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Storm-hit Dawlish railway line 'may be moved out to sea'

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42 minutes ago, Jack Benson said:

All statements and opinions are open to question, irrespective of source.

 

You may say that and I can certainly comment.

 

Opinions, yes, are by their very nature, open to interpretation, challenge and comment. There have been a lot of expressions of opinion in this thread and others about the Dawlish Sea Wall. I hope there will continue to me many opinions expressed, because I find most debate about this subject interesting.

 

Most of the statements (of fact) that I have posted on this thread in the last couple of days, however, are not open to question, because I witnessed them. I was there. :)

 

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Cap'n,

 

From what little I understand of your comments:-

 

1. The 'Government' and common sense are poles apart.

2. And yet we rely on the 'Government' to make rational decisions based on business cases* and the supporting evidence (reports and consultative documents)

3. Something wrong somewhere.....?

 

Cheers

 

Jack

 

*only as good as the author and sponsor wishes them to be. Think Nimrod Mk4 or Chinook Mk3, either could have paid for an inland route and still have enough to re-open Okehampton in order to boost the local economy.

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14 hours ago, Siberian Snooper said:

 

I dunno, some of the curves between Bere Alston and Gunnislake a pretty tight. and they ran up there for a while.

 

 

Until it was realised they were basically eating the track (metal shavings were visible in the 4ft) and they were quickly replaced with 1st generation units displaced from elsewhere.

 

Pacers were a disaster on the Bere Alston to Gunnie branch.

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8 hours ago, Jack Benson said:

because a railwayman chose the route and any subsequent comments quotes* from 'railwaymen' should/must be questioned rather accepted at face value.

It would be much better if all future decisions about our railways were made by civil servants wouldnt it, I mean just look at how successful the GWR electrification and choice of new trains  has been! :lol::lol::lol:

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25 minutes ago, royaloak said:

It would be much better if all future decisions about our railways were made by civil servants wouldnt it, I mean just look at how successful the GWR electrification and choice of new trains  has been! :lol::lol::lol:

Civil servants only make decisions based on business cases and supporting evidence (reports and consultative documents from experts). The experts will be from the railway industry therefore any decision still involves all parties.

Depending on the financial level of committment the ultimate decision has to have ministerial approval and achieve HM treasury approval. 

Trying to belittle the approval process only reveals how little is understood - the civil service do not dictate policy, that is the task of the politicos,  the civil service merely implement policy.

 

Cheers

 

Jack 

Edited by Jack Benson
Grammatical errors, galore.

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1 minute ago, Jack Benson said:

Civil servants only make decisions based on business cases and supporting evidence (reports and consultative documents from experts). The experts will the from the railway industry therefore any decision still involves all parties.

Depending on the financial level of committment the ultimate decision has to have ministerial approval and achieve HM treasury approval. 

Trying to belittle the approval process only reveals how little is understood - the civil service do not dictate policy, that is the task of the politicos,  the civil service merely implement policy.

 

Cheers

 

Jack 

Its a pity they dont listen to the staff and passengers before making these decisions then isnt it.

 

Bearing in mind it is the staff who have to deliver the product to the passengers (and listen to all the complaints when the 'exspurts' get it wrong), but hey what do we know about delivering a service to the passengers, and what do the passengers know about what sort of service they would like/have to pay for!

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6 hours ago, Jack Benson said:

Defra has overall national responsibility for policy on flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERM) in England.  

 

I suspect the key word in that statement is "policy", which is a very different concept than actually doing anything in the physical world.

 

So it may not mean that Defra would become responsible for the sea defenses if the railway leaves.

 

4 hours ago, Jack Benson said:

A shame that nobody questioned IKB?

 

I suspect there were a lot of issues that IKB faced, a lot of skepticism and push back.

 

And like now, there would have been a lot of people who felt that mankind could master and control the natural world, though I have no idea if IKB was one of those people.

 

We however have both the advantage of 150+ years of hindsight to base our opinions on, as well as 150+ years of time to lose the knowledge of all the little details that influenced the decisions of the time.

 

For example, my recollection is that one of the contributing issues to the failure that happened was that the pedestrian walkway on that section was deliberately lower because of the houses along that section.  Fair to say that was likely a decision forced on IKB (or whowever was responsible in later years if it wasn't original).

 

 

Edited by mdvle
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I have over long years ribbed poor CK about this, telling him (to the point of irritation) that he couldn't possibly retire until the rails were re-laid over the top of Dartmoor.

