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Swanage Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Rumpole, Oct 10, 2012.

  1. Nantyglo

    Nantyglo New Member

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    Indeed. The massive increases in the cost of coal and electricity mentioned in the video linked to above could, on their own, be enough to drive some railways to the wall. And, on top of that, there’s everything else…

    We seem to be in something of a ‘phony war’ situation at the moment. Some railways seem to be trying to carry on as normal, but the better-managed ones are already thinking hard about how to survive and are no doubt preparing to make some very difficult and unpopular decisions. Like most families and businesses, they are waiting to see just how bad things get next year, but everybody knows the crunch is coming.

    The hardcore preservationists who already complain that their lines are turning into ‘theme parks’ will have to accept that things are very different now, even compared to three or four years ago, and unless they can find ever more ingenious ways of getting bums onto seats and £s into fareboxes there could soon be very little left for them to preserve.

    It’s that serious.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2022
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  2. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    It doesn't matter which. In either case the only solution is to communicate. Communication is two way. You have to listen as well. You might not be able to accommodate the viewpoint, but it is essential I think to have listened to other views.
     
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  3. kwrail

    kwrail New Member

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    It's a perfect storm. All voluntary organisations are reporting fewer volunteers coming out of covid, although that is slowly improving. Plus heading into a recession with HRs reporting drops in passenger numbers already. It's all about ensuring that HRs survive the next couple of years, after which things hopefully start to improve. It's definitely not business as usual and sadly HRs that were already struggling may not survive. So plans from three years ago might as well be ripped up and nice to have developments postponed.

    Issues like having enough locos in steam, and having the right locos available. Look at the MHR thread (my local HR). An owner has removed a loco mid ticket and they were down to three locos, one of which is not that reliable. They have hired a loco in for Christmas, but next year is going to be a challenge.
     
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  4. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    I think steam-mad is right. The message may not be well received by some and may well lead to some volunteers concluding it's not what they signed up for. So I agree the need for change does need to be communicated well.
    That can be difficult to achieve bearing in mind the speed with which responses to the current challenges may have to be made. For instance if significant changes to timetables/fares. scale of activity etc. need to be implemented for the next operating season they need to be firmed up around now. For volunteers in particular communicating with them during a winter closed season can be problematic. Physical staff/volunteer forums are unlikely to be well attended. On line ones can be difficult to arrange with interactive capability. Sadly an unusually high proportion of elderly volunteers do not use e mail and can be vociferous in their complaint of discrimination if that medium is used. That leaves in house magazines or postal communication which is now costly with the former possibly landing on door mats after the changes have become apparent.

    In response to 35 B I'd accept that there is no universal rule. Some railways may be able to tinker with timetables/fares etc. whilst others already incurring operating losses will have no option other than to take more drastic action. The essential point is that is not seen as a negative but as a positive opportunity to secure the organisation's future. The HR's that will fail (and sadly I think there may be casualties) are those that are paralysed rabbits dazzled by the oncoming headlights unable to adapt.
     
  5. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    Which applies to volunteers as much as the management.

    Communication is not a substitute for decisions on either side.
     
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  6. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    My observation - and I'm thinking as a trustee of a non-railway organisation that is facing it's own budgetary challenges, and has changed materially over the last decade - would be that "radical" change is the most dangerous and high risk, as it leaves less room to carry members and supporters from where they were to the new way of doing things.

    The core for me is about identity and maintaining the sense that the organisation is basically the same. My experience is that most (though possibly not our Canadian correspondent) accept that investment plans may need to be deferred, and priorities reassigned - and that effective communication is key in carrying people through that. What is much harder is when the underlying nature of the organisation changes suddenly, and people have no choice but to accept or reject that fundamental change. There may be some irreconcilables, but the objective should be to carry - not drag - volunteers and supporters through that journey.
     
  7. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Part of the furniture

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    It sort of unknown territory for volunteer organisations to have to face such challenges.
    Many companies of course have been through such things, but the need to keep earning a salary and perhaps limited options may lead to much "bleating" but little action. Airlines post 9/11 from my own experience, where things were changing certainly weekly if not quicker are a prime example.
    Volunteer heavy organisations may well find that folks say this is no longer what I want to do with my spare time. Then what is the left paid staff or a reduction in what is offered appear to be the only options.
     
  8. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    The organisation I have in mind is a church, and it is not the first time that it's undergone significant change - and without losing the goodwill of the congregation.
     
  9. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    There's no one size fits all and, whilst this exchange is on the Swanage site, my observations are not directed at the SR. These are issues that affect the sector as whole. The idea that, for some, deferring investment plans and re -assigning priorities is going to solve their problems is an example of failure to grasp just how serious those may be. That's just tinkering around the edges.

    Heritage railways are not normal businesses but they are subject to the normal constraints(and opportunities) of business and financial management. Faced with challenges on the current scale their options should include those available to any normal business although their individual structures may preclude some of them.

