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East Midlands Railway Trust/NHR (north GCR)

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Flying Phil, Jan 25, 2021.

  1. Drop_Shunt

    Drop_Shunt New Member

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    Nottingham Heritage Railway Board Statement.

    The Board of the NHR (formerly GCRN) has issued its rejection of a proposal from the EMRT to force the surrender running rights on the southern section of the line from a point just north of Rushcliffe Halt to the mainline connection.

    The proposal was accompanied by an ultimatum demanding that the document be signed by 1700 on Friday 30th July.

    The Board found both the contents of the Surrender Document, and the deadline, unacceptable.

    A copy of the document has been mailed to shareholders along with this letter, and is also available to shareholders by email on request to directors@gcrn.co.uk

    The Board’s reasoning is as follows….

    The new Board:

    The new Board has already undertaken major reforms to address corporate governance and operational issues, and has created a lot of positive momentum among the volunteer base and in the community.

    We are excited about community projects such as the school competition to design a new NHR logo, being judged by Ruth Edwards MP, which is a perfect complement to our core mission of safe and enjoyable heritage railway operation. Our outreach into the community is only just beginning.

    The Board is very confident that this cultural change and specific initiatives to be outlined in its Medium-term Business Plan (MTBP), being drafted in conjunction with a panel of experts from both within and outside the rail industry, will lead to the NHR being a major source of pride for the local Rushcliffe and Nottingham community, and a by-word for best practice in heritage railway operation.

    The new Board has made significant changes and needs time to bring these to fruition.

    The contents of the Surrender Document:

    The Surrender Document in its current form effectively turns the NHR into a non-viable operation, creating a ‘rump state’ that would be unlikely to generate volunteer and customer enthusiasm, and likely close.

    The general history of ‘rump states’ is that once territory has been surrendered, there are usually more demands made for concessions in the future, until demise is complete.

    As a minimum, the NHR needs guaranteed operating rights to Rushcliffe Halt. It is preposterous that Rushcliffe’s local railway would be unable to run to a station that bears the name of its local area and parliamentary constituency.

    It would also fail to allow joint operations with the ‘bus preservation organization NABS, whom the NHR shares a site with, and with whom the NHR has highly cordial relations.

    The Board also notes that despite friendly relations between the two counties, Nottinghamshire people, and their political representatives nationally and locally, want a Nottingham-based independent railway. The concept of the NHR’s line being handed over to Leicestershire’s GCR plc to a point north of Rushcliffe Halt is markedly inconsistent with this.

    The Board wishes for the record to state it wholeheartedly shares the aim of running through services over the whole of the GCR Mainline, in association with our good friends from the South, while having a different vision of how this would look to the EMRT.

    Financial alternatives:

    The Board is mindful of the fact that expensive remediation work on the line is needed.

    To that end, it is working to secure alternative sources of capital that will guarantee the future of the line, permit the re-opening of freight traffic and maintain an independent Nottinghamshire railway.

    These discussions are well advanced, with formal proposals being put together with realistic numbers, and interested investors being briefed. No more detail can be given at this point due to their confidential nature.

    A question of tone:

    The Board has a lot of respect for the EMRT, both personally and institutionally.

    However, at a time when the UK is experiencing its biggest crisis since the War, spanning physical and mental health, employment, family life and much more, is the tone of manufactured crisis and anxious urgency coming from the EMRT that is being used to bully the NHR into its most important decision since its formation, really appropriate?

    There is enough anxiety around without creating crises. This situation needs calm deliberation and thoughtfulness.

    The EMRT has intimated during negotiations that it will consider pushing the NHR into bankruptcy if the line is not surrendered. It may also be the case that it could seek to remove the NHR (which of course is the organization that it was created to support) from its property.

    The EMRT is entitled to take whatever course it feels fit, but the consequences of such action would be to deprive Nottingham of its local heritage railway, cost jobs, and be a serious blow to the community.

    This action would also be rather untimely given that the new NHR Board has undertaken significant reform, and is very confident that it can be the guardian of the railway that the people deserve.

    The Way Forward:

    The Board, as noted above, will be reverting with a series of alternative policy options and we seek your support in the near-term while these are finalized.