 

Oh how he laughed!

 

Tim's posts are informative and balanced, a fair judgment based upon his years of experience in the railway industry. In addition to discussing the difficulties  he also makes the correct (I think) observation (amongst many) that ultimately it is politics of some kind that might see the Okehampton route put back.

 

It would be a thunderingly good idea if a line were to be reinstated over Dartmoor along the LSW route, in my and others opinions.

 

It would open up North Devon to better rail links, provide a superb scenic journey experience, utilise a lot of under utilised assets, give better and more robust connectivity from Cornwall to the rest of the UK and yes, in extremis it would offer an alternative to the Dawlish route if/when that became blocked.

 

It would NOT replace the coast route, that clearly has to stay, in one form or another.

 

And yes, it would cost lots of money.

 

Actually, this country has plenty of the stuff, it just comes to some pretty byzantine and idiotic conclusions as to where to spend it, as others have noted.

 

Look at Border Rail, pretty unlikely until it happened, and the Welsh mob are even punting the idea of reopening the line down from Aberystywyth! Maybe what we need is more devolved government and a regional assembly for the South West (and other parts too)?

 

Politicians respond to public opinion (oh yes they do) and if they see endless negativity being poured on to an idea then it becomes easier for them to not bother with it, so how about a bit of talk about the possibilities and benefits of the idea, rather than only rubbishing it.

 

Notwithstanding everything said so far, I have to say that I get very bored by the seemingly endless didactic posts which appear like wasps around a jolly picnic,  pronouncing that the whole idea is somehow stupid and an absolute impossibility.

 

Simply not true, highly unlikely I grant you, but not impossible.

 

So, to paraphrase Mr Valentine:

 

Mr Benson, you're a poet - a dreamer of beautiful dreams!.....

 

and even

 

......Nothing, indeed. Money is only a symbol. Come along. Let's drink to your success.

 

And yes, I know, it would take a lot of money, and no, it would never replace the coastal route - we have all understood that.

 

And there honestly is no need to tell us all again just how difficult it is OK?

 

There, I feel better for that!

 

And here's a picture of what might have been and probably never will be...

 

Simon

 

 

 

 

DSCN0223 (1).jpg

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I am still trying to work out just who or what organisation Jack is the pet troll of?

Its certainly not the Keep Dawlish Station Open group, or their fellows up the line at Starcross

 

 

Being a little bit more sensible, one does have to ask if some of the anti sea wall posters realise just how busy the line is with local traffic?

Be a lot better if they were all on the roads I guess?

 

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1 hour ago, Jack Benson said:

The experts will be from the railway industry therefore any decision still involves all parties.

Depending on the financial level of committment the ultimate decision has to have ministerial approval and achieve HM treasury approval. 

 

Don't you believe it. Most of the imported 'experts' I had to deal with came from the oil or building industries. I pulled out a manufacturing drawing of a crossover to explain to one some problems of getting interdisciplinary coordination right on a particular job. At first he thought it was a line diagram for a double junction. I told him it wssn't a monorail.

Railtrack set up one of them  to try to take me out of the equation as I was perceived as giving them a hard time on projects. They gave him a fancy title and lots of money although he was a QS on road jobs by trade. Six months later my boss gave me a big rise and the RT man was counting bricks on station improvement projects.

The only one I had respect for was drafted into a project which was struggling for various reasons. He called the technical team together and told us 'I  know sweet f-all about railways but I'm good at the politics and money. I'll deal with that lot and keep them off your backs while you get on with the job.'

We went through the project with him and produced a realistic work programme. He sold our commissioning date to the politicos and agreed the budget with them and we delivered.

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6 hours ago, LBRJ said:

I am still trying to work out just who or what organisation Jack is the pet troll of?

Its certainly not the Keep Dawlish Station Open group, or their fellows up the line at Starcross

 

 

Being a little bit more sensible, one does have to ask if some of the anti sea wall posters realise just how busy the line is with local traffic?

Be a lot better if they were all on the roads I guess?

 

Not a troll, just a chartered engineer and retired civil servant who spent half a lifetime working in procurement. No axe to grind, simply someone who does not wish to see the inhabitants of the south west denied access to the rail network due to poor decisions.

 

Oh and I still provide consultantcy services to HM Government, sorry.

