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Avon Valley Railway Updates and Videos

Discussion in 'Heritage railways & Centres in the Uk' started by Corbs, May 15, 2013.

  1. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    I am quoting from memory, but I think the last time I read something in the papers for the AGM, the extension was priced at £3Million.

    Now I know large sums have been raised in preservation, but I think £3m was the cost of the track and trackbed. So there are large additional costs to be found above that. In addition, Mk1 coaches and the like are no longer widely available, nor is the Avon Valley home to many locos (OK it can be argued that a bigger line would be more attractive to loco owners).


    I do wonder if it would struggle to find the additional resources (including volunteers) to service such an extension.
     
  2. SpudUk

    SpudUk Well-Known Member

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    With a terminus in or very close to Bath, it's prestige and thus attractiveness would rocket. I live just outside Bath and have done for about 5 years. Despite being a huge railway enthusiast, I only visited the AVR for the first time last year, and only because we walked their from Bath. There is no additional pull to visit, whereas starting/terminating in somewhere like Bath will absolutely increase things! Imagine getting a water bus from Pultney Bridge in the city centre, past Green Park Station, through Weston Lock and down to the AVR station at Newbridge. Heaven!
     
  3. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    I don't doubt that expanding the railway towards Bath would pull in more people. The questions are however:

    Are there the resources available to do so?

    Would such an expansion draw in enough people to fund the increased operating costs?

    I'm afraid to say, I think the answer to both is, no (unless someone wins the Eurojackpot).

    I think this falls into a @paulhitch "wouldn't it be nice category". - This from someone who was involved back in the days of the Bristol Suburban Railway at the very beginning when the intention was to run from Bristol to Bath.
     
  4. Kingscross

    Kingscross New Member

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    A problem with the Bath tourism market is that it's mainly based on day trips; significant numbers of foreign tourists visit from London but generally do not stay overnight. Interestingly, Bath has few large tourist attractions beyond the World Heritage Site City itself, its Abbey, and the "Roman" baths. A railway extension to give Bath another attraction - particularly a "rainy day" one - could certainly encourage longer tourist stays in the Bath area.

    The track bed is owned by the local authority and clear as far as the edge of the City, other than the need to shift the cycleway from the centre of the alignment to one side of it. I think the AVR has a couple of miles of track stored. The costs need not be huge, but the political will needs to be there. An updated cost/benefit analysis could be useful.

    Edit: And in regards to Simon's question of "Would such an expansion draw in enough people to fund the increased operating costs?" I think the answer would be yes, because the operating costs would not increase significantly; another couple of coaches, a bit more coal and water and maintenance of two more miles of track. The question of whether enough people would be drawn in to justify the investment in infrastructure has a less clear-cut answer, hence the need for accurate studies. But don't forget it's not just about revenue to the railway; as noted above targeting the foreign tourist market could bring big benefits to the local economy in terms of encouraging longer stays.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2016
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  5. SpudUk

    SpudUk Well-Known Member

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    Putting the resources question to one side, as I can't comment on that, I think you're wrong about it not drawing in more people. As Kingscross says, the tourism market is huge and there is a lot of business to tap into. With the Riverside coachpark closing and being relocated to Twerton or Newbridge, the potential market for day-trippers on that side of Bath is likely to increase drastically
     
  6. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    Well I would urge those who wish to see the expansion to join the AVR and volunteer if they don't already do so.
     
  7. Corbs

    Corbs Well-Known Member

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    I think that the railway is currently trying to consolidate its position. At the moment all the railway-owned steam locos are out of traffic, meaning they are reliant on hired in motive power. An effort to restore the Avonside is under way, and either the RSH or Littleton is due for an overhaul. It all costs money and time. There is an ongoing effort to keep the coaching stock in good condition and at least one is being worked on at all times
    The permanent way staff is only a handful of people, many of whom already have other jobs and duties elsewhere on the railway. The AVR needs to build their customer base and visibility in the Bristol area, have a strong business foundation and then look at extending (which is what they are trying to do).
    The new website is a big step in the right direction.
    To try and push the extension through now may be very risky and overstretch resources.
     
