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WCML - Settle-Carlisle link?

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zwk500

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Maintenance of duplicate routes where that is the principal reason for keeping a line open is rarely cost-effective.
Agreed, although in Pre-covid times loadings on the passengers services and the volume of regular freight did make it cost-effective to maintain the S&C as a through route. It wasn't turning a profit, but it permitted freight between Carlisle/scotland and West Yorks/Lincolnshire a fairly direct route where it didn't get in the way until there was the capacity to regulate it. To cut the top off and prevent a connection through to Kingmoor would be a false economy, I feel.
 
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quantinghome

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If it never made money and never will, why are you proposing building a new link at vast expense? With the current demand, I think the current usage of the S&C is sensible, as it keeps maintenance costs down but preserves the asset so that it could readily be brought up to standard should the demand change. The viaducts and tunnels are being maintained, it's an active railway that has regular traffic.
Because capacity on the northern WCML is constrained by the mix of traffic. The S&C is underused and runs sort-of-parallel, so it's tempting to think it could be used as freight relief route, similar to the GN/GE with the ECML.

The purpose of the post was to consider whether a short link between the WCML and S&C at some location would provide a useful length of relief route for freight at lower cost than a full diversion between Preston and Carlisle (which would mean having to upgrade the entire S&C and add 40 miles to the freight journey). However, it's clear from the responses that the main problem is the Shap section and that creating a parallel freight route only for the section between Penrith and Carlisle isn't very useful. Perhaps Tebay - Kirkby Stephen would have been a better option for a link, had they not gone and built a road on the route of the old line.

While the S&C did become a significant through freight route following its closure reprieve in the 1980s, this use has largely ceased, and it is no longer a realistic justification for its retention.
That's surely the point: no-one in the 1980s thought it would see that kind of traffic, so who knows what new demand may appear in the future? Given the need to decarbonise our transport system we ought to be pushing as much traffic onto the railways as possible. That means maximising available rail capacity, rather than shutting bits down which are not justified by current levels of traffic. As a route constructed to main line standards, connecting Yorkshire to south-west Scotland, it would be imprudent to dismiss the idea that it will have no strategic value in the future.
 

zwk500

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Because capacity on the northern WCML is constrained by the mix of traffic. The S&C is underused and runs sort-of-parallel, so it's tempting to think it could be used as freight relief route, similar to the GN/GE with the ECML.

The purpose of the post was to consider whether a short link between the WCML and S&C at some location would provide a useful length of relief route for freight at lower cost than a full diversion between Preston and Carlisle (which would mean having to upgrade the entire S&C and add 40 miles to the freight journey). However, it's clear from the responses that the main problem is the Shap section and that creating a parallel freight route only for the section between Penrith and Carlisle isn't very useful.
Fair enough
Perhaps Tebay - Kirkby Stephen would have been a better option for a link, had they not gone and built a road on the route of the old line.
You'd have had similar problems
That's surely the point: no-one in the 1980s thought it would see that kind of traffic, so who knows what new demand may appear in the future? Given the need to decarbonise our transport system we ought to be pushing as much traffic onto the railways as possible. That means maximising available rail capacity, rather than shutting bits down which are not justified by current levels of traffic.
If you want to maintain reserve capacity for future growth, you don't want to be filling it up with diverted traffic, unless you have a plan to divert it back or increase the capacity when the future growth happens.
As a route constructed to main line standards, connecting Yorkshire to south-west Scotland, it would be imprudent to dismiss the idea that it will have no strategic value in the future.
'Main Line' standards is a fairly broad brush. It's currently 60mph ruling linespeed with significant gradients, cleared to only W7. The Midland Railway was never particularly flush with cash, and was famous for building demanding lines. I've heard it said that the GW was built by an engineer, and the Midland by a mountaineer.
 

quantinghome

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If you want to maintain reserve capacity for future growth, you don't want to be filling it up with diverted traffic, unless you have a plan to divert it back or increase the capacity when the future growth happens.

