for visitors using the line to get around, so look at producing the most 'commercially attractive' timetable you can between those stations - in addition of course to the BL-MD traffic
     
  15. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Well-Known Member

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    Certainly here in Purbeck Friday seems to have become the changeover day and the Swanage Railway in the shoulder season has less trains on Monday and Friday. Not sure if the same applies to Somerset or not.
     
  16. KA-2B

    KA-2B New Member

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    Booked 33 driver today was WSR Traction Inspector Merv Hebditch with DEPG Chairman Martin Howard as second man.
     
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  17. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Quite a lot of fun to be had as travelling signalman for just one Quantock Belle train on Saturday. See pics below.
    (What is Driver Ian C’s secret that the ‘groupies’ turn out for him?)

    The T&DR / WSR comparison doesn’t really work as the T&D is more of a one-shot trip, whereas the WSR has multiple journey possibilities.

    Speaking personally, and as someone who likes ‘busy’ railway times, the Galas are an important part of the mix. I was, just this afternoon booked as ‘Responsible Officer’ for the 40’s weekend and Autumn Steam Galas. Have you booked to come? Look for me lurking somewhere helping our splendid team give excellent customer service as usual.

    But you have to be there!

    Robin

    BF26FF41-746D-4533-AC4E-752043208A3F.jpeg F02E460C-F4F2-478A-8566-C71AEC29983B.jpeg 4E223CCF-F700-4CC7-997A-22075762506C.jpeg 0F8428E8-D7BB-41BF-88B0-BA39A1952C05.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  18. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    I have always found the WSR to be a friendly railway, as indeed you did. Constructive criticism at the end, which needs to be acted upon. I'm looking forward to my visit this coming Saturday.
     
  19. Pete Thornhill

    Pete Thornhill Well-Known Member Staff Member Moderator

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    That seems the ironic thing, no one could argue that the railway isn’t welcoming to visitors, no one could fault that as it certainly is.
     
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  20. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    Not only are Friday and Saturday recognised changeover days but I'm starting to see an increasing trend towards Sunday, as well. This makes life much easier for those involved in the changeovers (cleaners, etc). The NYMR long ago reacognised that Fridays, Saturdays and, to some extent, Sundays generally had lesser patronage. Sundays, less so because you get a lot of people simply out for a day trip at the weekend.
    You have to be careful with the use of diesels. the NYMR's experience is that significant numbers of prospective visitors will walk if they find a diesel at the front of a train they are expecting to be steam hauled. Even when advertised, the diesel hauled services tend to be less well patronised but, at least people are forewarned if it is shown in the timetable and the operational cost of the train is significantly less.
    The subject of empty trains is not as simple as it might appear. Certainly, on lines where passengers aren't simply going out and back and there is a destination, traffic flows are not constant and it may be necessary to run a lightly used train simply to get it to the other end of the line to carry people on their return journey. The big railway does a lot of this and, to a lesser extent, so does the NYMR. If the main traffic flow is BL -MH in a morning and MH - BL in late afternoon what do you do with the trains in the meantime? 61624's argument about not running seven days a week has merit and it is practiced by a number of railways. However, there are far too many things to take into consideration to enable us keyboard warriors to come to any sensible conclusion.
    I'm very much in agreement with comments made about galas and their ability to easily eat into rather than contribute to the bottom line . If having one, they should be significantly different from the norm but that should not mean bringing in expensive hire locos. There are plenty of out of the ordinary things that can be done with a bit of thought.
     

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