Visits by coach tours to preserved railways

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John Luxton

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Reading comments about coach tours and heritage railways makes me think of an experience when I was in my early teens. I wanted to visit the Talyllyn railway in the early 70s. My father was reluctant to take me in the car as he had managed to get spectacularly lost on a trip to the Ffestiniog Railway when rather than follow the route I had plotted he said he knew the way to Porthmadog but that is another story. :D

Anyway, as there were to direct links from Liverpool by train I decided to book along with my grandmother what was advertised by a local coach tour operator as a "Talyllyn Railway Railtour".

Well what a disappointment it was.

We had an hour and a half refreshment break in Dolgellau, where it was still possible to see the remains of the station - the only compensation - then back on the coach for the remaining run to Tywyn.

Coach dropped us off at the Wharf. I expected the coach to park up and say give us several hours to go for the trip etc.

Oh no. "Ask for a single ticket to Dolgoch" said the driver and will be waiting in the car park to pick you up! The train was already busy when about 40 coach passengers had to be shoehorned in, it had also started to rain. I recall being sat somewhere in the middle of one of the original TR carriages with my grandmother who had decided to come, sat opposite. Saw nothing of the scenery, had to squeeze our way out at Dolgoch go back to the coach which then promptly drove off and headed to Bala for another lengthy refreshment break.

We never made it to Abergynolwyn! Nant Gwernol wasn't yet open.

What a miserable day out. Having been so used to being able to do "round trips" on visiting other heritage lines this was a total disappointment and I decided never to go on a coach to a heritage railway again!

Around 2.5 hours were wasted on refreshment breaks when if we had just had a quick toilet stop there would have been more than enough time to have just parked the coach at Tywyn and allowed everyone to do the round trip at a more leisurely pace.

Eight years ago I did a Round the British Isles Cruise which included a call at Holyhead. One of the shore options was a trip to the Ffestiniog Railway for £60! Yes, you have guessed it one way only Porthmadog to Blaenau.

As an FR member and regular visitor I have been used to seeing these one way coach trips and still reckon they are poor value and a poor experience. I am not blaming the railways but I just find coaches excursions to heritage railways a bad experience.
 
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Merle Haggard

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Visited a certain railway a very long way North from here, travelling by train and a hotel stay. Caught the heritage railway train at a network station for a round trip. Reached the outer (rather bleak!) outer terminal and ready for the return trip, but departure time passed with no movement. Eventually it was admitted that we were waiting for a coach party for a one way trip and the coach was running late.

I kept a low profile, but others pointed out that the delay would mean that those travelling by rail would miss the next train, leaving a two hour wait at an only slightly less attractive location.

However, it then became clear what the policy was. If the heritage train left before the coach arrived, the coach revenue would be lost. But if it was held, we had already bought tickets so they'd got our money; missing the train was just tough, no question of a refund. It's the Del Boy approach to marketing; rip a customer off but they probably wouldn't have been back anyway, and hey! there's plenty more unsuspecting potential customers for the future...
 

Highlandspring

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Visited a certain railway a very long way North from here, travelling by train and a hotel stay. Caught the heritage railway train at a network station for a round trip. Reached the outer (rather bleak!) outer terminal and ready for the return trip, but departure time passed with no movement. Eventually it was admitted that we were waiting for a coach party for a one way trip and the coach was running late.

I kept a low profile, but others pointed out that the delay would mean that those travelling by rail would miss the next train, leaving a two hour wait at an only slightly less attractive location.

However, it then became clear what the policy was. If the heritage train left before the coach arrived, the coach revenue would be lost. But if it was held, we had already bought tickets so they'd got our money; missing the train was just tough, no question of a refund. It's the Del Boy approach to marketing; rip a customer off but they probably wouldn't have been back anyway, and hey! there's plenty more unsuspecting potential customers for the future...

A typical Strathspey experience, coach is king there.
 

Titfield

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Eight years ago I did a Round the British Isles Cruise which included a call at Holyhead. One of the shore options was a trip to the Ffestiniog Railway for £60! Yes, you have guessed it one way only Porthmadog to Blaenau.

Shore excursions are nearly always rip off prices caused in part by the excursion organisers who have to pay the cruise companies a princely sum to have the monopoly of selling excursions onboard the boat.
 

Elwyn

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With those round Britain type cruises, a lot of passengers book a hire car for the day. The hire car companies will usually bring the car to the ship (or pick you up and take you to their office). You can then visit the same tourist sites but at your own pace and timing and it’s a fraction of the cost. Here in Belfast cruise passengers pay about £100 each to go to the Giants Causeway and a nearby distillery. 4 passengers sharing a decent hire car can do the same trip for about £25 a head, and obviously are not bound by the coach trip timings etc.
 