  8. 6024KEI

    6024KEI Active Member

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    As another nearby resident it is puzzling why this line fails to fulfil its potential. Having visited the line over 15 years ago I signed up to membership (more to put a few quid in the pot than anything) and at that point the Avonside had been under restoration for a while. 7151 had just been launched into service but it appears nothing else has successfully been finished since. Unfortunately a line based on running industrials up and down a stretch of former mainline will struggle to attract the majority of enthusiasts who have allegiances to one of the big 4. 2 of the 3 mainline locos that were based there have moved on, with 4123 appearing to make little progress either (I know this isn't the case because I follow their website but to a casual observer, it just sits apparently unloved in the headshunt for year after year). If its going to attract the sort of financial and manpower support it needs to develop it needs to have a clear vision for what it ultimately wants to be so that people can buy into it and want to join in.

    I can remember being taken there as a kid in the 1970's for brake van rides in the yard - most other lines of its era have either kicked on massively or in a few cases folded. I appreciate that the legal battles around the Oldland Common extension probably took a lot of momentum out when other lines were moving forward but its now in the state most of the premier lines moved on from in the 1980's. If those involved are happy with the current line length and feel that its sustainable in its present form then that's fine (and I'm not trying to knock anyone's efforts - I do realise that its not the easiest line to develop) but if it wants to develop it needs to get away from feeling (to those hundreds that walk/cycle past) as though its settled for its current existence with nothing much really progressing.
     
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  9. Corbs

    Corbs Well-Known Member

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    I do understand your sentiments. The good thing is things are getting better. The whole site is being tidied up and a concerted effort is being made in terms of branding etc. The new manager seems to be settling in well.
    Of the staff, Marcus especially does a hell of a lot for the railway, it seems he spends every waking moment there. It is he who organises the loco hire for galas etc. and is always to be found either driving or working on stock in the workshop. He understands that big locos attract crowds and as such arranged for Foxcote Manor, 4277, the jinty and others to attend over the years.
    4123 is some way off, yes, but in the meantime the AVR is pushing to have a sustainable operation, and then build on it. If that means relying on industrials for now then that's the way to go.
     
  10. free2grice

    free2grice Part of the furniture

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    A simple extension perhaps but an extremely expensive one. The railway is still awaiting the start of the next phase of their cafe and toilet building. The first phase was completed several years ago.

    The Avon Valley is a railway with limited funds and volunteers. One step at a time. <BJ>
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2016
  11. SpudUk

    SpudUk Well-Known Member

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    6024KEI has an interesting point. Most heritage railways would absolutely kill to be based between, and with easy access to, the two largest cities in the South West. It's a truly enviable position. Yet the AVR does seem to still struggle and hasn't made any headline progress in the 5 years I've been in the shire. I'm not sure what it is, but there is definitely something not clicking. Bitton is very atmospheric, and the tea room is sensational, but I've never felt compelled to visit it as regularly as I do the Mid Hants or similar lines within a relatively easy drive. I wonder if the cycle path is a psychological barrier for some, that it's not a "proper railway," although it does make for excellent photography opportunities. Perhaps when the 4F is eventually finished I'll come and play.

    On a side note, Avon Riverside really needs looking at. It's the first station that we came across on our walk and my wife thought it was a poorly maintained Network Rail station. There was no signage on the river cruises, and no information on Avon Country Park. Out of curiosity, why was Avon Riverside picked instead of going a little further to Kelston (for Saltford)?
     
  12. 6024KEI

    6024KEI Active Member

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    In some ways that's all great but....

    Tidying the site and sorting the branding might appeal to the public and make it marginally easier to make a bit more cash out of them.
    Similarly getting locos in for galas etc might attract a decent turnout for those events.

    They aren't however really what gets volunteers signed up. Having a mainline loco to play with a couple of times a year is a nice treat but its not really going to offset hours of spare time scraping rust off some industrial tank engine.

    If I'm honest the whole exercise just feels like its designed primarily towards keeping the big train set available to play with rather than attempting to preserve anything. If the cash being generated by the new café or the Pullman liveried carriages or the ill thought out station at Avon Riverside were obviously going into LM based preservation then it would be understandable. But it all seems to go on hiring in the next unwanted loco that needs a home - pretty much anything to play trains with. Even as someone with probably more GW leanings than anything else I can't help feeling that the prairie is only there because no-one else really wants a fake LT liveried loco with an ugly air pump stuck on the side.

    As a tourist attraction it seems to be doing pretty well. As something that will appeal to enthusiast volunteers it needs almost a total rethink. I'd almost be tempted to say that at this stage with no LMS locos likely to be available, it would be better seeing if they can get in some typical West Country diesels of the 1980's era and tacking steam onto that.
     