    Already underway is an independent review by a group of industry experts, without any vested interests, into the bridges that have issues. These structures have become the casus belli for the EMRT, and it is essential that such a review be undertaken to ensure that the NHR Board is confident in its ability to make fact-based judicious decisions, based on its findings.

    Michael Newton, Ronald Whalley, Peter Wilson & John Akinin - Chairman & Directors of The Nottingham Heritage Railway.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
  2. Johann Marsbar

    Johann Marsbar Well-Known Member

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  3. Flying Phil

    Flying Phil Part of the furniture

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    Agreed Johann.......but we also know that there must be a lot more that has gone on behind the scenes to have led to this. Certainly we would appreciate an EMRT perspective.
     
  4. Johann Marsbar

    Johann Marsbar Well-Known Member

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    Will see what EMRT put out later given the nature of the NHR statement. The operation of the Gypsum Plant to Loughborough section being operated by another party was actually hinted at in the GCR AGM presentation, as that's how I was aware about the Ruddington operation being limited before this statement was issued.
    Whilst EMRT are trustees for all of the infrastructure, the GCR(N) appear to have been responsible for the maintenance/operational certification of the line and they appear to have failed in that, hence the ORR involvement. Since then, you now have complete changes of Board on both bodies but an apparent divergence of views on the way forward out of the mess. If the whole line cannot be maintained by the Ruddington operation due to the lack of volunteers, then shortening it to the Ruddington-Rushcliffe section makes sense, with a seperate "Body" maintaining the other part which carries the revenue freight services - presumably using paid staff. However, not making provision for trains from Ruddington to run into Rushcliffe Halt on the "Commercial" part is a serious error and one that certainly needs to be sorted with some legal right of access by Ruddington services in the agreement.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
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  5. Flying Phil

    Flying Phil Part of the furniture

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    A good summary Johann.
    As has been discussed on here earlier, to have through running over the 18 miles there will have to be alignment of operations, procedures and paperwork to ORR standards over the whole line. A totally independant NHR as stated...."Nottinghamshire people, and their political representatives nationally and locally, want a Nottingham-based independent railway." is inconsistent.
    The Rushcliffe running seems to be the sticking point but I'm sure a solution can be found.
     
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  6. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    Most of the NHR statement seems reasonable, but the emphasis on Nottinghamshire versus Leicestershire seems to me pretty daft, and indeed hardly consistent with everyone's declared goal of through running. I said a few posts back that the change of name was beginning to suggest a future relationship a bit like that between the WHR and WHHR. Given the respective natures and scales of the present operations, that might indeed be an appropriate future structure but, as Johann says, the NHR should be able to run their heritage trains at least as far as Rushcliffe Halt.
     
  7. Flying Phil

    Flying Phil Part of the furniture

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    As you need to be a shareholder to get a copy of the EMRT proposal from the NHR, I Looked again at the Companies house information (link in Post #108), it is stated in the Confirmation Statement 28/08/2020 that there are only 29 shareholders and 2377 £1 shares in the GCR(N). Looking back further (2004- 2012) there were dealings with the LNER Co Ltd which seemed to be significant. That company seemed to be some sort of shell Company based in London and is described as the Parent Company. All very peculiar.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
  8. Johann Marsbar

    Johann Marsbar Well-Known Member

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    You need to look at the "People" listings in the GCR(N) Companies House online Information and then look at the Individual Directors (past and present) to see what other companies they are associated with. A few LNER variations and things like "London Extension Railway Ltd" all come up. The two LNER ones appear to be non-dormant operations.
     
  9. Legrandanglais

    Legrandanglais Member

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    I am saddened to read about the way the treatment of NHR by EMRT has come to a head. I can only hope that an amicable solution to the way forward can be found to prevent the alienation of supporters and volunteers. Would EMRT stop 'The Cutting Edge' volunteers from working... What about the crew that are dragging the signal box back into life? everyone needs to tread very carefully!
     
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  10. JorgeR

    JorgeR New Member

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    Oh dear, oh dear. The emotive language "Surrender Document", "hand over" and so on, I fear, demonstrates a real lack of maturity and judgement by the NHR. And the insistence on operational independence really does bode ill for the prospects of a combined railway.

    Tragic, really.
     