'Main Line' standards is a fairly broad brush. It's currently 60mph ruling linespeed with significant gradients, cleared to only W7. The Midland Railway was never particularly flush with cash, and was famous for building demanding lines. I've heard it said that the GW was built by an engineer, and the Midland by a mountaineer.
You'd want to separate slow and fast traffic to maximise capacity. So it makes sense to remove freight from two-track sections of the intercity network. The S&C will never be a 125mph railway, but could be upgraded/restored to 75/90mph, which would be fine for a combination of freight and semi-fast regional passenger services.
 

HSTEd

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If the S&C has a future, it will likely be local operations in support of tourist activities around the railway.

Indeed I might even suggest gauge clearance works to allow some sort of panoramic vehicle to built for the line.
 

zwk500

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If the S&C has a future, it will likely be local operations in support of tourist activities around the railway.
It has a future with 2 key railfreight terminals on it. The tourist activities are fairly limited in value to the railway (although no doubt very welcome to the communities served)
Indeed I might even suggest gauge clearance works to allow some sort of panoramic vehicle to built for the line.
That's a lot of money to spend for a view that isn't readily available for a substantial part of the year. I look forward to the reaction of the good folk of Leeds, Skipton and towns in between when they're told they've got years of disruption whilst NR goes and reconstructs the railway in order to give a few thousand passengers over 6 weeks a moderately better view.
 

The Planner

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It has a future with 2 key railfreight terminals on it. The tourist activities are fairly limited in value to the railway (although no doubt very welcome to the communities served)

That's a lot of money to spend for a view that isn't readily available for a substantial part of the year. I look forward to the reaction of the good folk of Leeds, Skipton and towns in between when they're told they've got years of disruption whilst NR goes and reconstructs the railway in order to give a few thousand passengers over 6 weeks a moderately better view.
You need to factor in HSTed isn't a fan of freight and is the Elon Musk of speculative ideas.
 

daodao

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It has a future with 2 key railfreight terminals on it.
Arcow quarry could be served as a long siding from Settle Junction if the S&C closed to through traffic. Currently, departing trains run north over Ribblehead viaduct to Blea Moor to reverse there, but that wouldn't be needed if there were no other services on the line. The only other freight terminal is Newbiggin Gypsum works. Could there be a freight terminal near Penrith on the WCML, with lorry transport from there to the actual works, if the S&C shut?
 

zwk500

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Arcow quarry could be served as a long siding from Settle Junction if the S&C closed to through traffic. Currently, departing trains run north over Ribblehead viaduct to Blea Moor to reverse there, but that wouldn't be needed if there were no other services on the line. The only other freight terminal is Newbiggin Gypsum works. Could there be a freight terminal near Penrith on the WCML, with lorry transport from there to the actual works, if the S&C shut?
Arcow trains would still need to runround, but yes in theory you could keep them running as a long siding. You may be able to serve Newbiggin from Penrith, but the transhipment costs are likely to be quite big, not to mention you'll need a yard at Penrith to store the gypsum, and the locals will be thrilled about lorries on pennine roads.

If you close the S&C, Carlisle-Leeds freight (including scotland-doncaster) would have to run along either the WCML or ECML for a substantial period, in normal times this freight is a regular sustained traffic.
 

HSTEd

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You need to factor in HSTed isn't a fan of freight and is the Elon Musk of speculative ideas.

Unlike Elon Musk I do not get high on marijuana and rant on Twitter!

It has a future with 2 key railfreight terminals on it. The tourist activities are fairly limited in value to the railway (although no doubt very welcome to the communities served)
So you propose to maintain a ~115km long line for the beenfit of a quarry that is 7km or so from one end, and a Gypsum works that is only 10km from another railway across open largely unpopulated terrain (Ropecon style ropeway conveyer could do that easily and far less cost)?

If this is anymore than a rounding error on the S&C's business case for survival, the line is already dead.

The days of an endless procession of coal trains is long since gone, and won't be returning.

The railway, like almost all railways in the UK, lives and dies by its passenger performance, be that serious travel or tourism.

