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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    Or has the extension to the accounting period simply allowed a particular picture to emerge ? Has any plausible alternative explanation been given ?
     
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  2. huochemi

    huochemi Well-Known Member Friend

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    Thanks Steve. Thinking about it further it seems a bit of an arbitrary mess. One part of the Revenue is analysing what you get for your subs and another is (presumably) waiving through the whole amount as qualifying for gift aid. Probably in the Revenue's too difficult pigeon hole. I wonder if the HRA provides guidance or they feel that it is best flying under the radar?
     
  3. Keith Sims

    Keith Sims Member

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    A more detailed look at timetables(WSR.org) shows not only a reduction of running days at the beginning and end of the season, but an increased use of diesel power. There is no indication as to DMU or loco hauled but I guess DMU will be preferred. Interestingly it's diesel from Minehead for the first train on lots of red days, an indication that these are the lightest loaded services.
     
  4. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I would imagine that such an action would lead to parties giving up their hard won power and empire (if only perceived).

    From sorry experience of many voluntary heritage organisations this makes such adaption and modernisation nigh impossible to deliver.
     
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  5. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    The combination of a 15month financial year and a six month delay wrt the AGM has
    the result that at the upcoming AGM there will have been two operating seasons
    ( other than 2019 'Santas', Carol trains and the Service from Christmas to the
    New Year.)

    Under such circumstances it is to be hoped that Shareholders attending the AGM
    will receive a review of the 2019 operation, particularly the current cash position
    ( and loans etc taken out including payable within 12 months and longer ), overheads
    and a survival plan for 2020 (and a vision for the future ). I do hope there will be
    more than warm words and platitudes. ( We are beyond 'Motherhood and Apple
    Pie' )

    Whilst the 2018/19 results are to some extent tomorrow's fish and chip wrappings
    I think perhaps the £800K loss requires perspective.

    The 15 month year ( at the risk of repeating myself, I cautioned against this 24
    months past as being unhelpful to a business under stress.) includes the periods
    2/1/2019 to 31/3/2019. Costs during this period will have included.

    Salaries : ( there was a staff reduction during January but presumably there
    would have been notice periods etc ) c.300K
    Infrastructure : ( I assume much of the cost of infrastructure was salaries
    and some materials would have been purchase ahead of time) £20-30K
    Consumables : electricity, oil, transport costs, office equipment c. £20K
    Marketing costs: brochures, exhibition attendance. £?

    In summary IMHO at least £350K of the £803K attributable to 15 month
    year.

    (Cash. I assume there would have been some incoming cash (advanced
    ticket sales etc) which combined with delayed payments enabled the
    PLC to just survive the 2018 winter break without borrowing but not
    2019.)

    Flying Scotsman 2017: This event generated after all costs ( including
    notional revenue if an ordinary service had run ) c.£210K.
    Some of the £210K was spent on track repairs. This
    complicates the issue ie would the repairs have been required without
    the FS visit ? I suggest at least £50%. ie FS contributed at least £150K

    The notional loss for 1/1/2018 - 31/12/2018 is c. £450K, compared
    with c.£150K loss the previous year if FS excluded.

    ( As an aside the Bluebell has only made an operating profit twice in
    recent years ie when FS visited and when the extension to E.G. opened)

    Michael Rowe
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  6. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    I drop in here from time to time as you know. If I might I'd like to ask those who post to this thread a simple question, please just "like" this post if you agree with the following statement?

    I want to see the WSR thrive and prosper in the future.

    I do actually have a reason for asking this. As a WSRA trustee I try my hardest to work for the good of the railway, most of the time it's like pushing a pea up hill with my nose (It's no different for the WSR plc directors either). You'll know that I regularly encourage people to "come on in, the water is lovely" It's not, it's bloody hard work and the reward, at least for me, is that I get to fire a steam locomotive on the WSR from time to time and to see literally thousands of people enjoying themselves when they visit us. But I am also a realist hence the reason for this simple straw poll as I do wonder if people share this simple aspiration with me or if I am flogging a dead horse.
     