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  11. J Rob't Harrison

    J Rob't Harrison New Member

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    I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to hear EMRT's side of it before jumping to any conclusions, but at the moment the following is true for me.
    1) NHR's willingness to air dirty linen in public has massively reduced their credibility.
    2) Assuming NHR's statement to be wholly correct (and at the moment personally that feels like a huge assumption to make), ditto the EMRT will go down in my estimation.
    3) In this climate, donations to both the NHR and the Forward Fund from myself have been put on hiatus pending further information.

    Agreed, that and their 'local trains for local people' stance gave me a real start this morning (their hearts must have sunk the last few years when receiving donations from an ST postcode). Right now my reading of this situation is that there's a faction who'd sooner see the whole concern implode than have anything to do with the guys on the other side of the Gap.
     
  12. JorgeR

    JorgeR New Member

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    Reading between the lines (ho ho...), I wonder if the gist of the issue is as follows...

    EMRT, as the owner of the structures, sees as a priority the resumption of gypsum traffic and the restoration of a sustainable income. To make this happen, I wonder if EMRT has spent recent months (years?) developing a much stronger relationship with the GCRPLC, as an experienced organisation with the project management skillset to handle the structures restoration and the interface between the heritage and freight operations.

    To make this happen, I wonder if EMRT has envisaged a scenario of the PLC becoming the primary operator south of Rushcliffe, as the body better placed to interface with the national freight network. This is not altogether illogical, if the line from Loughborough to Rushcliffe is to be signalled from Loughborough box, with a handover at Hotchley Hill.

    This has then somehow been miscommunicated, deliberately or otherwise, and has led to the hyper aggressive statement by the NHR, who have construed something like the above as their expulsion from the line south of Rushcliffe.

    All of this is merely speculation, but two more points from me.

    1. I work as a professional in an organisation primarily staffed by volunteers. Were any of the voluntary groups within my organisation to air dirty laundry in a public forum as the NHR have done, they instantly be seen to surrender any serious credibility, and would face a serious crackdown.

    2. I imagine the Rushcliffe MP is extremely uncomfortable being dragged into this, and the behaviour by the NHR may well lead to a retreat by the MP. Most Member of Parliament will be well aware of issues of local voluntary factionalism from their own constituency parties, and will naturally be inclined to steer away from it, hard.

    The whole situation, it seems to me, could do with urgent outside mediation before it gets any worse.
     
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  13. Bikermike

    Bikermike Member

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    Very emotive, but if (and it remains an if), the position is anything like that set out by them, then the rumours of a southern take-over pop back to life. Also as EMRT hold the land, they do hold a lot of cards, so seeking to get them to make a public denial of the position may be the best card the railwayco have.

    It is, to quote Red Dwarf, a flamingo-up (like a cock-up, but much bigger)

    (Some people in TA24 postcodes are probably getting out the popcorn)
     
  14. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I share the views of the posts immediately above this, that this release from NHR reflects badly on NHR, in itself and by its tone, and also on EMRT. It would take little more to make this FoGCML member stop his standing order for the reunification appeal.

    However, the reference to a "surrender document" does strike me as pointing to the heart of the problem. Taking the release at face value, NHR have been asked at short notice to surrender their rights to operate over the southern portion of the line - including access to Rushcliffe Halt. That would be a significant reversal of years of progress at Ruddington, and force it back into "railway centre" territory from the full line operation that it has been for some time.

    I have no real knowledge of the issues involved beyond what's been said on this and other threads, but do know that I do not want reunification to be achieved by the takeover of one organisation by another.
     
  15. ruddingtonrsh56

    ruddingtonrsh56 Member

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    Well I wasn't expecting to wake up to this in my inbox!

    Obviously without seeing the EMRT document and being able to see word for word what was said, there will be an element of speculation in everybody's response to this. Volunteers had previously been made aware that the EMRT had requested the GCRN to give up tenancy of the 5.5 mile stretch of line from Bridge 307 to Loughborough Junction (Key point here, nowhere on this press release or on other communications to volunteers has it been explicitly or implicitly stated that tenancy or maintenance rights of this stretch of line would pass to the GCR(S) PLC, this is conjecture). However a month or so ago the impression I got was that the directors were expecting to agree to this request. Maybe it's a good thing that they have decided not to do this and to fight for, at least, access to Rushcliffe Halt in the immediate term, maybe they could have gone about it in a way that maintained a better public image, maybe they made a miscalculation as to public reception to this public statement. Lots of maybes involved.