That's a lot of money to spend for a view that isn't readily available for a substantial part of the year. I look forward to the reaction of the good folk of Leeds, Skipton and towns in between when they're told they've got years of disruption whilst NR goes and reconstructs the railway in order to give a few thousand passengers over 6 weeks a moderately better view.

The same gauge clearance would also give them double decker trains that make crowding on services something that happens to other people.

EDIT:

Before anyone bites my head of, I have not actually said the line should close.

If freight operations can continue, great - but alone they will not justify the expenditure necessary to keep this route alive.
 
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zwk500

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Unlike Elon Musk I do not get high on marijuana and rant on Twitter!


So you propose to maintain a ~115km long line for the beenfit of a quarry that is 7km or so from one end, and a Gypsum works that is only 10km from another railway across open largely unpopulated terrain (Ropecon style ropeway conveyer could do that easily and far less cost)?

If this is anymore than a rounding error on the S&C's business case for survival, the line is already dead.
No, it's used by a lot more than those 2 quarries. And a ropeway conveyor over the Peak district national park? Come on, this isn't the 1950s.
The days of an endless procession of coal trains is long since gone, and won't be returning.
True, but other cargoes are growing.
The railway, like almost all railways in the UK, lives and dies by its passenger performance, be that serious travel or tourism.
The felixstowe branch, Basingstoke-Reading, and Peterborough-Birmingham beg to differ.
The same gauge clearance would also give them double decker trains that make crowding on services something that happens to other people.
Are double decker trains needed on that line? You're talking about rebuilding multiple tunnels, lots of overbridges, potentially every signal gantry on the route for trains that aren't needed, to justify giving a handful of trains a slightly nicer view on the days it isn't raining.
If the Aire Valley needs more capacity lengthen the trains to 8/10/12 cars. If the S&C wants better views order a unit that fits the UK loading gauge and specify wide windows with seats that line up. Both together would cost a fraction of shutting down the line for god knows how long while you completely rebuild it from end to end for UIC gauge. The only way the S&C will get any gauge improvement is if there's a sustained growth in container traffic demand between Scotland and Leeds/Doncaster.

You may not get high like Musk, but you may as well have done given your suggestions. You're certainly living up to the billing.
 

HSTEd

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No, it's used by a lot more than those 2 quarries. And a ropeway conveyor over the Peak district national park? Come on, this isn't the 1950s.
Except that Gypsum facility, the railway, nor the ground in between them is not in a National Park, indeed it is not even in the North Pennine AONB, which ends 1300m north east of the British Gypsum facility.

The felixstowe branch, Basingstoke-Reading, and Peterborough-Birmingham beg to differ.
Do they represent a fraction of the UK railway system large enough to upset "almost all"?


Are double decker trains needed on that line? You're talking about rebuilding multiple tunnels, lots of overbridges, potentially every signal gantry on the route for trains that aren't needed, to justify giving a handful of trains a slightly nicer view on the days it isn't raining.
AFAIK all the tunnels on the route are single bore, single tracking many of them would significantly reduce the works required.
Also a route upgrade would likely see the end of all the signal gantries anyway?
 

zwk500

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Except that Gypsum facility, the railway, nor the ground in between them is not in a National Park, indeed it is not even in the North Pennine AONB, which ends 1300m north east of the British Gypsum facility.
Penrith station is on the far side of town to the Gypsum works. Even if you built a new terminal further out from the town you're going to have a very significant visual impact.
Do they represent a fraction of the UK railway system large enough to upset "almost all"?
They were but 3 examples, there are others. Freight is not the dominant traffic on the railway, but neither is it negligible on either a route-wide or individual line basis.
AFAIK all the tunnels on the route are single bore, single tracking many of them would significantly reduce the works required.
Also a route upgrade would likely see the end of all the signal gantries anyway?
This is getting off topic from the S&C, but it's still on the fantasy side of outlandish. ETCS will get rid of signals eventually, but the OLE is presumably here to stay.
 

HSTEd

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Penrith station is on the far side of town to the Gypsum works. Even if you built a new terminal further out from the town you're going to have a very significant visual impact.

Why are we going to Penrith station?
The obvious location is near a railway adjacent Timber yard, south of Clifton.

