Post Lockdown re-opening dates for heritage railways

Bessie

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I know there's still lots of work to do, but I'm a glass half-full person so with the roadmap published please let us know when your heritage railways plan to re-open. I'm determined to visit at least 10 lines in 2021.
 
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alexl92

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I've seen a fair few saying they plan to announce in the next week.
Could we maybe turn this into a sticky thread with all the dates in the first post as they're shared?
 

steamybrian

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Don't have any gen myself, but since they're museums, 12 April will be the earliest date for England.
Reading the list of dates it states that outdoor attractions such as zoos and theme parks open on 12th April and indoor attractions open 17th May. Are heritage railways classed as an indoor or outdoor attractions.?
Considering there are staff retraining and refreshers to do and other preparations to arrange so I cannot see an instant reopening more a gradual opening. Some staff travel long distances to work on a railway so they have accommodation to arrange.
 

matt

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BigB

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As discussed many times last year, there is a lot to do for many railways to prepare for opening and running a passenger service and if the volunteers cannot currently work on their "branch sets" (it is non essential) then being able to open on say 12th is problematic. There must be a lag between when they can start to prepare engines and stock, reassess staff who's safety competences may have lapsed and run shakedown services to ensure that everything is safe for running passenger services.
In Scotland where we are using data not dates, then we have no clear date for when we can reopen. We had hoped for the end of March but that is now put back - see latest news;

Before we reopen we need to ensure the track is okay (we are main line connected so use the track regularly and it is legitimate to maintain it) but we need to get the steam engines out of storage, and give them a good once over and test. The stock likewise must be fully tested as well as made Covid safe with screens. All staff must be competent in their roles, and this means they need to be reassessed to a degree as it is over a year ago since they were last on an operating service.
We are not alone, all railways will need some form of preparedness runs, which is why just because railways "could" open, they may not be in a position to do so on 12th.

I really welcome your approach of wanting to visit a number of railways this year - I think they all need support if they are to survive, and lots offer a good day out which you can extend by exploring the surrounding area and having your lunch their too. Breakfast at the Avon Valley Railway was one of the highlights of my trip there in 2019 and set me up for the day!

If everyone can visit even 3 or 4 railways this year then that would help enormously. I'm not looking forward to a series of threads about closures...
 

steamybrian

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As discussed many times last year, there is a lot to do for many railways to prepare for opening and running a passenger service and if the volunteers cannot currently work on their "branch sets" (it is non essential) then being able to open on say 12th is problematic. There must be a lag between when they can start to prepare engines and stock, reassess staff who's safety competences may have lapsed and run shakedown services to ensure that everything is safe for running passenger services.
In Scotland where we are using data not dates, then we have no clear date for when we can reopen. We had hoped for the end of March but that is now put back - see latest news;

Before we reopen we need to ensure the track is okay (we are main line connected so use the track regularly and it is legitimate to maintain it) but we need to get the steam engines out of storage, and give them a good once over and test. The stock likewise must be fully tested as well as made Covid safe with screens. All staff must be competent in their roles, and this means they need to be reassessed to a degree as it is over a year ago since they were last on an operating service.
We are not alone, all railways will need some form of preparedness runs, which is why just because railways "could" open, they may not be in a position to do so on 12th.

I really welcome your approach of wanting to visit a number of railways this year - I think they all need support if they are to survive, and lots offer a good day out which you can extend by exploring the surrounding area and having your lunch their too. Breakfast at the Avon Valley Railway was one of the highlights of my trip there in 2019 and set me up for the day!

If everyone can visit even 3 or 4 railways this year then that would help enormously. I'm not looking forward to a series of threads about closures...
I fully agree as I am also a working member of a heritage railway. You have have amplified what I have said in one sentence in item 5 above.
 

pdeaves

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Are heritage railways classed as an indoor or outdoor attractions.?
Personally, I have no idea. However, whilst not 'heritage lines' in that sense I would venture that most miniature railways are outdoor (for the majority, the passenger vehicles don't even have sides, let alone a roof). Whether anyone in officialdom agrees is a different matter...
 

richa2002

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I agree that I would love to visit many heritage railways once they reopen. Just not with any COVID theatre in place like having to prebook trains, face masks or distancing. Could be waiting a while I fear.
 

STEVIEBOY1

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I hope to visit some, including the BlueBell as I have some voucher for that, I'd like to take some of my friends on their afternoon service. Some other friends were able to do it when allowed to last year and said that it was very enjoyable. Anything to be able to get out and about with main line and steam trains.
 

Watershed

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and if the volunteers cannot currently work on their "branch sets" (it is non essential)
There is no part of the UK where volunteering needs to be "essential" to be a reasonable excuse to stay away from home.