    There are also a few other observations I would like to make, which may not be directly related to today's statement, but are likely not unrelated. Although, given that it does also involve some speculation, I would recommend taking my observations with a pinch of salt (as with everything being said in this thread!) As a volunteer I want to be very careful about what I say regarding the board, as has been previously pointed out, airing dirty laundry regarding a volunteer organisation is not best practice, so I want to be very clear that the below includes my own opinions which will have no doubt influenced to some degree my conclusions, and (certainly points 1 and 2) are not to be taken as gospel truth.

    1 - I have, completely independently of this and events of the last month or so, noticed myself that the EMRT has seemed to be (at least to me) a lot more inclined towards the Loughborough operation than the Ruddington operation that they are landlords for. Maybe that is partly influenced by the well documented issues and related ORR report from 2020, maybe there are other factors. However I do think it very interesting that the EMRT were invited to speak at the FoGCML AGM, and the NHR were not, which suggests that the GCR and the EMRT may have a pallier relationship than any relationship which the NHR are involved in. But that last statement is, of course, conjecture on my part. Nevertheless, if true, then it could help one understand the emotive nature of the statement published today.

    2 - There is some ill feeling towards the EMRT from some NHR volunteers (myself included) over their handling of the two RSH Ugly 0-6-0STs, 56 and 63. These were owned by a long time supporter of the then-GCRN and shortly before his sad passing a few years ago, it was agreed that the two locos, as well as a sum of money to go towards their overhauls, would be donated to the then-GCRN in some capacity to secure their long term future on the railway. Initially the possibility of setting up a charitable trust to look after the locos was explored (an exploration which I was involved in), but eventually it was decided that the EMRT would take on ownership and responsibility for restoring them. I and others were not pleased to learn that the two locos (which have proved themselves over many years to be entirely suitable for the operations of the railway to Loughborough junction if well looked after, no anti-Industrial prejudice here please) were to be sold, and the money was not to be put into purchasing another steam locomotive or two that the EMRT deemed more suitable for the then-GCRN operations, or even towards some much-needed steam locomotive infrastructrue (such as an outside pit, or a proper water tower), but to the development of a station building at Ruddington. While not unimportant, I felt that at the very least if the two locos were not to be kept at the railway as per the late owner's wishes, their sale should be used to fund in some way or another the establishment and development of a steam locomotive operation at Ruddington. Reading between the lines, one could get the impression that the EMRT's strategy as far as steam operations was to make do with the infrastructure in place at present, borrow locos from elsewhere, until perhaps the railway were connected to Loughborough and then they would sort it all out in one way, shape or form. But that conclusion is probably at least partially clouded by my own emotive reaction to what happened, and were the EMRT to reach out to me and communicate their reasoning behind the decision in an adequate way, then I would retract my reading between the lines, and even thought I still would not be happy with the decision, I could accept it more easily.

    3 - In the last month and a half or so, since the new board of directors was appointed and announced to volunteers, there has been more communication to volunteers (and the general public) regarding what is happening at Ruddington, and how people can get involved, than took place in the 18 months prior, stretching back to before the start of the pandemic. This has been a welcome improvement to myself and others, and does indicate that the new board are at least getting some things right! Right now I am choosing to cling on to this fact and the hope it brings!

    As an NHR volunteer, I am hoping and praying for an amicable resolution to this pickle that's going on right now, and I guess all we can do is wait and see if more information comes to light to help us make some sense of it. Hopefully this storm will pass and there will be brighter days ahead for the NHR and the EMRT
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
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  16. ruddingtonrsh56

    ruddingtonrsh56 Member

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    Plus I guess it's probably preferable for these discussions to be taking place now, as opposed to once the gap has been bridged and everybody is expecting a passenger carrying train to leave Ruddington for Leicester North in the following weeks. At least this way there is time for the dust to settle and things to improve before that happens. Hopefully some constructive conversations and decision making will be the result of this incident
     
  17. Johann Marsbar

    Johann Marsbar Well-Known Member

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  18. pmh_74

    pmh_74 Member

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    I’ve been a member of both organisations for over 30 years (pretty much from the outset as far as the northern end is concerned) although in recent years my voluntary effort has been concentrated south of the ‘gap’. The GCRN (now NHR) has always struggled for funding and volunteers under the shadow of its larger neighbour, and one might reasonably have hoped that, as physical unification looms closer, the party with the greater resources might have offered to help with some of the issues facing the northern end. But this really doesn’t feel like the way to do it!