This is getting off topic from the S&C, but it's still on the fantasy side of outlandish. ETCS will get rid of signals eventually, but the OLE is presumably here to stay.

Well there is also the somewhat strange idea that diesel haul railfreight is going to be acceptable long term.

But this is rather off topic, indeed my original post in this thread was to forget about this concept of a link between the S&C and WCML simply because it doesn't really gain us anything.
If you want to upgrade the WCML it probably has to be a new alignment.
 

zwk500

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Well there is also the somewhat strange idea that diesel haul railfreight is going to be acceptable long term.
Yes but what's hauling the train is a different question to which lines it runs off.
But this is rather off topic, indeed my original post in this thread was to forget about this concept of a link between the S&C and WCML simply because it doesn't really gain us anything.

If you want to upgrade the WCML it probably has to be a new alignment.
I agree with you on both these points.
 

willgreen

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Largely irrelevant, but isn't there a flow of timber from Ribblehead as well? Obviously not a major source of traffic but it's still a semi-regular freight service on the line.
 

tbtc

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London-Leeds-Glasgow is not going to happen, but Leeds-Edinburgh-Glasgow does involve a dog-leg via Carstairs. If you could raise the S&C to 90mph ruling linespeed and guarantee a 6-car 185 every 2 hours (don't think it would need more than that) then it could offer a useful link. Problem is of course the cost of the interventions required on the S&C will be out of proportion to the benefits.

I don't know how much of a time saving you'd get from a Leeds - Carlisle - Glasgow service versus the current Leeds - Edinburgh - Glasgow service that XC run every couple of hours when there's not a major global pandemic taking place, but it'd be significantly easier to link Leeds and Glasgow with more trains by just extending the current Leeds - Edinburgh terminators - no need for more paths up Beattock or anything complicated

(then again, I'm not that convinced that Leeds to Glasgow is a huge market - it's a bit like Derby to Manchester - it's something that gets mentioned on here because suggesting that there's a big demand between the two places is a convenient justification for trying to get long distance trains running along a scenic route - the S&C in the case of Leeds and Glasgow, the Bakewell line in the case of Derby and Manchester)

Being one of the very few people to have travelled to Center Parcs in this country by train, I can advise that even if there was a station at the front door of the place, the number of people who would use the train to get there would be minimal. You just have to look at what is contained within the average Center Parcs customer’s car on arrival to work out why.

I appreciate I should have been clearer - I was meaning more that it would be the kind of hook I'd look for if I was wanting to promote this project - regardless of whether anyone was going to use the train for a family holiday there (in the way that developers like to use the hook of a freight siding as a way to justify their distribution centre (even though they know that there'll be thousands of lorries using the place whilst the siding slowly goes rusty)

The S&C line has never made money and never will. Nevertheless the losses incurred by the line are a tiny proportion of the overall subsidy needed for the current extent of passenger railways in the country

The same is true of every line though - you could justify propping up any lightly used line on the grounds that it was only a tiny proportion of the overall subsidy - even the Conwy Valley line (millions of pounds in repairing it each year, but significantly fewer passengers)

It is not redundant in times of disruption on the WCML and ECML(for diversions)

When as the last ECML diversion up the S&C?

In fact, I'm struggling to think of the last WCML diversion up the S&C.

The S&C is the kind of line that, if it had been closed in the 1980s, we'd have regular threads on here blaming Beeching for it(!), we'd have lots of people claiming that, if only we re-opened it, the S&C would be used for ECML and WCML diversions most weekends, there'd be long distance services that way (for the all important Nottingham to Glasgow market!), there'd be bespoke tourist trains too, maybe some London trains as well, if only we could re-open it. The reality of the S&C is pretty underwhelming though - a Sprinter every couple of hours and nothing north of Carlisle - which is why I'm always suspicious of proposals for just how apparently amazing a proposed re-opening would be.
 

quantinghome

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The same is true of every line though - you could justify propping up any lightly used line on the grounds that it was only a tiny proportion of the overall subsidy - even the Conwy Valley line (millions of pounds in repairing it each year, but significantly fewer passengers)
But there are comparatively few lightly-used expensive-to-run lines left to close. So the scope for overall savings is small. The 1950s to 1970s closures halved the size of the rail network but failed to turn the railway finances around. So I can't see that closing loss-making rural lines is going to make much of a difference now. But it does give me an idea for another thread.
 

backontrack

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It's funny how this thread about a proposal for a new line has been hijacked into a debate about why we should close an existing one.

