NAZ Uddin deserves every success in developing his idea to extend the miniature railway to St Leonards along the seafront (reported in last week’s Observer).
It may have an even greater benefit than he imagined. When the pier is finally rebuilt, one day in the future, and the excitement of the initial fundraising, the rebuilding and reopening subsides, the problem will remain of attracting large numbers people to the pier on a continuing basis, year in and year out. It took four years to sell the pier last time round undoubtedly because it was not an obvious commercial success for the investment needed to maintain and run an expensive structure, continually suffering the ravages of the sea in an isolated position.
I believe that Ravenclaw, when it finally bought the pier and re-opened it in 2002, had every intention of making it a success.
However, its leaseholders, the individual businesses on which the pier is wholly dependent, came and went in quick succession because there was insufficient footfall to make their businesses a success.
Sadly it was bound to fail and future re-development has to solve the primary problem of attracting large numbers.
We cannot turn back the clock, and no longer do people perambulate along the seafront in their droves, providing the necessary custom to the pier. It will remain badly sited for today’s lifestyle and could have a slow lingering death, rather like the previous attempt, when it is finally re-opened.
However the extension of the miniature rail, properly run and marketed with frequent services and with fares to attract customers, might just encourage sufficient numbers to deliver people from The Stade to the pier and potentially the newly developed site in West St Leonards (as well as Mr Uddin’s business) and might just stimulate the whole area. Little else could have such a large effect for modest investment.
We should all wish him success in promoting his idea.