  13. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    A few thoughts (as a member and not speaking on behalf of the railway):

    The Bristol Suburban Railway started life with far too large scale plans and started life post the lifting of the track. (not the only railway to be in that situation c/f the GWRS and Swanage, but it severely restricted the ability to draw in funds by offering train rides).

    It also did not have any operating locos for the first few years. The locos it bought, like the Black 5, were out of its league in terms of funding restoration. A few smaller locos would have been better

    It also lacked the support of the local council support, in fact I think they were severely hostile to it - especially as they had plans to use the trackbed for a road - which cramped its ability to expand and to attract support.

    When it did expand, as has been mentioned above, it faced a long and expensive court battle with the local residents who didn't want a railway running past their back garden and suffered considerable vandalism.

    A few years ago it expanded to Riverside and that gives it an end to end decent run for a tourist attraction.

    However both termini lack any facilities or ever had any stations there - Oldfield was a halt in BR days.

    There are many and varied reasons why it never took off and became something bigger. A lot I think had to do with personalities - where have we heard that - and the pull of other more successful lines with a reasonable drive.

    And in truth what it has become IMHO a tourist attraction without any real pretence at being a preserved line. Another example being that it has no signals and has I believe made the decision not to have any, with the agreement of the regulatory bodies.

    It gets a lot of visitors for its size and appeals to those who want to go for a steam-train ride. Many people are quite happy with that - so long as its steam, the carriages are clean , the loos are clean and work and there is somewhere to get something to eat.

    I personally can't see it becoming anything other than a tourist attraction without a big influx of money and volunteers - both of which are in short supply across the sector.
     
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  14. Corbs

    Corbs Well-Known Member

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    Yes fair point, but a clean and well presented site with good facilities will appeal to the public/families more, they then spend money on the railway, the railway can invest that money in more improvements and so on and so forth.
    As an example, a loco pit was installed in the MPD in the last couple of years, something that was sorely lacking before.
    I believe the loan for the building of the buffet should be paid off soon (if not already done), which hopefully means a steady income stream from that - more money to invest in infrastructure and facilities.
    More investment means stock etc. can be overhauled, expansion can be looked at.
    To do so without the solid base would be reckless.
     
  15. MAPLE CHRIS

    MAPLE CHRIS Member

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    As someone who has grown up with the Avon valley railway in my eyes it has come a long way since its humble beginnings it now has a couple of diesels which will attract the younger volunteers ok it does seem a shame that they have no ex BR steam locos apart from the prarie but the industrials do put up a good show. i believe that the AVR have enough coaches as quite a few Mark1s were bought years ago and stored off site. More undercover accomadation would be great as this would speed up overhauls. i have attended the photo charters on the railway and the staff did a fantastic job. it would be great to see the 4f working the line as it is a ideal loco for the line perhaps as this is the 50th annviserary of the closure they could hire a 4f for their end of steam gala 44422?
     
  16. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    It is interesting in reading the thread how we "impose" if that is the right word an expectation on a railway . The enthusiast movement on its own cannot sustain our heritage railway movement . This leaves each railway to find and in the nicest sense plough its own furrow in the hope of creating a sustainable business

    The AVR as others have said have maybe been held back by less council support , I'm sure at one point many years ago the railway was restricted to something like 40 days operation a year

    That it has been running for so long and achieved a reasonable running line is something to be proud of .

    Having run two three evening shoots at the railway I have also found an excellent and enthusiastic group of volunteers and a line with a charm of its own and I look forward to coming back again this year
     
  17. Platform 3

    Platform 3 Member

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    I've never been to the AVR but my parents took my nephew a few months ago and they has a fantastic time. They all like steam railways without being 'enthusiasts' and described it as one of the best railways they had visited. Frankly, their opinion matters far more than mine would anyway.
     
  18. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    I can understand why. It offers a reasonable length line. You get to go up the line in one direction and then see the engine run round then back again through Button where it stops again. Then off to riverside where again the engine will run round. You can take a boat trip from there IIRC. And then back to Bitton. If you hang around, the train will be back again shortly.

    At Bitton is a sizable cafe and an ok shop.

    So it's a good day out or half day out.

    It's not a major league railway, but it provides entertainment.
     
  19. SpudUk

    SpudUk Well-Known Member

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    Have the AVR ever considered a chartered river cruise to Green Park Station, with a historian onboard to point out the Midland/S&D landmarks?
     
  20. simon

    simon Resident of Nat Pres

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    I don't know. Nor do I know if any of the AVR management are on this forum.

    I'm not sure how much you could see from the river.

    If you want to see Green Park station, then just walk in.
     

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