(Actually, to be honest, it's not very funny at all.)

But I do think that there's little need to reopen this line when there's probably the capacity to divert via Clitheroe and Settle if need be.

In terms of reopening proposals, this scheme is a long way back in the queue. If any line from Penrith is reopened - a big 'if' - then it'll be the Keswick branch (which is, incidentally, the one that seems to rile the 'sceptics' up the most).
 

Railwaysceptic

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The 1950s to 1970s closures halved the size of the rail network but failed to turn the railway finances around.
That's a bit facile. Railway finances during that period were a moving target because of inflation, changes to way the railway was subsidised and changes to B.R.'s accounting methods. It is undoubtedly true that loss making branch lines were not the only reason that B.R. traded at a loss from the early 1950s onwards but closing lines did help keep the deficits within manageable limits.
 

quantinghome

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That's a bit facile. Railway finances during that period were a moving target because of inflation, changes to way the railway was subsidised and changes to B.R.'s accounting methods. It is undoubtedly true that loss making branch lines were not the only reason that B.R. traded at a loss from the early 1950s onwards but closing lines did help keep the deficits within manageable limits.
I think you're missing the context of my reply. tbtc's point was (I think) that you can't look at a single loss-making line in isolation - you need to look at all of them to see their overall impact on railway finances. Which is a fair point. The trouble is that there aren't many 'basket case' lines left compared to the last time we had a major line closure programme, and even back then the closures didn't bring about the return to profitability which was the aim at the time. As an aside, the main reason railways were profitable and aren't now is due to the demise of freight - that was always the most profitable bit of the railways, and still is - as seen by rail in the USA.

So taking your point that closing lines helped keep the deficit manageable, how would that work now? In short, it wouldn't. Because most of the loss incurred by the railway is not caused by lightly used rural lines. If you closed the least-used 1000 miles of passenger railway, it wouldn't make much of a difference to the subsidy needed by the rail industry. It would be much better to focus on the industry's grossly inefficient structure.
 

tbtc

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I think you're missing the context of my reply. tbtc's point was (I think) that you can't look at a single loss-making line in isolation - you need to look at all of them to see their overall impact on railway finances. Which is a fair point. The trouble is that there aren't many 'basket case' lines left compared to the last time we had a major line closure programme, and even back then the closures didn't bring about the return to profitability which was the aim at the time. As an aside, the main reason railways were profitable and aren't now is due to the demise of freight - that was always the most profitable bit of the railways, and still is - as seen by rail in the USA.

So taking your point that closing lines helped keep the deficit manageable, how would that work now? In short, it wouldn't. Because most of the loss incurred by the railway is not caused by lightly used rural lines. If you closed the least-used 1000 miles of passenger railway, it wouldn't make much of a difference to the subsidy needed by the rail industry. It would be much better to focus on the industry's grossly inefficient structure.

I've no problem with a focus on the inefficiencies that the industry has - it's just that people excuse the heavily loss making lines whilst focussing on other costs, like the fact that privatisation means repainting trains/ lamp posts etc every five or ten years when a franchise changes (which some people get performatively outraged about)

From a previous discussion about the costs of running trains, my understanding was that one train would require three drivers and three guards (to cover shifts/ weekends/ holidays etc), which could mean a cost to the TOC of over a quarter of a million pounds (staff wages, pension contributions, employer NI costs - without counting the training/ HR/ IT/ ancillary costs that are required for members of frontline staff).