 

cheers

 

Jack

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1 hour ago, lightengine said:

 

Hi,

 

Not remotely interested in more trains passing 'my window' as there is a perfectly good view of the WoE mainline in Dorset. 

 

Partisan assumptions are being made and they devalue the comments of all participants.

 

Cheers

 

Jack

 

 

 

 

 

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19 hours ago, Joseph_Pestell said:

 

Might that have been for financial reasons? As capacity expansion, it would, like many other GW projects of that era, have been eligible for Govt funding. A repair would not have qualified.

There was definitely a capacity need but the scheme was intended to use Govt funding (c.£3 million of it).  Note my earlier comment which effectively said the GWR found other uses for the money.

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Why spend money protecting the unprotectable? The relevant government departments and agencies do seem to have a policy now of managed retreat, allowing the sea to reclaim land either through erosion of cliffs or because it is below sea level. 

 

If an inland route is eventually built that is seen to serve Dawlish and Teignmouth I can’t see it making any difference who is nominally responsible, NR, DEFRA or whoever it is in the future, money will only be spent to protect what needs to be protected. I would hope this would include Dawlish, but the rest of the coastal route may well be left to nature.

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4 hours ago, Jack Benson said:

Not a troll, just a chartered engineer and retired civil servant who spent half a lifetime working in procurement. No axe to grind, simply someone who does not wish to see the inhabitants of the south west denied access to the rail network due to poor decisions.

 

Oh and I still provide consultantcy services to HM Government, sorry.

 

cheers

 

Jack

 

In which case you should be well placed to understand the 'dead hand of HMTresuary' in the Government decision process. In many instances this will result in 'popular' measures being diluted down to fit what the money men say is afordable. Then there are party politcal considerations - measures that will make a Governmet look 'good' in the eyes of the electorate before they come to chose the next Government will score well. You should also understand the implict need for any Government body (however 'arms length' it is) to not be seen to be directly going against goverment policy - and regretably NR, DEFRA, etc fall into this catagory. Yes they can raise onjections... but the emphasis is for said organisations to find ways of coming up wih soltions that fit within the perameters set by the Politicans - not to continue to push things the Government will have rulled out (either by the way thefunding mechnisms are drawn up or due to a conflict with party policy in some shape or form).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by phil-b259
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12 hours ago, Not Jeremy said:

Politicians respond to public opinion (oh yes they do) and if they see endless negativity being poured on to an idea then it becomes easier for them to not bother with it, so how about a bit of talk about the possibilities and benefits of the idea, rather than only rubbishing it.

 

Notwithstanding everything said so far, I have to say that I get very bored by the seemingly endless didactic posts which appear like wasps around a jolly picnic,  pronouncing that the whole idea is somehow stupid and an absolute impossibility.

 

Simply not true, highly unlikely I grant you, but not impossible.

 

While I admire your optimism, sorry, records show that ministers do not always bow to public opinion if it suits them - having successfully dumped the funding of TV licences for the over 75s on the BBC its extremely unlikely they will intervene to prevent means testing of said benefit (they know that the BBC cannot afford to dole licences out for free on a blanket basis - but equally the Treasury has no intention of taking back responsibility for funding what is actually a state benefit that should be delivered by the Department of Work and Pensions). However this won't stop various political statements being made which express sympathy with protesters from various MP even though the official line is that ' the matter of the Licence fee is the responsibility of the BBC'

 

Then there is the expansion of Heathrow - strongly opposed by practically all MPs, who live under the flightpath and who can cite numerous technical studies into air pollution etc to show its a bad idea yet ministers continue to insist it is essential to the UK economy.

 

Lest we forget, it took actual riots (and a change of PM) to ditch the Poll Tax and decades before the Government bowed to public pressure and refunded the VAT on the original Band Aid charity single despite much popular support for the move. Then there was the smoking ban – Westminster was the last of the governing bodies of the home nations to impose one despite it being a popular measure amongst the majority of the country, a theme that was repeated with the plastic bag levy and looks to be going the same way with a bottle deposit return scheme.

 

I'm sure there are many other examples out there....

