I've been a little quiet these last few days - I took the May Day holiday off after an exhausting first four months of the year when I seem to have been training day in and day out, and went up to Scotland to travel on the PS (Paddle Steamer) Waverley from Oban to Iona and back.
Waverley entered service with the London and North Eastern Railway in 1947, and was withdrawn about 25 years later from the Clyde Excursion trade because she was deemed to be unprofitable. Taken over by a preservation group, she's now being running longer in their hands than she ran before preservation. The crew were talking about having 600 on board on Sunday and it can't have been far short of that on Monday ... and that's "big bucks" at fares that rise to over 30 pounds a head.
Economics dictate against preserved boat operation too. The engine has to be in far better condition than that on a train; if a train should break down (as we've seen happen locally) it's just a nuisance but if Waverley breaks down, she's liable to drift onto the rocks. And then she's only got a seven month seasoson whereas the trains run day in, day out (if we should choose to ignore bustitution).
Waverley moored overnight at North Pier, Oban
Crowds disembark in Oban
Caledonian MacBraynes through away a wonderful service when they pulled Waverley and their other boat, known as the Queen Mary II, of the Clyde runs in 1972 and 1974 (ish). Although it might not have been paying in that current form, it was viable with a bit of adjustment and it's not just down to their finances - it also down to the finances of destinations like Dunoon, Rothesay, Brodick and Tighnabruiach which they serves. I think that First / Department for transport are making the same mistake again with the Swindon to Southampton train service. Slashed back, it will cost them less for sure but they'll also loose a lot of income. And they'll inconvenience a lot of users - they've even pulled back from a bid promise to extend the 234 bus to Chippenham Station. What's needed is a degree of insite and co-operation - from us, from our local representitives, and from both First and the DfT to make it work for our mutual profitable benefit.
Written 2006-05-04 09:02:32
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