Development: Cardiff to Minehead rail service?

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Development: Cardiff to Minehead rail service?

Postby TheObserver » Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:59 pm

An intriguing story was posted to the Railfuture website on 14 December 2015, involving a new 'pressure group' set up by the Minehead Chamber of Commerce" with the aim of introducing through running of trains between Minehead and Taunton.

    It is suggested that the Cardiff to Taunton service could become the Cardiff to Minehead service.
To read the complete article link to: http://www.railfuture.org.uk/article1630-Minehead-rail-link
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Swansea Railway Modellers Group: http://www.smrg.org.uk
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Re: Development: Cardiff to Minehead rail service?

Postby clive » Sat Jan 16, 2016 4:55 pm

I usually look to see which elected body has joined the group. Of course, there are none. You have to see how fast the Cardiff train runs on the main line and from memory the inter-city train wastes no time.
Admittedly, the Minehead line is currently limited to a private company's speed (? 25 mph). How much quicker could trains go on this line? 25mph might be all right for local trains to Taunton. But Cardiff trains should be thinking of 100 mph (although i am unsure how the pictured train would behave at such a speed !).
The lines are fundamentally different
It was sensible extending the Gloucester trains to Cheltenham (as happened) as the demand for traffic was similar. But the stations on the Minehead line are little more than halts, except for Minehead itself. And who wants to go to Minehead (the only station of importance) in the winter?
Tell me of a heritage line which carries regular, all-the-year traffic. Does the Romney, Hythe and Dimchurch still run school trains? Has any English heritage operation even got that far?
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Re: Development: Cardiff to Minehead rail service?

Postby Noel » Sat Jan 16, 2016 8:43 pm

The pattern of stops shown in the timetable suggests that these services are operated by Sprinter units, so 75mph maximum as, apart from the Exeter-Salisbury-Waterloo services and the Pacers in south Devon, recent observations on a number of trips from Bristol to Exeter suggest that only class 150 [as pictured] work south of Bristol. The turnround times look fairly tight, so extending the service beyond Taunton would presumably require more rolling stock and drivers, especially given the speed limits on preserved lines... I have seen IC125 units at Bishops Lydeard on specials, but, while not intending to question their maintenance standards, presumably extending even a sprinter service beyond that point would require the West Somerset as a whole to comply with national track maintenance standards, possibly with increased costs? There is no suggestion in the article that the WSR support this idea; I wonder if they were even asked?

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Re: Development: Cardiff to Minehead rail service?

Postby Rhobat Bryn » Sun Jan 17, 2016 8:47 pm

Why not extend the Sprinter service from Taunton to Bishops Lydeard and terminate there; the WSR can then take passengers onto Minehead as now.
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Re: Development: Cardiff to Minehead rail service?

Postby Noel » Mon Jan 18, 2016 11:19 am

The WSR currently runs the sort of timetable you would expect from a heritage line http://westsomersetrailway.vticket.co.uk/calendar.php. Running a scheduled service would require a very different approach. I have an idea that they did intend to run such a service, for commuters, in their early days, using a heritage DMU, but gave it up as impractical in the then state of the main line connection. From the travellers' point of view, the speed limit on the line would probably mean that road transport would be both faster [even on the local roads] and more convenient. Also, would you want to leave your nice [relatively] modern Sprinter and hang about on a station platform with limited facilities waiting for a heritage DMU, or a STEAM train :o ?

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Re: Development: Cardiff to Minehead rail service?

Postby Mike87f » Sun Apr 02, 2017 4:20 pm

The WSR's own vision does include through services from Taunton to Bishop's Lydiard terminating in a bay capable of taking 2x2 Class 158s. They have advanced plans in place. These connections link with the heritage line's timetable of course, not a full time service. What proportion of through travellers, having got to BL, would then want to continue in a TOCs DMU rather than a steam or heritage diesel hauled train? Rather few I think. That's why WSR are planning a major development at BL, they don't really want visitors to by pass BL and only visit Minehead, which doesn't have a big visitor's centre for example.
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Re: Development: Cardiff to Minehead rail service?

Postby NCB » Mon Apr 03, 2017 8:34 pm

If the WSR had managed to maintain a service when it first started up it might have had a chance. I travelled on the line as far as Dunster just before Easter 1970 and was surprised at the length of train (DMU, certainly 4 carriages possibly more) and the number of people on it. The road network was poor and it provided a useful service. I was even more surprised when it closed.

For those living between Williton and Minehead who need to visit Taunton a train service could be useful; the roads have had the odd improvement but still aren't brilliant.
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Re: Development: Cardiff to Minehead rail service?

Postby Noel » Tue Apr 04, 2017 10:52 am

The Minehead branch was like many others in the westcountry; very busy in the holiday season, but not otherwise. The usual local service stock in BR days [which lasted until 1971] was one or two 3-car sets.

The commuter service never happened, partly because of access problems at Taunton through the cider factory siding which, after closure of the line, occupied the only possible space for a separate line from Norton Fitzwarren to Taunton station. Other suggestions include bus union objections.

http://www.unseensteam.co.uk/News-spotlight/Minehead-closure
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Somerset_Railway

I also seem to remember a contemporary article in the press about the problems inherent in trying to operate a regular commercial commuter service with volunteers, and the costs of employing paid staff instead, although I am not now sure this was about the WSR. The problems would be the same, however. The current speed limit is 25mph, I think, which is very slow by modern standards, and upgrading would have significant cost implications.
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