WesternLancer

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With those round Britain type cruises, a lot of passengers book a hire car for the day. The hire car companies will usually bring the car to the ship (or pick you up and take you to their office). You can then visit the same tourist sites but at your own pace and timing and it’s a fraction of the cost. Here in Belfast cruise passengers pay about £100 each to go to the Giants Causeway and a nearby distillery. 4 passengers sharing a decent hire car can do the same trip for about £25 a head, and obviously are not bound by the coach trip timings etc.
with all cruises I have experienced they will guarantee that they will not sail the ship without you if you are on one of the coach trips organised through them (the cruise ship) - no such promise if you go it alone. So it's down to appetite for risk of the people concerned I guess.
And I have been on a ship that waited an extra 45 mins or so for a coach that must have been delayed getting back to the port by probably 60 to 90 mins.
But yes you can usually do the trips and tours yourself more cheaply if you are up for organising it yourself. Which takes time of course. And I have been on a preserved railway line in Sweden that opened specially for our trip on the day we were in port. That would not have been an option if organsing it alone of course.
 

John Luxton

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With those round Britain type cruises, a lot of passengers book a hire car for the day. The hire car companies will usually bring the car to the ship (or pick you up and take you to their office). You can then visit the same tourist sites but at your own pace and timing and it’s a fraction of the cost. Here in Belfast cruise passengers pay about £100 each to go to the Giants Causeway and a nearby distillery. 4 passengers sharing a decent hire car can do the same trip for about £25 a head, and obviously are not bound by the coach trip timings etc.
I have done two round Britain and have always found enough interesting things to do in and around the port of call or by using local ferry, bus, train services. Had a couple of calls at St Peter Port, Guernsey. There were "Round the Island" coach tours for some silly price. The local round the island circular bus service cost me a the time for a £1 (2009)! There is so much info on line it is easy to work out things to do. I really am surprised people do those organised tours.
 

david1212

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I've done two.

One was Snowdon which I'd never done before as when staying in Wales ( pre-internet days ) by the time travelled to Llanberis if a decent day either sold out totally or only late trains so could not get back to hotel for dinner.
Outward if I recall correct was stop at M54 services then an hour or so in Betws-y-coed ( just time for an all day breakfast at The Buffet Coach Cafe ). On arrival wait in coach for tickets to be obtained then the train up and back ( diesel but known in advance ). On return wait for driver to get coach then again a stop on M54 services.

To me some wasted time but equally finally a trip up Snowdon.

The second was NYMR & Whitby.
I was expecting train Pickering to Grosmont then rejoin coach to Whitby. However train just to Goathland then, to me anyway, about an hour wasted before coach on to Whitby. The train was class 37 not steam too :( .

OT but I've also done Vale of Rheidol and Ravensglass - Eskdale railways as extensions of a mainline railtour on special additional services, both back 20ish years ago when in real terms railtour fares were much cheaper than now.
 

bramling

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Visited a certain railway a very long way North from here, travelling by train and a hotel stay. Caught the heritage railway train at a network station for a round trip. Reached the outer (rather bleak!) outer terminal and ready for the return trip, but departure time passed with no movement. Eventually it was admitted that we were waiting for a coach party for a one way trip and the coach was running late.

I kept a low profile, but others pointed out that the delay would mean that those travelling by rail would miss the next train, leaving a two hour wait at an only slightly less attractive location.

However, it then became clear what the policy was. If the heritage train left before the coach arrived, the coach revenue would be lost. But if it was held, we had already bought tickets so they'd got our money; missing the train was just tough, no question of a refund. It's the Del Boy approach to marketing; rip a customer off but they probably wouldn't have been back anyway, and hey! there's plenty more unsuspecting potential customers for the future...

Must admit it really irritates when preserved railways hold for late-running coaches. We will quite often plan the day around the times, and running late means less time than planned in a particular location. It’s particularly irritating when the coach turns up and half of them don’t even particularly want to be on the train anyway!
 

30907

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Must admit it really irritates when preserved railways hold for late-running coaches.
I entirely agree. However, if you are travelling on a schoolday, remember that many lines would not be open at all but for group bookings.

And - to those who go on coach tours - check the itinerary first (and if it's not provided, ask!).
 

DarloRich

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I am not in the target demographic for coach tours so would never use one but you can hardly blame a heritage railway for bending slightly to secure large block bookings on what could be a repeat basis. They cant turn that revenue down.
 

