View previous topic | View next topic

Re-branding of road, rail and river routes

Page 1 of 1

GuyBarry
1326891.  Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:24 am Reply with quote

Has anyone here heard of the Great West Way? I was alerted to its existence by Great Western Railway's promotional magazine, which invites passengers to "discover the exciting new route between London and Bristol". The magazine doesn't actually describe the route, but directs you to a website which says:

Quote:
Welcome to the Great West Way. A new 125-mile touring route between London and Bristol based on ancient routes, roaming through idyllic countryside, quaint villages and elegant towns.

At one end you have London, the ideal entry point with its world-renowned royal sights and rich cultural heritage. Then at the other, Bath and Bristol. Close neighbours geographically, but with distinct personalities. While Bath is loved for its classical Georgian architecture and romantic literary connections, Bristol is a riot of alternative art, music and dining experiences, famous for nurturing pioneering spirits Brunel and Banksy. In between lie relaxing riverside towns like Henley-on-Thames, characterful villages like Pewsey and plenty of lush, green landscapes.

These places are all intrinsically linked, and well worth visiting in their own right, but the Great West Way offers more than getting from A to B...

Itís for slow travellers just as interested in the journey, and the colourful characters encountered along the way. And the big adventures that lead to unexpected diversions. The long-awaited pilgrimage to Stonehenge, perhaps, that leads to the secret stones of Avebury and 4,000 years of history you never knew existed. Itís about saying yes to new experiences and delighting in smaller, simple, special things - as well as the superlatives.

The Great West Way was made for self-guided travel, whether solo or with friends and family. The sort that enlivens your senses and makes you see the world afresh.


Well I've visited most of those places, but I'm still intrigued about this exciting new way of travelling between them. So what is it?

Quote:
Thanks to the A4 Great West Road, the Great Western Railway, the River Thames, the Kennet and Avon Canal, and multiple foot and cycle paths, you can choose how you get around.


Well I may be missing something here, but I don't think any of those routes are "new"...

Quote:
You can mix and match your modes, too, depending on the length and breadth of your trip. Whatever crazy combination of boat, bike, car or train enables you to explore the attractions that most excite you, from the famous to the far-out.

Now is the time to go in search of the real England. Find out more on our See & Do pages for some exciting things to do, get a local's view on our Discover Our Way pages and check out our suggested itineraries. After all, you never quite know what awaits the curious around the next corner. Discover your way.


So that's all? I'm being offered the opportunity to travel between London and Bristol by one of the existing routes, or a combination of them? Do the people behind this promotion think they've re-invented the idea of travelling? I simply don't get it.

 
Alexander Howard
1326914.  Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:13 am Reply with quote

It is radical, as most people in London do not know there is anything west of the M25.

It's a sale and tourism promotion, but it might work. The old railway companies used to promote holiday destinations and daytrips ('Skegness is so bracing!', which sounds better than 'Lincolnshire's cold and wet'). This looks like an interesting update, for those who are not content to go to one place and stay there. If it gets people out of their chairs, I'm not bothered if it looks crass.

 
suze
1326920.  Wed Jul 17, 2019 11:43 am Reply with quote

According to the main who knows about transport:


Rail Rovers are an established concept, and all that First Group plc has actually done here is to create a Rail Rover for a region which hasn't had one before. That it can also be used on selected bus services within the designated area is not a new idea; some although not all of the various Rail Rovers in existence can be used on some bus services.

Products like this are a pain to create. First Group plc owns both of the train operating companies which are participating and one of the bus companies, but will also have had to come to an arrangement with bus companies owned by Go-Ahead Group plc, Stagecoach Group plc, and Reading Borough Council. (The council-owned Reading Buses is now the largest bus operator in Berkshire, and has expanded well beyond Reading itself.)

The Great West Way ticket for the 'West' part of the region (Bristol, part of Somerset, and most of Wiltshire) is attractively priced. That makes sense, because there's a fair amount of spare capacity off peak on the rail routes covered. The ticket for the 'East' part of the region (from London to Berkshire, Oxford, and the same 'most of Wiltshire' which is in both zones) is less attractively priced, which is again unsurprising because it has less spare capacity. I can't see very many people buying that one, but if a person from Bristol fancied a triangular day out via Bath, Salisbury, and Swindon, then he might well find the 'West' ticket the cheapest way to make the journey.