 

With rail projects the Government line (regadless of what you, I or indded indavidal MPs feel about the meritsof any proposal) is that all proposals must follow a pre-determined process to ensure viability.  Plenty of ministers have expressed warm sentiments about rail re-openings - only a 6 months ago a certain Chris Grayling was giving off positive vibes about the Skipton to Colne campaign*, yet he notably refused to make any firm commitments. Unlike Heathrow, however, very few rail schemes get the 'in the national interest' backing from on high even though from an environmental perspective (modal shift) and connectivity basis (places with a rail service tend to have increased economic activity than places which don't)

 

It is thus not a case that ministers are being dissuaded by public opinion as regards re-opening via Oakehamption - 99% of folk / public bodies are supportive of the idea in principle (just as plenty of folk would like to see Colne - Skipton rebuilt), the problem all face is that the current 'rules' by which such ideas must be judged in effect sabotage it due to an unhealthy focus on BCR and financial aspects.

 

* https://www.burnleyexpress.net/news/traffic-and-travel/transport-secretary-chris-grayling-hands-huge-boost-to-road-and-rail-improvements-for-pendle-1-9558016

 

So while I’m all for being positive – that doesn’t extend into being delusional about how the system of Government works – and until there is a radical change in the official formulas used (and lets face it if Heathrow expansion can go ahead despite the mountain of environmental evidence against it such a change could happen if the Westminster Politicians were minded to do so) then reopening of the Okehampton route (or even an inland relief route between Newton Abbot – Exeter) simply won’t come out with a positive business case.

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1 hour ago, phil-b259 said:

 

In which case you should be well placed to understand the 'dead hand of HMTresuary' in the Government decision process. In many instances this will result in 'popular' measures being diluted down to fit what the money men say is afordable. Then there are party politcal considerations - measures that will make a Governmet look 'good' in the eyes of the electorate before they come to chose the next Government will score well. You should also understand the implict need for any Government body (however 'arms length' it is) to not be seen to be directly going against goverment policy - and regretably NR, DEFRA, etc fall into this catagory. Yes they can raise onjections... but the emphasis is for said organisations to find ways of coming up wih soltions that fit within the perameters set by the Politicans - not to continue to push things the Government will have rulled out (either by the way thefunding mechnisms are drawn up or due to a conflict with party policy in some shape or form).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phil,

 

Absolutely correct, the decision process of multi-billion projects is naturally politically driven rather than purely logical or based on historic legacy.

 

Unfortunately the majority of those posting have no insight into the process or are so biased that it colours their judgement.

 

As previously stated, no axe to grind merely a desire to ensure that the south west has access to the national rail network. 

 

Cheers

 

Jack

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15 hours ago, Jack Benson said:

the civil service do not dictate policy, that is the task of the politicos,  the civil service merely implement policy.

Feel free to carry on believing that.

 

Are you really saying that civil servants have absolutely no role whatsoever in influencing and drawing up policy?

 

Perhaps you've never watched that fascinating series of documentaries on BBC, quite a few years ago now.

 

What was it called?

 

Ah, I remember now, 'Yes, Minister'.

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4 hours ago, Jack Benson said:

Partisan assumptions are being made and they devalue the comments of all participants.

 

58 minutes ago, Jack Benson said:

Unfortunately the majority of those posting have no insight into the process or are so biased that it colours their judgement.

 

6 hours ago, Jack Benson said:

Not a troll

 

Really? These are sweeping and provocative statements.

 

Perhaps you would be so good as to offer some specific examples of postings on this thread, where you feel this has been the case.

 

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4 minutes ago, Phlogiston said:

 

Feel free to carry on believing that.

 

Are you really saying that civil servants have absolutely no role whatsoever in influencing and drawing up policy?

 

Perhaps you've never watched that fascinating series of documentaries on BBC, quite a few years ago now.

 

What was it called?

 

Ah, I remember now, 'Yes, Minister'.

Hi Phil,

 

You are confusing fact with fiction, a common fault.

 

Cheers

 

Jack

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3 minutes ago, Phlogiston said:

 

 

 

Really? These are sweeping and provocative statements.

 

Perhaps you would be so good as to offer some specific examples of postings on this thread, where you feel this has been the case.

 

Phil,

 

Now that any discussion has descended into personal comment, there is no further point in responding.

 

Cheers

 

Jack

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2 hours ago, Phlogiston said:

 

 

 

Really? These are sweeping and provocative statements.

 

Perhaps you would be so good as to offer some specific examples of postings on this thread, where you feel this has been the case.

 

 

Perhaps the saga of the politically induced DOO problems might be an example. If you remember this was dreamed up by a certain Peter Wilkinson, whose job title is, "managing director of Passenger Services," a section of the DfT's Rail Executive and thus most definately a civil servant by my reckoning*.