John Luxton

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Interesting comments about late running coaches causing heritage railways to hold for their arrival at say the expense of those who have travelled by connecting network service.
Just thinking that surely if the coach is running late it is the coach operators problem? If they miss the train then they should still pay or passengers wait for the next one?

One would not expect PC Plod to accept an vehicle driver's excuse for speeding "due to running late" thus the problem is down to the operator of the coach not allowing enough time for the journey nor enough recovery time should an unforseen event happen.

As a car driver if I have a connection with a train / ferry aircraft to allow enough time to recover from hold ups, punctures etc.
 

DarloRich

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Interesting comments about late running coaches causing heritage railways to hold for their arrival at say the expense of those who have travelled by connecting network service.
Just thinking that surely if the coach is running late it is the coach operators problem? If they miss the train then they should still pay or passengers wait for the next one?

One would not expect PC Plod to accept an vehicle driver's excuse for speeding "due to running late" thus the problem is down to the operator of the coach not allowing enough time for the journey nor enough recovery time should an unforseen event happen.

As a car driver if I have a connection with a train / ferry aircraft to allow enough time to recover from hold ups, punctures etc.


i think that is naive at best. The preserved railway isn't going to jepordise almost guaranteed long term income. Your £20 one off fare is worth less to them than 60x10 repeat fares.
 

John Luxton

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i think that is naive at best. The preserved railway isn't going to jepordise almost guaranteed long term income. Your £20 one off fare is worth less to them than 60x10 repeat fares.
I am not being naïve. That is why I said that "the should still pay or passengers wait for the next train" so the railway would be paid whether they carried passengers or not.
 

bramling

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i think that is naive at best. The preserved railway isn't going to jepordise almost guaranteed long term income. Your £20 one off fare is worth less to them than 60x10 repeat fares.

I don’t disagree with the logic, however to me it’s no better than treating everyone else like dirt, and it isn’t a given that the coach party revenue is greater than everyone else already there.

Don’t get me wrong I understand *why* it happens, but it’s infuriating when everyone who has made the effort to arrive on time has their day disrupted. It’s exceptionally irritating if one has planned something like a walk, as even if everything is running late you still have to be back at the station on time as there’s no way of knowing that the time hasn’t been recovered.

We had exactly this on the Talyllyn, 30 minutes late start due to a late running coach, which meant we had insufficient time to do the walk we’d planned at the top end. Needless to say next time we just drove there instead and didn’t bother with a train ride.
 

Merle Haggard

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i think that is naive at best. The preserved railway isn't going to jepordise almost guaranteed long term income. Your £20 one off fare is worth less to them than 60x10 repeat fares.

That's exactly their attitude. Presumably, when they hacked me off, they thought that there were another 59,999,999 potential customers.
But it's more relevant to compare the number of return visits made by passengers who travelled independently vs the number of coach passengers returning.
I don't think I'm unusual in that I visit a steam railway on average about once every 10 days in a normal summer - is that the likely frequency of a coach tour passenger?
Slightly off topic, I visited a Northern steam railway on a weekday travelling by rail and tram. When I got there, the train was formed TSO (reserved for coach tour, half full)+RMB (double glazed, windows obscured by moisture, available for general travel, very full)+TSO(reserved for film work)+BSK (also for film work). When I tried to alight at the outer terminus, I was physically (and rudely) barred from leaving the train - "FILMING!!!"
When, on my return, I pointed out to the 'management' that I had travelled for about 4 hours each way and paid their fare in good faith to be disappointed. Their response - 'S**t happens" and a shrug of the shoulders.
I have drawn my own conclusions with regard to which railways I impose my clearly unwelcome custom upon...
 

John Luxton

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When, on my return, I pointed out to the 'management' that I had travelled for about 4 hours each way and paid their fare in good faith to be disappointed. Their response - 'S**t happens" and a shrug of the shoulders.
I have drawn my own conclusions with regard to which railways I impose my clearly unwelcome custom upon...
Dreadful attitude - you should have still got off the train though.

If someone has tried to physically stop you doing something that one can normally do such as alight at a station that can be construed as assault can it not?

You have dropped enough clues to enable me to decide not to go there, as it stands I have only been once.
 

DarloRich

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I am not being naïve. That is why I said that "the should still pay or passengers wait for the next train" so the railway would be paid whether they carried passengers or not.
I think you are. If you turn away the coach party or expect them to mess up the rest of their day by waiting an hour or two for their train that coach company wont come back. it is commercial reality v enthusiast nonsense. The coach company has the power here.
I don’t disagree with the logic, however to me it’s no better than treating everyone else like dirt, and it isn’t a given that the coach party revenue is greater than everyone else already there.