If Northern's network required forty pence per passenger mile to keep trains running (last figures I saw) then there must be some busy lines that require only marginal subsidies - e.g. busy four coach 333s in the Aire Valley - but therefore there must be some lines where the subsidy required is more than the cost of putting passengers in taxis. Taxis would also be better for the environment than DMUs doing a couple of miles to the gallon.

The refusal to accept this is common on here - it'll get dismissed along the lines of "ah, but this ongoing subsidy is cheaper than HS2" or "oh, so you want Serpell, do you" or some accusation about how someone must "hate" the railway just because they don't agree with propping up every lightly loaded line in the long term.

Looking at the stations between Settle and Carlisle, none of them are particularly busy - on an average day you'd have spare seats if you were running a minibus rather than a train - on a summer weekend things are busier but it's a bit of a luxury to keep running it for such low passenger numbers most of the year (given that Leeds - Carlisle passengers could go via Bentham or Burnley - even the journey via Manchester isn't much more than via Settle)
 

Bald Rick

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From a previous discussion about the costs of running trains, my understanding was that one train would require three drivers and three guards (to cover shifts/ weekends/ holidays etc), which could mean a cost to the TOC of over a quarter of a million pounds (staff wages, pension contributions, employer NI costs - without counting the training/ HR/ IT/ ancillary costs that are required for members of frontline staff).

Typically you need a ‘cover ratio’ of at least 2 Drivers (and guards if needed) for each weekday driver (or guard) diagram, to cover the service all week. So if a line needs four diagrams a day to run it, you will need at least 8 drivers and 8 conductors to run the service. If the diagrams are in any way complicated, or local agreements make them so, then the cover ratio can get up to 3.

The typical cost of employing a driver / guard varies, but when you take into account company pension contributions, employers NI, and the overtime / allowances that accompany most driver positions, you’re looking at over £100k per driver and £60k per guard, on average. So three of each would be half a million, or thereabouts.
 

quantinghome

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I think we can all agree that the S&C and other rural lines fail to wash their face by a considerable margin, although I think you may be underestimating passenger numbers. Regardless, the subsidy per passenger must be astounding. BUT, the vast majority of Northern's subsidy is spent elsewhere. How many trains does Northern run per day? And what proportion of them are on the basket case lines? 5% (off the top of my head, maybe)? I suspect the vast majority of subsidy goes on lines with between 1 and 3 tph. Hull-Brid, Carnforth-Barrow, Copy Pit, those kind of lines.

What is the purpose of shutting basket case lines anyway? Yes, arguably it's not fair that passengers using those lines are subsidised to the extent they are, but if you're looking to save a significant proportion of the overall taxpayer subsidy that goes to rail, it's not going to do it, not by a long stretch. That seems to be the conclusion politicians have arrived at over the years - there would be an outcry and you'd not save much money anyway.
 

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Typically you need a ‘cover ratio’ of at least 2 Drivers (and guards if needed) for each weekday driver (or guard) diagram, to cover the service all week. So if a line needs four diagrams a day to run it, you will need at least 8 drivers and 8 conductors to run the service. If the diagrams are in any way complicated, or local agreements make them so, then the cover ratio can get up to 3.
Only 8 for four diagrams? This doesn’t seem to leave much room for sick leave, annual leave, vacancies, etc. I know you can taxi in crew from another depot, but what if the depot is remote or there are few depots with the necessary route knowledge.
 

Bald Rick

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Only 8 for four diagrams? This doesn’t seem to leave much room for sick leave, annual leave, vacancies, etc. I know you can taxi in crew from another depot, but what if the depot is remote or there are few depots with the necessary route knowledge.

I said a minimum cover ratio of 2, and it is often higher. For very small depots you tend to need a higher ratio as the law of small numbers comes into play. It also depends on average turn length and many other factors in the relevant local agreements as I mentioned.
 

HSTEd

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Somewhat related.

Wouldn't most of the long distance journey options provided by the S&C be easily provided by a Little North Western to northbound WCML curve at Carnforth?
 

daodao

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Somewhat related.

Wouldn't most of the long distance journey options provided by the S&C be easily provided by a Little North Western to northbound WCML curve at Carnforth?
Yes - see my earlier post 25 in this thread.
 
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