Do not under any circumstances buy the 'Global' ticket which covers both the zones, because it costs more than buying the two zones separately and has no extra validity.

 
GuyBarry
1326925.  Wed Jul 17, 2019 1:30 pm Reply with quote

Well thanks to Andy for that, but I still don't get the concept.

The site tells me that I can use "whatever crazy combination of boat, bike, car or train enables [me] to explore the attractions that most excite [me]". Which sort of suggests that it's possible to travel by London to Bristol using a combination of boating along the River Thames/Kennet and Avon Canal, cycling along the National Cycle Network, driving along the A4, and taking a train along the Great Western main line.

But of course they all take substantially different routes. The Reading to Bath section of National Cycle Route 4 does in fact follow the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath; but otherwise there are relatively few places where it's possible to switch directly between one route and another.

But quite aside from that, how easy it is to switch from one mode of transport to another? If you hire a narrowboat for one section of the journey you can't just hop off it and jump on the train for the next bit. Canal boat visitor moorings are generally for a maximum of 48 hours. Similar problems arise with hiring a bicycle or a car for part of the journey. How are you supposed to get the vehicle back to where you hired it from?

There are, sadly, no answers on the site that I can find. There are a number of "suggested itineraries" but they're all just lists of places to visit, not indications of how you might get between them.

I'm all in favour of promoting tourism in this part of the country but I'm afraid this "exciting new route" appears to be nothing of the sort, just an exercise in promoting existing forms of transport.

 
suze
1326934.  Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:53 pm Reply with quote

It probably is, but First may have had some money from a tourism authority to mention canals and bikes.

 
GuyBarry
1326937.  Thu Jul 18, 2019 1:24 am Reply with quote

I think you're under a misapprehension. First are not promoting canals or bikes.

This from the Visit Wiltshire site:

Quote:
VisitWiltshire is leading on developing a new touring route - approximately 125 miles in length - which will join up many of Englandís iconic destinations and attractions along a corridor west of London through to Bristol. This is one of a number of successful projects made possible by HM Governmentís £40m Discover England Fund, administered by VisitEngland (www.discoverenglandfund.org).

The Great West Way project is focused on creating a world class tourism experience, winning new business and market share for Britain, growing the visitor economy and transforming the visitor experience along and around the route.

The touring route will be suitable for visitors to travel by car, coach, rail, cycling, walking or by boat. A range of themed itineraries and trails, including heritage, food and drink, countryside, film tourism etc. will allows visitors to explore the route in depth and aims to rival any of the great touring routes in the world.

The DMOís in Bristol, Bath, Cotswolds and Tourism South East have become official destination partners.


It has nothing to do with First specifically - they just happen to be one of the partners involved with the project, because they operate the main railway line through the area. The promotional material I quoted comes from the Great West Way site, not from First.

What seems to have happened is that a number of tourism authorities have got together to promote the idea of... er... well... touring.

The leaflet could be reduced to "Did you know that there are ways of getting from London to Bristol other than zipping along the M4? And that you can actually stop off on the way?"

 
suze
1326974.  Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:36 pm Reply with quote

This is confusing me now.

The Great West Way concept is "owned" by Visit Wiltshire, but the Great West Way rail and bus ticket is "owned" by First Great Western Ltd t/a Great Western Railway. No one else sells it in the UK, and GWR represents that it sells the ticket on its own account rather than acting as agent for Visit Wiltshire.

It is not clear whether Visit Wiltshire outsourced that aspect of the concept to GWR, whether there is a formal commercial relationship between the two organizations, or whether GWR has jumped on a bandwagon.

 
GuyBarry
1326983.  Thu Jul 18, 2019 2:46 pm Reply with quote

Well, the Great West Way Discoverer Pass section of the GWR website has the official Great West Way logo on it, and there's a nice picture of the Dundas Aqueduct on the Kennet & Avon Canal at the top. Then it says "the best and most relaxing way to explore the route is by rail..."

Which suggests that the whole thing is a bit of a non-starter as far as marketing is concerned. GWR markets the rail route, the Canal & River Trust markets the canal route, and Sustrans markets the cycle route. No one markets the A4 as far as I know, since it's the responsibility of the local authorities through which it passes - although I would happen to mention that SABRE has a rather good article on it, and not at all because I wrote a considerable section of it :-)

 
suze
1326986.  Thu Jul 18, 2019 5:14 pm Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:
Which suggests that the whole thing is a bit of a non-starter as far as marketing is concerned.