Obviously volunteers at many heritage railways tend to be older and thus may decide to reduce their social contact and not volunteer for the time being.

However it is perfectly legal for them to volunteer to undertake any task that can't reasonably be done from home - e.g. track work, fixing/inspecting locos, preparating stock for public service.
 

BigB

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There is no part of the UK where volunteering needs to be "essential" to be a reasonable excuse to stay away from home.

Obviously volunteers at many heritage railways tend to be older and thus may decide to reduce their social contact and not volunteer for the time being.

However it is perfectly legal for them to volunteer to undertake any task that can't reasonably be done from home - e.g. track work, fixing/inspecting locos, preparating stock for public service.
We actually took legal advice on this rather than guess - it is limited what you can do to for the travel to be counted as essential. In a tiered system it has to be essential work to justify crossing health authority boundaries. You also can't just turn up - you must be on a roster. It may be more lax in other areas, but not here.
 

richw

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We actually took legal advice on this rather than guess - it is limited what you can do to for the travel to be counted as essential. In a tiered system it has to be essential work to justify crossing health authority boundaries. You also can't just turn up - you must be on a roster. It may be more lax in other areas, but not here.
Im guessing you’re wales or Scotland?
In England the rule on travelling for work (paid or voluntary), is that you may do so if the task can’t be done from home. Premier inn type accommodation has remained open for those workers who can’t wrk from home and need to be away from home.
I haven’t seen any announcements but the Paignton to kingswear apparently had their trains out on test runs over the weekend
 

Watershed

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We actually took legal advice on this rather than guess - it is limited what you can do to for the travel to be counted as essential. In a tiered system it has to be essential work to justify crossing health authority boundaries. You also can't just turn up - you must be on a roster. It may be more lax in other areas, but not here.
I'm afraid you've been given some pretty poor advice there. There has never been a ban on travelling within or between health authority boundaries based on the essential (or otherwise) nature of the work you're doing. The only requirement is that it can't be done from home.

You will see that the references in the level 4 restrictions only refer to "essential" in the context of:
  • buying goods for the essential upkeep etc. of a household
  • limiting maintenance work in private dwellings to that which is essential
  • limiting volunteering in places of worship to essential activities
Therefore, unless it worships kettles or Tractors, any heritage railway which claims that it can't open when visitors are permitted again, because they "couldn't" undertake volunteering during the lockdown, is at best misinformed!
 

STEVIEBOY1

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The Buckingham Rail centre is I think, open from 14 April, but best to check with them before anyone makes a visit there.
 

pdeaves

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I'm afraid you've been given some pretty poor advice there. There has never been a ban on travelling within or between health authority boundaries based on the essential (or otherwise) nature of the work you're doing. The only requirement is that it can't be done from home.

You will see that the references in the level 4 restrictions only refer to "essential" in the context of:
  • buying goods for the essential upkeep etc. of a household
  • limiting maintenance work in private dwellings to that which is essential
  • limiting volunteering in places of worship to essential activities
Therefore, unless it worships kettles or Tractors, any heritage railway which claims that it can't open when visitors are permitted again, because they "couldn't" undertake volunteering during the lockdown, is at best misinformed!
I note that BigB is in Scotland; the rules may be different there (or may not, I don't know).
 

Watershed

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I note that BigB is in Scotland; the rules may be different there (or may not, I don't know).
I have linked to the restrictions applying in Scotland. In respect of heritage railway volunteering, the restrictions are no different in any part of the UK.
 

reddragon

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There is no part of the UK where volunteering needs to be "essential" to be a reasonable excuse to stay away from home.

Obviously volunteers at many heritage railways tend to be older and thus may decide to reduce their social contact and not volunteer for the time being.

However it is perfectly legal for them to volunteer to undertake any task that can't reasonably be done from home - e.g. track work, fixing/inspecting locos, preparating stock for public service.
My mother is elderly and since she got her jab has acted as if it doesn't exist anymore!
 

YorkshireBear

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I have certainly not stopped maintenance at my heritage railway and we have carried on throughout undertaking essential maintenance as it is work that cannot be done from home.

My main issue was much of our civils and track maintenance is driven by seasons and so we had a large backlog building up which we would never get on top of so we started to tackle it focussing on essential items for now.

This was also done with one eye on the fact that this would help us reopen as soon as possible depending on government announcements.
 

BigB

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I have linked to the restrictions applying in Scotland. In respect of heritage railway volunteering, the restrictions are no different in any part of the UK.
There have been restrictions on travelling between areas under the tier system in Scotland - that was the point and it has been a constantly moving target. There is the wording of the legislation and the spirit of it. Travelling 45 miles from a Level 4 area to a level 3 just to clean an engine is not in the spirit of the thing, likewise traveling into a level 4 from lower level areas, and we did have members stopped by the Police when travelling in during the tighter restrictions. Grade card holders have been issued with letters stating they were on business so that made that discussion easier. You may also recall that in November travelling out of a level 4 area unless it was "essential" had a threat of prosecution, and people were charged if they breached this.
To keep the right side of the law utilising a roster via HOPS assured that we could restrict people on site and "prove" they were actually doing work. This prevents members turning up ad hoc and breaching any restrictions we have on numbers working in certain areas.