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  7. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Of course, everyone wishes to see the WSR succeed, and that has never not been true. Even the ousted trustees from several years ago wanted the WSR to succeed I expect, even if, towards the end, that became a secondary consideration in favour of clinging on to power. The problem in West Somerset has always been that people have violently different opinions of how to achieve it, and on its own, just saying that we all want the WSR to thrive and prosper doesn't resolve those issues. So for the railway to actually prosper, not only does everyone have to agree that it should and that they want it to (which is easy), but everyone has to agree how to do it, which has proved difficult. I fear you're conflating the two giving you an unnecessarily bleak view of the aims of certain people. It's because everyone cares so much about seeing the WSR succeed that these disagreements are still taking place, even though it makes keeping the WSR as a going concern even trickier.
     
  8. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    Thank you for this considered response. I fully agree that in the past a combination of ego and empire has not helped the railway even if the various parties have believed they were doing the right thing at the time. Consensus take time to build, more so when adrift in rough seas, and like all things with a political dimension it requires a big dose of the art of the possible to be applied at any given moment in time. I like to think that it is happening, it's never going to happen as fast as anybody would like and the solutions that appear are very often going to be the best working compromise that can be achieved at that moment in time. You'll therefore forgive me for my crude straw poll. Think of it as me simply seeking to recharge my batteries going into the winter. It was however also a very simple question posed to what I presume are WSR enthusiasts and everyone has yet to like to post.
    Possibly :Morewaitingisrequired: :)
     
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  9. JJP's opinion, whether for or against merging the two charities is just that, an opinion, as he is a trustee of neither. As a mere member of both charities I dearly wish them to merge and thus take a big crucial step towards the holy grail of a true unified (One) Railway.

    The trustees of both charities need to decide whether their focus and outlook lies in the past or the future.
    The imminent wrapping up of WSRA Promotions is a very welcome step in that direction. Let's not stop there.
     
  10. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    That's good news about Promotions wrapping up, of all the odd things on the WSR I always thought that was the oddest. In an ideal world all 3 organisations would get together and work out what the best structure for the railway would be, and then work out how to get to it with what's currently in existence, but failing that, for the time being the merging of the 2 charities would be sensible - I certainly don't see what having the 2 of them separate achieves.
     
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  11. Having two supporting charities is a substantial barrier to significant grant fundraising opportunities. No other factor comes close to being worthy of consideration, IMHO.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 21, 2019
  12. FrankC

    FrankC Well-Known Member

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    I sympathise entirely with your frustration, Mike, and need to recharge your batteries, but I would make a couple of points, which are addressed to all readers, and not specifically to Mike/Aldfort. My (admittedly relatively limited) nautical experience is that if you are "adrift in rough seas" the last thing you consider doing is build consensus. I wouldn't overstate the metaphor but what you actually need is a strong captain who knows what he is doing and is prepared to do it - and quickly. As we know, to survive, the WSR has to work as a business and whilst what is currently called "stakeholder engagement" has an important place, businesses do not function as democratic bodies: they need to be managed. There are people who when they become a volunteer find this hard to deal with. When you, Mike, are at the front of the train and I am at the back, we both know we are doing a proper job in the framework of a set of rules - the only difference from a normal job is that we don't get paid!

    The other point that perhaps needs restating is that social media (including NP) are not the same as the real world. Participants in this forum range from those with intimate knowledge of the subject, often from many years experience (either of the WSR, or of the subject under discussion, or both) to those who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about! That's what makes it (mostly) an entertaining read. But a problem for the WSR is that those who just drop by this forum, and indeed some of the participants, sometimes take the view that it represents the day to day engagement of the railway. I recall a comment on here a couple of months ago from someone saying something like "I'm not going to the WSR again, they are all at each other throats." Well, just because someone from (say) Rotherham is having a near slanging match with someone from (say) New York on NP about some obtuse aspect of WSR business, doesn't mean we are all at sixes and sevens! Those silent "external readers", such as the railway press and, dare I say it, public bodies, might bear this in mind. And indeed so might the rest of us.