    In fairly short order we have seen the PLC’s senior management issuing statements that they are not interested in anything much beyond a main line connection and even demanding that their northern neighbour changed their name (essentially, “we want nothing to do with you lot”), followed by the EMRT stepping up their fundraising efforts (welcome) whilst issuing some fairly bizarre documents (one of which is fairly scathing about the heritage centre) and selling the two locos mentioned above (both of which had been regular performers, sometimes sole performers, in earlier years, so certainly not welcome). I believe the EMRT’s aims are fundamentally sound but they have a strange way of showing it. I think in the context of the above the reaction from the GCRN (now NHR) is entirely predictable and, dare I say, not unreasonable. After all, the directors have a duty to try to protect their business in the light of what appears to be an existential threat from their landlord. Whether this, or any of the forgoing, should be in the public gaze is another matter, but the GCRN has kept quiet for longer than any of the other parties, so as I see it they have effectively been pushed into this position.

    In the circumstances, changing the name to focus on Nottingham (the principle city, from their perspective), engaging with the local MP, ramping up community liaison, tidying the Ruddington site and refurbishing the cafe, all of which have taken place recently, seem like many positive steps in the right direction and I certainly think they need to be given time to keep going with this. Whatever the woes of the past which have led to problems with the railway infrastructure, they will not be resolved by alienating all of the Ruddington-based volunteers. And lets not forget that the physical connection at Loughborough is still some years away; some more years of de facto independence are inevitable and if the re-invigorated NHR can resolve its differences with EMRT and push forward the development of the railway up there, it probably actually increases the chances of genuine organisational unification in future as they will have a better railway than at present and it then becomes more of a meeting of equal partners.

    Finally, while the south end has found itself a millionaire backer who seems quite adept at wasting money whilst riding roughshod over the railway’s heritage (see the recent debacle of the bridge replacement at Quorn; the incorrectly-liveried 9F and dining coaches; the carbuncle of the Swithland shed which by all accounts is causing the carriages within more harm than good due to poor ventilation, for example), I do believe that the NHR is being run by genuine enthusiasts who have the core principles of preservation fundamentally at heart. They’ve also made it clear that they still believe in the aim of through trains (something the PLC seems uninterested in). As such, I am more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and support them rather than those who seem to be trying to pull the rug from under their feet.

    Interesting times, for sure.
     
  19. Legrandanglais

    Legrandanglais Member

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    The dirty linen looks to be well on course to clog up the washing machine... Please do not let this degenerate into a LEGAL dispute - a lot of funds will disappear into the LAYERS pockets and the mud slinging will cause lasting damage.
    In order for NHR to be able to run trains with 0% VAT, those trains MUST run between 2 distinct stations (intent as a public service). Cutting off access to Rushcliffe Halt defeats this requirement and loads NHR with a requirement to charge 20% VAT, it seems as though this (may?) is an attempt to stifle the revenue stream. It also, at a stroke, alienates the volunteers looking after the Halt, the Signal Box, and the line side - Please b reasonable about this.
    I can understand that the EMRT infrastructure needs major attention, and the 'apparently abandoned line' to Loughborough Junction is providing a playground for the benefit of Spray Paint Manufacturers and Trainee Demolition Workers (Stanford Viaduct in particular) - this has been attributed to GCR(N) lack of attention to its maintenance responsibilities. With little or no income over the last few years - this has caused a difficult situation leading up to the ORR action.
    It is in the best interest of all concerned parties to work together or face a future that will undoubtedly be bleak.... Please be reasonable on BOTH sides and work TOGETHER.
     
  20. Johann Marsbar

    Johann Marsbar Well-Known Member

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