|Preserved Railways - a look forward
Bitton ... Blaenavon ... Bodmin ... Bristol Harbour ... Bronwydd Arms ... Buckfastleigh ... Cranmore ... Cricklade ... Didcot ... Helston ... Kingswear ... Lydney ... Minehead ... Okehampton ... Seaton ... Swanage ... Toddington ... Wallingford ...
"Preserved" railways, or heritage lines, all within or close to the area served by First Great Western.
Some are excellent tourist attractions ... but others, set up 30 years ago by nostalgic enthusiasts with steam engines that were already life expired on track that was - in those days - in reasonable shape now seem to be struggling. There isn't the supply of enthusiasts, track and trains are wearing out (and in some cases much of the stock is rotting in the British weather), and the supply of passengers willing to pay good money to go from nowhere-in-particular to another-nowhere has dwindled. You'll see my story of one such that I visited yesterday here.
There's so much potential in some of the assets, and there's so much potential in the enthusiasm of the remaining volunteers, including the new generation, but there's a need - sometimes a crying need - for management and harnessing of those resources. Has the time come for a rethink of the heritage and preservation movement?
I have listed the home of 18 operations above; some I know and some I don't, so I'm going to simply suggest enhancements to a handful of them, say that some others (unnamed) should be applauded, and suggest that others may be better thinned out. I can't imagine it was fun for my driver yesterday to tell his trainload of passengers, disappointed to be on a diesel unit, that they could go no further because of a track defect ... he would possibly have had much more fun, and probably more and happier passengers, had he been sppeding them to a destination they wanted to go to!
A handful of ideas
Swanage - extend service to Wareham; add regular trains to provide genuine public transport service along with heritage traffic. If slam-doors are safe for a preserved line, surely they're even safer for the regular user that the line would build up?
Minehead - extend regular service to Taunton.
Didcot - to be the base for a tourist (and I'm looking at tourist from overseas too here!) service from Oxford to Salisbury.
All three of the above are seriously extending the "season" - and I am going so far as suggesting a week-round, year-round operation. That could also apply to Kingswear, where there's an argument for an extension to Newton Abbot, giving a single-change London connection from Kingswear and Churston-for-Brixham.
Written 2008-08-17 19:06:26
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Want to comment? You're welcome on the forum
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Letter to DfT
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