    Frank
     
  13. alastair

    alastair Member

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    Interesting, and (to me, anyway) positive post from the PLC Chairman's Facebook page:





    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-50481869?fbclid=IwAR07UL-52tp4jCKrHRxutgdmsdnRp3RWD-pflDQ5NbztGwUXj4tKNyWPS5s#

    For the avoidance of doubt there is no doubt in my mind .........
    I wasn’t going to post but given the speed of social media on this subject I felt I needed too or more so wanted too. I also needed to share some thoughts with you as I do monitor some of the comments being made namely with rocks being thrown, those made by people who proclaim to support us, I believe the truth is demonstrated on just how and what these individuals are as behaviour highlights many attributes of individuals. What there purpose in life is to carry on and behave in such way is beyond many of us and when you come to see our true WSR teams around the WSR I can assure you we are all in a good place.
    As many of you will know the WSR has had many years of trouble, the latter years have not only seen in-fighting but a poor level of Managment leading to interest being shown by the ORR & latterly the lid off the box on the disastrous accounting issues.
    I joined the board September last year and begun what could be commented as a fairly hard ball approach to life, I made decisions that has affected individuals careers and life as we turned around these issues on our journey now as reported on in readiness for our annual AGM.
    I have lost friends through those periods with decisions made but these were simply commercial with no emotion. My one aim has been to protect our Railway had to see it prosper, the journey of recovery has been tough to say the least. We still have a number and this is a small number who throw stones, and hurl abuse to our Railway, some even personal. Those people are not welcome, I represent a Railway that has over 1200 loyal volunteers, to tell you we have some extremely special people those who give me the personal fight to do this!!!
    As a family we will not allow those that talk Ill of our WSR to succeed and quite frankly it’s becoming boring now listening to those who desire to live there life in such ways. Their records continue to spin with many scratches as it has done for many troubled years - one day soon I am sure that will stop.
    The accounting period closes the door for me on the past - yes we have been honest! Surely that’s good, it’s a terrible set of accounts and we knew it would be!! It doesn’t represent where we stand today though but it does summarise what a mess some pushed this into, those some who then still think they can return and do it again? The facts are out there and that’s the truth on the matter. Maybe the some that chose to ignore the truth will now except the situation, I can tell you all this hasn’t been done for fun!
    Looking at what we have done this year, we have had a extremely good season, sat a year ago would you think we would of nearly touched as we stand today with a million pounds cash reserve in our bank for example? You have a P & L account that prospers sanity, the Railway is fully in control! We operate a profitable business, a safe Railway, a good Railway, a Railway that completed two further overhauls, committed over 500k in the last 12 months to track through two closed periods, increased the number of events, attracted new volunteers and above most encouraged the youngsters! They for me are the future and we will encourage them to build a bright future, no more holding them back! Set the legacy today and build.
    To say that I am very proud is a understatement - I just hope that now as we approach the AGM we allow the changes to bed down and please allow the old girl to breathe again.
    Thank you all for your support, you are all very special to me and keep that love within the WSR! You all do a wonderful job - please never forget that and be proud of Your Railway!!!
    I also wish to that our small board who have stuck together well, we look forward to the recruitment drive to increase the portfolio holders for 2020 and welcoming our new GM in time, It will all come together ladies and gents.
    JJP
    Chairman WSR
    [​IMG]
     
  14. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Meanwhile, back at the Railway...

    And in the cold and wet today, a few of us were out having some fun moving this. Before you think Goods Guards are really that precious, the Saloon was being moved to Williton for some attention.

    Robin


    0914DF59-7FA4-4D42-A308-077D1DCABCC8.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  15. Ploughman

    Ploughman Well-Known Member

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    Was there a Brake van to return or is it a move within possession?