Don’t get me wrong I understand *why* it happens, but it’s infuriating when everyone who has made the effort to arrive on time has their day disrupted. It’s exceptionally irritating if one has planned something like a walk, as even if everything is running late you still have to be back at the station on time as there’s no way of knowing that the time hasn’t been recovered.

We had exactly this on the Talyllyn, 30 minutes late start due to a late running coach, which meant we had insufficient time to do the walk we’d planned at the top end. Needless to say next time we just drove there instead and didn’t bother with a train ride.
It is - but that is the commercial world. Each customer has value. Some more than others and your or my one off fare has less overall value than a regular supply of coach passengers even if the fares are offered at a discount to those passengers.

it is the same as trying to book a restaurant for my birthday. It is valentines day so they want several rotations of tables of two. The last thing they want is a party of 10 all night expecting the real menu not the heart themed overpriced menu!
That's exactly their attitude. Presumably, when they hacked me off, they thought that there were another 59,999,999 potential customers.
But it's more relevant to compare the number of return visits made by passengers who travelled independently vs the number of coach passengers returning.
I don't think I'm unusual in that I visit a steam railway on average about once every 10 days in a normal summer - is that the likely frequency of a coach tour passenger?
Slightly off topic, I visited a Northern steam railway on a weekday travelling by rail and tram. When I got there, the train was formed TSO (reserved for coach tour, half full)+RMB (double glazed, windows obscured by moisture, available for general travel, very full)+TSO(reserved for film work)+BSK (also for film work). When I tried to alight at the outer terminus, I was physically (and rudely) barred from leaving the train - "FILMING!!!"
When, on my return, I pointed out to the 'management' that I had travelled for about 4 hours each way and paid their fare in good faith to be disappointed. Their response - 'S**t happens" and a shrug of the shoulders.
I have drawn my own conclusions with regard to which railways I impose my clearly unwelcome custom upon...
Most normals don't visit a steam railway "about once every 10 days in a normal summer". We both know this. We both know they attend such a venue once or twice. Not once or twice a month or year but once or twice. Lets stop pretending that posters here are representative of normal people and look at things sensibly.

You seem to be suggesting here that this railway should turn away good income because it upsets you to have your journey impacted on. Clearly their customer facing people did not deal with this situation to your satisfaction. Perhaps it would have been wise to tell you on booking that filming would be taking place as has happened to me on several occasions at other railways. You can then make an informed decision as to whether, or not, you travel. I suspect after your arduous journey by public transport you would still have traveled like I always have.

That said, frankly, I cant blame them for securing funding that keeps the railway running especially during an off peak period. I repeat, it is worth more to them ( especially if it drives further business with that media company) than your fare. Unlike many here I am not a sentimentalist and can see the reality of the situation.
Dreadful attitude - you should have still got off the train though.

If someone has tried to physically stop you doing something that one can normally do such as alight at a station that can be construed as assault can it not?

You have dropped enough clues to enable me to decide not to go there, as it stands I have only been once.
I can figure out which railway. I went once ( by tram and train - late and missed my intended steam train)and wasn't very impressed with the line. Decent choice of beer mind.

As for your middle paragraph................................
 

John Luxton

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As for your middle paragraph................................
What was wrong with the middle paragraph?

Being into photography over the years I have followed various stories on line and sometimes in the photographic press involving private individuals, security guards and even police who have physically tried to stop people doing things and it has been pointed out that physical intervention is assault.
 

LSWR Cavalier

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Surely coach schedules can allow for delays, if a coach arrives early people could spend time and cash in the shop or cafe. Just hope no-one gets the idea of sending the train off early, that is even worse than late.

Blaenau - Porth - Caernarfon be good for a one-way trip.
 

Merle Haggard

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Some heritage railways are very difficult to reach by public transport but are in highly scenic tourist areas. The latter means they must be very popular with coach tour operators. They can manage perfectly well without the trainspotter, plenty of revenue from the coaches.
Oh wait...
 

30907

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I suspect there is easier coach access from the A169 at Goathland than at Grosmont ( Coastliner buses serve Goathland nd they are big double deckers)
Goathland is also Aidensfield (Heartbeat) and the station is Hogsmeade (H.Potter) - and it's downhill to Grosmont so of lesser interest - 3 further possible reasons! I would like the option of down and back up but....
 
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