2 Nov – Railway Busyness?

What’s red, green, blue, purple and yellow, and needs careful study? Answer




(Obviously we keep this sign for historic purposes – dates from a less frantic era when the Evesham Road bridge carried one horse ‘n cart per hour not one artic every 10 secs.)

In a previous blog (21 Oct) I was reflecting, during a period of personal physical inactivity, on how busy or otherwise we are on the railway.  The updates from the Board invariably relate to passenger numbers and obviously this is a most important metric as I am well aware that Station staff, and others similarly ’employed’, are busy in relation to numbers of journeys being made. Furthermore, it is of course the income from the latter which is critical in determining the financial viability of the railway.

However, for those in a more supporting role, whilst these figures are still important, it is as much the number days we are open which both make us busy and affect what we can (and can’t!) achieve.  A simple analysis of the timetable suggests that we run trains on about 188 days per year or a fraction over 50%. However, between April and October this increases to 160 running days out of 214 or 75% of the time.  Entirely sensible Health and Safety precautions dictate that we ‘maintainers’ can’t realistically access the track at all, and are seriously restricted in trackside activity, when trains are running.  As it happens the Cheltenham Area Group works on Saturday mornings – which must be the busiest time of the week – and Monday afternoons, when there are almost never any scheduled services. You win some and you lose some!

None of which is a complaint directed against anyone – just a reflection on where we are at.  But, that said, I assume that as the railway tends to expand and increase its business in an effort to remain viable, the number of running days will tend to increase and the proportion of ‘down time’ will reduce further?  I wouldn’t want to fight against this but we may need to adjust our mindsets and get used to being able to do more maintenance activities whilst services are operational. Evolution not revolution will no doubt be the order of the day.

And at the end of the 2019 summer season, which has been busy but not generally manic, the Racecourse Station can reflect on what we have managed to achieve – by ourselves and with the help of others.  Probably best summed up as ‘remaining well-maintained but with several improvements’ – some visible but mostly under the radar. Our ‘arches’ stores area is much reduced, tidied and safer, excess material holdings being disposed as environmentally as possible. The Ticket Office has had various external improvements: some structural and some cosmetic. The overgrown areas we cleared in previous seasons have been pretty much maintained – so that where there was once impenetrable jungle, there is now grassy path (of sorts!):

The area at the end of Platform 1 – also our entrance for those passengers with reduced mobility – has been re-fenced with an impressive new gates – now nicely painted!



These are all things we can maintain through normal working in ‘operating season’ which, I guess, fits with the logic above.