But then you're not the target here. The area under discussion is "your" part of England, so you already know it fairly well and you find the idea that tourists might wish to explore the route of the A4 faintly comical.

Let us now imagine the Great Chaucer Way. Our journey begins at an ancient tavern (well actually, a print shop just off Borough High Street on a site where a tavern once stood, probably). We soon proceed along the historic Old Kent Road and observe the peasants in their natural habitat. There are visits to Dartford (gateway to Essex), Bluewater (Shopping!!, and not as many tourists as Bicester), Gravesend (that most sordid of our ports*), Rochester (home of some celebrity English teacher or other), the fleshpots of Chatham, Sittingbourne (don't worry, we pass straight through), Faversham (actually quite nice, but don't tell anyone or they'll all want to come), before ending our journey at Ye Olde Citie of Caunterburye (where the station is in a dingy layby behind a nightclub).

You may observe that I was not being completely serious when I wrote that paragraph, but there are people in places like Japan who would pay proper money for it.

So it is with the Great West Way.


* I think this description is from a non-canonical Sherlock Holmes story written some time after Conan Doyle.

 
GuyBarry
1326993.  Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:17 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
GuyBarry wrote:
Which suggests that the whole thing is a bit of a non-starter as far as marketing is concerned.


But then you're not the target here. The area under discussion is "your" part of England, so you already know it fairly well and you find the idea that tourists might wish to explore the route of the A4 faintly comical.


I don't find it comical at all. Why would I have contributed to a guide to the route of the A4 if I thought it was comical? It wasn't primarily a tourist guide; but I can well imagine the appeal of such a guide, if it existed. It doesn't, as far as I know.

Had the promoters of the "Great West Way" written a guide to the route of the A4 with a list of places to see along the way, I might have been quite interested. But they didn't. They produced a guide saying "here are a lot of places you might like to visit between London and Bristol, and here are some routes you might want to use to get between them". By no means all of those places are on the A4, or indeed on the Great Western Railway or the Kennet and Avon Canal. So as a guide to actually travelling between the places mentioned, it's not a great deal of use.

Quote:
Let us now imagine the Great Chaucer Way. Our journey begins at an ancient tavern (well actually, a print shop just off Borough High Street on a site where a tavern once stood, probably). We soon proceed along the historic Old Kent Road and observe the peasants in their natural habitat. There are visits to Dartford (gateway to Essex), Bluewater (Shopping!!, and not as many tourists as Bicester), Gravesend (that most sordid of our ports*), Rochester (home of some celebrity English teacher or other), the fleshpots of Chatham, Sittingbourne (don't worry, we pass straight through), Faversham (actually quite nice, but don't tell anyone or they'll all want to come), before ending our journey at Ye Olde Citie of Caunterburye (where the station is in a dingy layby behind a nightclub).


Oh, I know the A2 well enough, suze - I lived in south-east London for long enough! (In fact I lived here for a year - close enough for you?) Marketing the A2 as a tourist route would of course have the major drawback that through much of south-east London and north-west Kent it's built to motorway standard - in fact wider in places than some actual motorways.

Quote:
You may observe that I was not being completely serious when I wrote that paragraph, but there are people in places like Japan who would pay proper money for it.


Indeed. When I was involved with SABRE we actually produced a guide to the roads of Britain in book form, but couldn't find anyone to publish it. Amongst other things we featured six roads - the A82, A361, A14, A5, M62 and B6318 - and described the routes end to end in the style of a tourist guide. I still think it's a shame that the project never came to fruition.

Quote:
So it is with the Great West Way.


Well no, it isn't. Perhaps I should write to them and suggest that they do something similar.

They're unlikely to, though, because they say "the touring route will be suitable for visitors to travel by car, coach, rail, cycling, walking or by boat". And there is no such single route, so all they can do is promote various attractions and leave it to individual travellers to work out how to get between them.

And that's not a "touring route" in any sense that I understand it.

 
suze
1327011.  Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:09 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:
Marketing the A2 as a tourist route would of course have the major drawback that through much of south-east London and north-west Kent it's built to motorway standard - in fact wider in places than some actual motorways.


That's why you call it Great Chaucer Way rather than A2. It would be based on the traditional route of the A2 rather than the modern route, going through rather than past places like Gravesend and Faversham, and using Rochester High Street rather than the strictly functional present day A2 100 yards to the north.

