SAPHOS TAKES OVER ‘FELLSMAN’ IN HOSK­ING SHAKE-UP

states­man to fo­cus on diesel-hauled trips as saphos takes on a de­pleted ‘Fellsman’ itin­er­ary.

Steam Railway (UK) - - DOWNMAIN -

We’d love to take on a part of St philip’S MarSh – but i don’t think it’S on the ta­ble

Tony Bush, MAnAG­InG DI­REC­ToR, LsL

If you have States­man in mind as a steam pro­moter, it’s time for a re­think. In­stead, 2019’s Set­tle-Carlisle ‘Fellsman’ trips are mov­ing to join the Saphos Trains of­fer­ing as part of a shake-up of the Hosk­ing fam­ily of busi­nesses. States­man con­tin­ues to ex­ist though, with its diesel itin­er­ar­ies that were al­ways the broad chunk of its pro­gramme.

The move co­in­cides with States­man’s oper­a­tion be­ing brought in-house to Crewe’s own op­er­a­tor Lo­co­mo­tive Ser­vices Ltd; more vis­i­bly, there’s also a re­duc­tion in ‘Fells­mans’ – from seven last year to just a trio of trips in the com­ing sea­son.

How­ever, while the rea­son for that lower num­ber is that the trains are “be­ing con­sol­i­dated into the Saphos pro­gramme”, LSL Manag­ing Di­rec­tor Tony Bush says it won’t stay that way for­ever. “The num­ber of ‘Fells­mans’ will in­crease in fu­ture years – not mas­sively, but it will,” he says. “How­ever, there’s no move for us to run more than one trip on any day.”

It was in 2016 (SR461) that States­man be­came part of the Hosk­ing group of com­pa­nies, but de­spite the launch of LSL in April 2018, the pro­moter has un­til now re­mained with its pre­vi­ous ex­ter­nal op­er­a­tor, West Coast Rail­ways.

In­clud­ing the ‘Fells­mans’, the Saphos list for the com­ing year stands at 18 trains, the same num­ber as in 2018’s de­but sea­son. That fig­ure forms the “core pro­gramme”, Tony says, “though there’ll be some pri­vate char­ters.”

Although the new Saphos of­fer­ing is recog­nis­ably an evo­lu­tion from that of 2018, there is ex­pan­sion in terms of itin­er­ar­ies, if not of train num­bers. So, there’s a ‘Golden Ar­row’ Kent cir­cu­lar from Vic­to­ria with

a break in Can­ter­bury on Oc­to­ber 26; Cum­brian Coast/Shap ‘Lake­landers’ from Crewe (May 18 and Au­gust 14); and a CreweYork ‘York­shire­man’ on Septem­ber 14.

Bris­tol gains a pair of ‘Dorset Coast Ex­press’ trains, which means a to­tal of five trips from Tem­ple Meads in three weeks: the Wey­mouth trains on June 26 and July 3 add to three ‘English Riviera Ex­presses’ to Kingswear (via Bath on June 16 and July 7, and Yat­ton on June 30).

De­POT DReAM

On the topic of Bris­tol, there have been sug­ges­tions that with Great Western’s use of High Speed Trains com­ing to an end, LSL might take up part of St Philip’s Marsh de­pot. A sprawl­ing site lo­cated on the lines that avoid Tem­ple Meads by run­ning be­tween North Som­er­set and Bris­tol West junc­tions, this has more than a cen­tury of rail­way his­tory (al­beit the steam side is closed and gone). That would po­ten­tially be more con­ve­nient than try­ing to squash into Barton Hill, which steam has gen­er­ally done in re­cent years; Bath Road has now been gone for more than two decades. Plus, af­ter all, the Hosk­ing ‘fam­ily’ is plan­ning to ac­quire its own HST (SR483). How­ever, while not dis­mis­sive of the idea, LSL’s MD is a lit­tle more cau­tious: “We’d love to take on a part of St Philip’s Marsh – but I don’t think it’s on the ta­ble,” he says.

“GWR has al­ways been very sup­port­ive of us and char­ter op­er­a­tors in gen­eral, so I think there’s a high prob­a­bil­ity we’ll be able to work with Great Western, but as more of a cus­tomer.”

●● Gricers were pretty ex­cited last year about Saphos Trains’ in­tro­duc­tory fares. Well, those have dis­ap­peared for 2019… but low prices have not.

That’s be­cause Saphos is re­plac­ing its in­tro­duc­tory fares with ‘early book­ing dis­counts’; buy tick­ets up to 30 days be­fore a train is to run and you’ll qual­ify for the re­duced rate. So, you can tie down a Stan­dard Class ticket for £65 rather than £95 – and there’s money off First and Din­ing tick­ets too.

Clearly, some po­ten­tial pas­sen­gers will be cheered by that – but what about other pro­mot­ers?

One who was par­tic­u­larly forth­right about the pos­si­ble ef­fects of Saphos’ in­tro­duc­tory prices was the late Nigel Dob­bing of the Rail­way Tour­ing Com­pany. In SR476, he said that his or­gan­i­sa­tion “couldn’t af­ford to of­fer tick­ets at that price” – and in­deed that if “they’re go­ing to of­fer those prices we won’t be able to carry on.”

So, what does RTC think now? MD Kelly Os­borne says the prices “are un­re­al­is­tic in terms of com­pet­ing” – but also that “we have a wide range of tours for 2019 that will con­tinue to ap­peal to our loyal cus­tomers”.

Also, although un­stated in her re­sponse, it’s worth not­ing that at 70-odd trips a year, RTC’s pro­gramme is nearly four times big­ger than that of the newer pro­moter.

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