Our advice was sound, it's probably my wording of it that is the dodgy part. Defining essential is the key part of this, and revenue earning is really what I meant when referring to stock and engine maintenance. So a set used on the branch is revenue earning, additional carriages that may one day be used on a special occasion is not essential. Trackwork is essential as we still run trains along the line including for other TOCs if required. Checking electrical safety is essential for safety reasons, and we did this throughout lockdown as we still needed to power the site.

Some people think anything to do with the railway is essential, but lots of things are nice to have. If they are not core to your safety management system they are not essential.

Note that many of us have have been back since June because of how we worked within that framework, and ensured a Covid safe Environment.
This isn't advice we got yesterday as you can tell, and we have continued to follow it because for us it works. The legislation has changed since then including the one linked to, as has the Government restrictions and guidance, but we have kept up with it.

Note that for our railway, maintenance on steam engines has been suspended since April last year - not because we are not allowed to do so, but because of the sheer logistics of doing this with travel restrictions amongst other considerations including distancing. For a steam railway we wouldn't do that if we hadn't properly considered the matter.

In my day job I'm a category 1 worker as defined at the beginning of the outbreak, and have been able to travel to any place my company operates if required throughout lockdown, so do have an understanding of the rules as we keep well up to speed with them. However as Lord Browne, ex head of BP said, "just because you have a right to do something doesn't mean it is right to do so". Okay, he did say this a week before being found guilty of lying to a high court judge, but I think that just proves the point...
 

Watershed

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There have been restrictions on travelling between areas under the tier system in Scotland - that was the point and it has been a constantly moving target.
Yes - but travelling to undertake volunteering that can't be done from home is a reasonable excuse. That has been the case throughout all of the last 12 months.

There is the wording of the legislation and the spirit of it. Travelling 45 miles from a Level 4 area to a level 3 just to clean an engine is not in the spirit of the thing
The Scottish Government imposed plenty more draconian restrictions, but they did not require work or volunteering to be essential (with a handful of non-relevant exceptions, as explained in my post #21). That was an active, conscious decision and so I hardly think it can be said to be outwith the spirit of the law to do something which specifically carved out as a "reasonable" excuse.

we did have members stopped by the Police when travelling in during the tighter restrictions
I can quite believe that. But at no point would they have been forbidden from coming to undertake volunteering that couldn't be done from home.

You may also recall that in November travelling out of a level 4 area unless it was "essential" had a threat of prosecution, and people were charged if they breached this.
See above - there was never a requirement for travel out of the area to be "essential". Any work or volunteering that couldn't be done from home qualified as a reasonable excuse.

To keep the right side of the law utilising a roster via HOPS assured that we could restrict people on site and "prove" they were actually doing work. This prevents members turning up ad hoc and breaching any restrictions we have on numbers working in certain areas.
That seems a perfectly sensible decision.

Defining essential is the key part of this
Not exactly - of course each organisation must make its own determinations, but the only mentions of the word "essential" in the Regulations are not relevant to heritage railway volunteering.

Note that many of us have have been back since June because of how we worked within that framework, and ensured a Covid safe Environment.
This isn't advice we got yesterday as you can tell, and we have continued to follow it because for us it works. The legislation has changed since then including the one linked to, as has the Government restrictions and guidance, but we have kept up with it.
The only thing that has changed in the context of heritage railway volunteering is the requirement to either wear face coverings in indoor communal areas, or to ensure separation by a partition or 2m distancing. Either of which would likely be measures implemented as part of ensuring a Covid safe workplace.

In my day job I'm a category 1 worker as defined at the beginning of the outbreak, and have been able to travel to any place my company operates if required throughout lockdown, so do have an understanding of the rules as we keep well up to speed with them. However as Lord Browne, ex head of BP said, "just because you have a right to do something doesn't mean it is right to do so". Okay, he did say this a week before being found guilty of lying to a high court judge, but I think that just proves the point...
Absolutely true, but see above - the Scottish Government specifically decided not to require work or volunteering to be essential for it to be permitted.

I'm not trying to criticise you, your railway or indeed any other railway that has decided to limit volunteering. That is a decision for each organisation and person to make for themselves. But to rely on the crutch of "it was illegal" or "it goes against the spirit of the law" is simply not true - it is far better to be upfront and to say "we didn't think it was appropriate or safe to do so".
 
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