Monday, 22 February 2010

Sherborne huffs and puffs in Kettle dispute

Oh dear, oh dear!

Much whinging from the good burghers of Sherborne over John Farrow's decision not to stop one of his UK Railtours charter trains at the town on the 8th of May.

This from the Western Gazette...

SHERBORNE'S grand efforts to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the railway in Sherborne have been snubbed by a steam operator's refusal to stop a vintage locomotive at the station.

But what's this?

All is not as it seems.

This from the uber-Charter Operator himself:

The itinerary, as you are aware, is London – Yeovil – Weymouth – London .

The tour’s attraction is that it covers both the LSWR ‘main lines’ and of course a chance to enjoy 35028 on a good long run without paying VSOE fares.

Given the need for water stops, turning at Yeovil and a break in Wemo, it’s quite a long day with precious little spare time in it, but it’s been done in the past and it works.

I was first approached by the people of Sherborne about a month ago, by which time our plans had been finalized and bookings were open.

Although the 150th anniversary of the completion of the line from Wloo to Exeter isn’t until July, the route opened in stages - Sherborne and Templecombe both opened in May 1860, and Sherborne Town Council want to mark the event.

That’s good of course - we should all be proud of our railway heritage.

In response to repeated requests for the train to stop, I have carefully looked at all the options and have reluctantly concluded it’s a non-starter.

We cannot offer Sherborne as an alternative destination, as obviously we don’t come back that way.

The best (?) we could possibly do is to insert a very brief stop of maybe 10 minutes (15 absolute maximum) – but just think about that…

The station is far from spacious. It would already be packed with ‘locals’, possibly several hundred. We would be turning up with around 450 people who could do nothing but get off (if there is room on the platform) and get back on again. The rear four carriages would be out of the platform, back over the level crossing. Crowd management would be a huge issue, the situation would be inherently unsafe and I still maintain that the benefit to our customers would be absolutely nil. They will see nothing of the town at all, nor of any ceremony, nor will there be any photographic opportunities.

I have tried to put this message over, but all I get is abuse from people who really need to take a more responsible and less selfish attitude. Perhaps they should THINK before they start being abusive in their local press.

As it happens, I really like Sherborne as a place.

I have put it to one member of the council, in writing, that it would be a good idea for us to run a train specifically to Sherborne later in the year, maybe for Christmas carols in Sherborne Abbey as Steam Dreams have done in the past.

I have not even had the common courtesy of a reply, which says it all really!


Eye salutes Sherborne Town Council for negotiating with Charter Operators via megaphone.

UPDATE: This just in from John Farrow...

To be fair, I have this morning received a much more helpful and sympathetic response, from the Deputy Mayor, giving contacts for future visits etc...

UPDATE: This just in from Steam Dreams...

Disappointing to read about the issues in Sherborne.

Might I clarify a comment made above?

As was stated The Cathedrals Express has provided a special train in the past to take our passengers to the famous Carol service in Sherborne Abbey.

But not just in the past!

We will of course be running a similar train this December and hope to do so long into the future!