    Or a block train?
    Did the GW do block trains and no Brake?
     
  16. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    The message is - pull together in the same direction. Hear, hear!
     
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  17. Thompson1706

    Thompson1706 Well-Known Member

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    I've got so much confidence in the W.S.R. going forward that I've already booked our Summer holiday in Blue Anchor next June.

    Bob.
     
  18. threelinkdave

    threelinkdave Well-Known Member

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    Whilst the inspection saloons do have a handbrake experience has shown it is not suitable as an unfitted brakevan. When buffering up to it it tends to slide even weighing 30 ton
     
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  19. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Michael - your point about the apparent impact of a 15 month financial year is well made.

    However, I think you need to be slightly careful looking at profit and loss in isolation, particularly for railways that have a multi-part structure. The key thing is the whole group finances: if for a example a railway society has the stated aim of running a railway service, and that service consistently loses money which the members of the society choose to subsidise, there is nothing inherently wrong with that provided it is done with open eyes, and provided the society remains healthy in membership numbers. Indeed, on a smaller scale most locomotives are financed that way, since hire income is rarely sufficient to pay the next overhaul, so a degree of fundraising and subsidy by members is inevitable. Nobody seems too upset that such-and-such a loco lost money each year.

    Ultimately, all railways will have similar sources of income (fares, catering, shop, membership subscriptions, donations, grants etc.) and expenditure (operating expenses, materials, salaries, overhauls and renewals etc). The key thing is that across the railway income and expenditure balance, but individual organisations within a multi-part structure might not balance. The key thing is for the group not to run out of cash, a point I believe you have made before on several occasions about the relative importance of cash flow and profit.

    In the Bluebell case, since it was mentioned, the company has indeed lost money most years in the last ten, but overall the loss has been subsidised by a strong support mechanism. That appears to be a luxury (or maybe an essential) that the WSR family has less well developed.

    That is not to absolve the operating company within a group of the need for financial discipline, but simply to caution that looking at (and trying to compare) profit and loss in isolation of the whole structure is likely to be misleading.

    I would also note, specifically in the Bluebell case, that in the decade time period you mention, the following infrastructure renewal or development has taken place:
    • Opening two miles of extension to East Grinstead, signalled from a part new, part-restored signal box at Kingscote with Westinghouse lever frame
    • Replacement of all the main line points at station throats at all stations with new material
    • Replacement of 60% of the mainline between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes with new materials (more planned this winter)
    • Replacement of a small part of mainline between Horsted Keynes and Kingscote with new materials (another 260 yards in the last few weeks)
    • Complete rebuilding of one underbridge
    • Ice protection measures in the tunnel
    • A new carriage shed, equivalent to 20 full size carriages, at Horsted Keynes
    • New carriage maintenance area, under cover, at Horsted Keynes with pits and hard standing for jacks, improving working conditions for staff
    • Replacement engine shed roof at Sheffield Park
    • A new maintenance shed at Sheffield Park, improving working conditions and stopping the need to rearrange the main workshop to do running maintenance.
    • New or repaired canopies at Sheffield Park
    Over the same period, we have more or less held our head above water in locomotive terms without needing to hire in locos to run the service - at least not since 2015.

    Of course, much of that would not have been possible without the financial support of the Society and Trust.

    My understanding is that a significant part of the annual loss in recent years has been increased depreciation on those capital works, i.e. a loss in accounting term but not affecting cash flow. By contrast, the WSR plc was nominally making a profit over the same period, but not replacing infrastructure to the same degree - which rather merits the question as to whether concentrating on profit was the right performance measure? I'd suggest that making a profit without doing an appropriate amount of renewal work could be argued to have given a false sense of security about the real financial health of the railway as a whole, something that seems to have finally been belatedly recognised.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  20. Thompson1706

    Thompson1706 Well-Known Member

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    The Bluebell is in the affluent South-East, which must give it an immediate advantage over a railway isolated from main centres of population. This is therefore not a fair comparison.

    Bob.
     

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