 

While I readily acept 'Yes Minister' is a comedy it would be nieve to assume that all civil servants are mere robots - Minsters of state simply do not have the time to scrutanise everything in detail so there are ample opotuinty for ambitious senoir civil servants to make a name for themselves by pushing thgeir own agenda.

 

In the Peter Wilkinson example its quite concievable that faced with a generalised instructuion to 'cut staff costs for futue franchises' or 'Implament the McNulty report' by his boss, Mr Wilkinson saw it as a oppotuniutyto settle political scores and thus delibratly started / prolonged the DOO disputes to prove a point (or rather 'Break the Unions' as he bosted to his fellow conservative supporting chums).

 

* If he isn't then I would welcome your assesment of whre he slots into the 'system'as it were.

 

Edited by phil-b259
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15 hours ago, Not Jeremy said:

I have over long years ribbed poor CK about this, telling him (to the point of irritation) that he couldn't possibly retire until the rails were re-laid over the top of Dartmoor.

 

Oh how he laughed!

Ho ho! Yes, we've had a few chats about this, haven't we?

 

15 hours ago, Not Jeremy said:

he also makes the correct (I think) observation (amongst many) that ultimately it is politics of some kind that might see the Okehampton route put back.

 

2 hours ago, Jack Benson said:

the decision process of multi-billion projects is naturally politically driven rather than purely logical or based on historic legacy.

 

On 21/06/2019 at 17:30, Captain Kernow said:

for Okehampton to reopen, as a local passenger service route, which can also serve as a diversionary route to Dawlish when needed, needs some extremely senior government figures, business and industry leaders to want it to happen sufficiently much, to make it happen.

 

Clearly, a number of us agree that there would have to be a major political dimension to any future decision to reopen the Okehampton route.

 

And the reason that this would have to be a political decision, is because the business case numbers on their own just don't add up.

 

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CK, in your judgement and for the benefit of people that believe that a north Devon route is feasible, if it was completed and all trains to Cornwall up and running (please stop tittering at the back). How much would the NR maintenance of the seawall cost in comparison to the present figures, which obviously includes rail maintenance? Allowing that cliff falls would be retained inside the seawall and they would not cause additional repair work. 

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1 hour ago, phil-b259 said:

 

Perhaps the saga of the politically induced DOO problems might be an example. If you remember this was dreamed up by a certain Peter Wilkinson, whose job title is, "managing director of Passenger Services," a section of the DfT's Rail Executive and thus mot definately a civi servant by my reckoning*.

 

While I readily acept 'Yes Minister' is a comedy it would be nieve to assume that all civil servants are mere robots - Minsters of state simply do not have the time to scrutanise everything in detail so there are ample opotuinty for ambitious senoir civil servants to make a name for themselves by pushing thgeir own agenda.

 

In the Peter Wilkinson example its quite concievable that faced with a generalised instructuion to 'cut staff costs for futue franchises' or 'Implament the McNulty report' by his boss, Mr Wilkinson saw it as a oppotuniutyto settle political scores and thus delibratly started / prolonged the DOO disputes to prove a point (or rather 'Break the Unions' as he bosted to his fellow conservative supporting chums).

 

* If he isn't then I would welcome your assesment of whre he slots into the 'system'as it were.

 

Somewhat OT but illustrative.  I still can't work out if Wilkinson was trying to prove what a good boy and clever fellah he was or if he was just plain stupid and extremely ignorant when he said what he said.  However the outcome was regrettably 100% predictable and passengers trying to travel on Southern and Thameslink paid the pice - in some cases literally through losing their jobs.

 

It is alas all too clear that, due to whatever influence which might have played a part the Civil Servants at DafT seem to be particularly inept when it comes to transport matters - there are numerous examples in the railway industry and increasingly so in the marine sphere where they are either making poor decisions without any external help or are taking more notice of those who shout loudest rather than those with relevant knowledge.

 

Noe of that however takes us any further forward i the matter of the sea wall and coastal rail route in Devon where it appears that there was some sort of pressure to serve the greatest areas of population (Teignmouth and Dawlish) between Exeter and Newton Abbot which led to Brunel abandoning his original (1836) proposed route a bit  further inland and adopting the route that was actually built although it led to considerable opposition from some local landowners.  it is not at all clear what changed Brunel's mind but the 1843 route avoided tunnelling work and might well have been cheaper.  As ever we simply don't really know who was pulling the strings in the background to change his mind.

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