    They can cut costs.
    Those that rely heavily on volunteers will have limited ability to make labour cost savings. Those that employ significant numbers of paid staff will be all too aware that short term savings can be wiped out by redundancy costs and that such reductions are rarely scaleable. The operational and revenue earning capacity that survives can be a disproportionately small proportion of the original. There should be the opportunity to cut other costs but it can be a fine line before that starts to detract from the ability to generate a surplus from operations.

    Those that own the freehold of their sites may be able to borrow against security.

    They can run appeals and ramp up fundraising but many potential grant funders will want to be re -assured that the business fundamentals are sound before committing financial support.

    Those that are charities can maximise the benefit of Gift Aid.

    They can make their offering more attractive to the paying public. Some are still offering little more than a train ride. A discerning market is looking for more of an immersive heritage experience.

    No doubt there are other ideas but I think we can expect more of the radical solutions that are already appearing on some railways.

    Some of the endearing features of the sector are its optimism and determination . If those can be harnessed to development and implementation of new opportunities all will be well.
     
  10. Gladiator 5076

    Gladiator 5076 Part of the furniture

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    Manston did one and a half trips with what I assume is the lights set today.
    Nice day but almost too bright at Bridge 21. IMG_0037.JPG
     
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  11. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    All valid, but the soul of the organisation remains IMHO key. The concept of Triggers Broom remains important, that no matter how much the organisation changes, supporters feel that it’s still the same.

    I have been at my employer nearly 25 years. Despite the dramatic changes in that time, I can still recognise the same culture that was in the division I joined back then as a callow 20-something - and was even then described in terms of the name a company that had ceased to exist before I joined.

    I regard that as a powerfully successful change - and a pattern that volunteer based organisations especially should strive to follow.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  12. oliversbest

    oliversbest Member

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    Yes, I do volunteer at my local live railway operation. i pay an annual membership and respond to appeals to keep locomotives operational.
    We recently got a government grant and relaid our track with paid help
    Are monies subscribed to individual appeals ring fenced?
    If so,as far as the Carriage Shed is concerned, could the membership be apprised an update on how that fund stands (200,00gbp sounds close)\
    This project, like several on the SR. was mooted quite a few years ago, they were made the subject of appeals which were subscribed . And Yes covid etc etc however if this project is indeed "critical" and one cannot argue that,
    it is not, given the deterioration factor of stock left outside, then get it actioned and if not why not and keep the membership/subcribers informed,
    Clear those years old projections from the internet and post some current information. Is that asking too much?
    how much is NOW necessary to kick start this "criticaL "project. As pointed out successive postponements in this era are resulting in much higher end costs .
    ..and it is not just me, a recent discussion on facebook was regarding that OOC turntable slowly returning to its elemental metals somewhere in the Purbeck wilderness.Images were posted and questions asked
    i do not know the author and apparently facebook is not a flavour of the day on this board!! If you can find it,read it.
    A New Year statement on all of SR current appeals and the amounts subscribed and what time projections envisaged would be welcomed by the subscribers I am sure
     
  13. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

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    The Reformation was to say the least interesting and from your perspective it helped that church attendance was compulsory
     
  14. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I was thinking of a significantly shorter timescale, and in my memory at one church.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  15. Paulthehitch

    Paulthehitch Member

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    Not everywhere has had a bad season this year or owes money. Next year at least is bound to be difficult for those suffering already.

    Incidentally, Swanage is not the only place to have given priority to a WIBN extension over a vital carriage shed. Most unwise
     
  16. twr12

    twr12 Well-Known Member

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    Paul, I don’t agree with you often. But on this I do wholeheartedly agree with you.
     
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  17. mdewell

    mdewell Well-Known Member Friend

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    Hi @oliversbest I hope you won't mind or be offended by this, but take it as the helpful advice it is intended as being.
    When you use phrases like 'they should' you imply that they are doing something wrong if they don't do whatever you are suggesting. Similarly phrases like 'must be a priority' appears to be trying to dictate priorities to them.
    It is therefore not surprising that some people react negatively to some of your posts. Obviously you are entitled to express your opinions (and I am certainly a guilty of that as any on here). The trick is to make it clear that it is only your opinion. 'they should' could perhaps be better phrased as 'I would like to see them do xyz' or 'I would make the new carriage shed a priority'. If you don't understand why something is not progressing as you expect, ask! 'Why is the turntable not being worked on?'
    Don't try to dictate what people/organisations should be doing. Polite questions are far more likely to get you sensible answers (and quite likely answers that others on here would also like to read).
     
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  18. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    One of the many things I’ve learnt in my life is that virtually everyone thinks that they can do a better job than those actually doing it. Another thing I’ve learnt is that those who think they know better have very rarely done the job themselves.
     
  19. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Does your railway not have a large “they department”, Steve ;). It’s certainly the largest department on our railway!

    Tom
     
  20. Nantyglo

    Nantyglo New Member

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    Better still, perhaps he should address these questions directly to the Swanage Railway instead of trying the patience of everyone here by constantly banging on about them and stubbornly refusing to listen to the answers he is repeatedly given.

    Or maybe he has tried that already and they are just as fed up with him as we are..
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2022

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