Similarly, if you traveled from London to Edinburgh up the modern route of the A1, you'd pass by most of the towns en route on a highway which is in parts built to motorway standard. But call it the Great North Road, and those interesting places are back in play.

Does the A4 similarly by now bypass most of the interesting places en route, or does it stick to its traditional routing through lots of small towns since the M4 is in effect the bypass route?

 
GuyBarry
1327014.  Fri Jul 19, 2019 9:57 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:

That's why you call it Great Chaucer Way rather than A2. It would be based on the traditional route of the A2 rather than the modern route, going through rather than past places like Gravesend and Faversham, and using Rochester High Street rather than the strictly functional present day A2 100 yards to the north.


My first thought on reading this was "Did the A2 ever go through Gravesend? I'm sure it didn't." The answer is that it was originally planned to follow the historic coaching route via Gravesend, but was re-routed to follow the Roman Watling Street by the time road numbers were first allocated:

SABRE wrote:
The original draft route of the A2 ran from London to Rochester via Welling, Crayford, Dartford and Gravesend (now mostly the A207 and A226), which had been the historic coaching route for centuries, not least that used by the pilgrims mentioned in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales". It mostly followed the Roman Watling Street aside the section from Dartford to Rochester via Gravesend.

Between the draft and the final allocation of the route on 1st April, 1923, construction had begun on the western section of the original Rochester Way as far as Welling, and an upgrade of Watling Street to bypass Gravesend. Consequently, the final route of the A2 ran on these new roads, with the sections of the old route becoming the A207 and A226 respectively.


https://www.sabre-roads.org.uk/wiki/index.php?title=A2/History

So in a tourist guide you'd probably want to promote the traditional coaching route via Gravesend, even though it never actually became part of the A2.

suze wrote:
Similarly, if you traveled from London to Edinburgh up the modern route of the A1, you'd pass by most of the towns en route on a highway which is in parts built to motorway standard. But call it the Great North Road, and those interesting places are back in play.


Indeed. Chris Cooper (one of my erstwhile SABRE colleagues) has published a book about the original route.

Quote:
Does the A4 similarly by now bypass most of the interesting places en route, or does it stick to its traditional routing through lots of small towns since the M4 is in effect the bypass route?


That's the interesting thing about the A4 - because the M4 was one of the earliest long-distance motorways, there have been relatively few changes in the traditional route. The section through West London to the start of the M4 dates from the 1950s, but most of the rest is more or less unchanged[*]. The main change occurs at the western end where it originally terminated in Bath - it wasn't extended to Bristol and Avonmouth until 1935:

https://www.sabre-roads.org.uk/wiki/index.php?title=A4/history

[*]The "Great West Road" bypassing Brentford and Hounslow (in what was then Middlesex) was completed in 1925, which means that there was a gap in the route of the A4 when numbers were first allocated. Strictly speaking, the term "Great West Road" has only ever applied to this section of the route - the coaching route was known as the "Bath Road".

 
suze
1327029.  Fri Jul 19, 2019 11:40 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:
My first thought on reading this was "Did the A2 ever go through Gravesend? I'm sure it didn't." The answer is that it was originally planned to follow the historic coaching route via Gravesend, but was re-routed to follow the Roman Watling Street by the time road numbers were first allocated:


Not only did I not know that, but neither did the man who is probably supposed to. So thanks for that piece of information, which will come in useful ... erm ... sometime!

Guy wrote:
So in a tourist guide you'd probably want to promote the traditional coaching route via Gravesend, even though it never actually became part of the A2.


I'm sure you would. Our intrepid Chaucer Way pilgrims would deviate from the coaching route to visit Bluewater, and the schoolboy element might deviate again to see the (by now disused) Thong Interchange. But otherwise, there's nothing of particular interest on that part of the modern A2.

 
GuyBarry
1327044.  Fri Jul 19, 2019 12:59 pm Reply with quote

True - but it seems odd to call it the "modern" A2 when the route is over 2000 years old!

 
Alexander Howard
1327045.  Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:09 pm Reply with quote

The Pilgrims' Way is however a modern fake though it has devotees who just will not believe you if you tell them, so embedded is it in the imagination.

 

Page 1 of 1

All times are GMT - 5 Hours


Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group