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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. gwilialan

    gwilialan Part of the furniture

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    Sorry, can't see any valid reason for a delay. No 'new' business is being proposed and there are no significant changes being made to the nature of other business.
    There has always been an Item referring to "The election of Directors". That simply needs amending to list the new candidates. It is not the fault of those standing that the current board issued the Notice before the nomination period ended, rather arrogantly assuming no one else would be interested.

    The voting form will also have to be changed but that would have had to be reissued in any case as there are so many errors on it.

    So why the delay? Conspiracy theorists please make a neat list below....
     
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  2. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    Is that true - about the notification period and the election of Directors? If so then the Charity Commission would have an interest in what is going on. That alone would force the WSSRT into revising their notification arrangements to take account of the new nominations. Although using it as a device for unnecessary delay will just stir the pot once more.
     
  3. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Is this more because the cosy relationships are being shaken up, that plans might now fall apart, The PLC thinks it should be the main player, with a charitable arm, subservient to it, a role that possibly the steam trust would have fulfilled? but now should the old guard lose their power, and a new fresh body of trustees take over, implements the bailey plan, and that leaves the plans in tatters, meaning the PLC, not the charity loses its top dog position.
     
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  4. gios

    gios Member

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    Having followed the rather unedifying antics of the WSR (plc) and some of their associates for some time.

    Can I add my total support to the courageous '14' and wish them all success.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
  5. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    The AGM is (well, was) a fortnight away, which is plenty of time for members to consider this change and make their decisions. An earlier deadline for proxies and to enfranchise remote members is more challenging, but still achievable - and would bias the conduct of a meeting in favour of the existing trustees rather than the 14.

    Whether or not there is a full merger of WSRA and WSSRT, the important part of the manifesto is the focus on culture and achieving the structural Bailey recommendations. To that end I find it extremely interesting that opponents of this move seem very keen to attack the 14, especially @Robin Moira White, and allege personal motives.

    To me, that says rather more about the individuals making those charges than it does about the 14. As “friends” of the railway’s current leadership, it also casts a not especially flattering light on the mentality of that leadership.


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  6. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    >>>>......the lack of ambition which saw the removal of the up relief line into the Minehead bay in Taunton station which could have been kept separate from the main line.

    In theory yes, but....that line belonged to BR/RailTrack/Network Rail. The only way that it could have been kept probably was for 'someone' to pay BR vast sums of money for the land and have it fenced off from the main line. At that time also there were stringent and expensive requirements in place (and probably still are) that would have applied to all the trains running alongside the main line. I don't really think that you can blame anyone on the WSR for that loss. Do not forget also that at that time AIUI there was great 'reluctance' on the part of the NUR for its members who staffed Silk Mill Crossing box to be responsible for the control of 'private trains' using the level-crossing.
     
  7. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    PBO the present leadership of WSSRT (pro JJP junta) want to make sure that they are still in office and control of the WSSRT's shareholding at the time of the WSR AGM.

    The key to removing the junta is for individual shareholders (like myself) to turn up to the WSR AGM. We await the call to arms!
     
  8. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    Agreed. remember this was in the 70s, when the trade unions ran the country and management was running scared. If the NUR (which wouldn't even sit down and talk about it) decided it wasn't going to happen, it didn't happen.
     
  9. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    Yes, our only hope that the WSR might one day be reopened.
     
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  10. gwilialan

    gwilialan Part of the furniture

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    Well none of the papers calling the AGM (Details of proposals, formal Notice of Meeting, Proxy voting form etc.) are dated so it is not possible to say specifically when the Notice was formally posted. Suffice to say those papers arrived by post before the closing date for nominations... Which, as it has turned out, was rather premature. :rolleyes:
     
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  11. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    I hesitated to post on the "14 initiative" having already made my personal reservations clear to Robin. I do need to set the record straight. The report that I volunteered is being quoted as supporting the idea that either one, or a merged Charity, could assume control of the PLC. In fact it argued against that for two reasons. First neither Charity has the power to so that within their current charitable objects and second, to be blunt, they come with too much historic baggage. What was actually recommended was a wholly new members' charity.
    I have no skin in this game. I'm not a member of any of the bodies involved. My only concern is the sad sight of a potentially fine railway engaged in internecine warfare that I am convinced will only benefit members of my former profession.
    The latest initiative is a no doubt well intentioned attempt to transform the WSSRT and WSRA into the governing Charity. Could it succeed? Well to put it mildly it faces some pretty formidable obstacles with a desired outcome that appears to be unachievable.
    The additional WSSRT Trustees, if elected, would face the immediate problem that their duty is to act in accordance with the very limited charitable purposes of the WSSRT. If they go beyond that in pursuit of some wider objective they could be personally liable for the costs incurred. It's interesting that their reasons for standing are all about the WSR. There's nothing about how they are going to further the WSSRT charitable objects. It would not surprise me if legal advice confirms that nominations of anyone who appears to intend to manipulate the Charity in the perceived interests of another entity could properly be rejected.
    However let's assume they are elected What then? Both by law and the Articles of the WSSRT they would have to absent themselves from any discussion and not vote on any matter where a conflict of duty exits. Any that are also Trustees of the WSRA would find themselves similarly constrained on that Board too. They could well find themselves debarred from influencing the very reason they were elected for.
    The target would presumably be to persuade the WSSRT members to merge their charity into the WSRA whose members would also have to agree and it charitable purposes extended both to encompass those of the WSSRT and the power to run a railway. Supervising compliance with all that would be the Charity Commission
    OK so now we've overcome all those hurdles and the merged charity aims to use its substantial shareholding in the PLC to force change. No doubt there would be those who would wish to see the current PLC Board ejected. To do that requires a 75% majority. Even with the other shares in "penny packets" as they have been described it's going to be a tall order for the holders of less then 20% of the issued shares to force that change through. So it's likely that the existing Board could remain in post if they so wished. If the merged charity can command a majority at a General Meeting it could try to direct the Board but there are limits on that ability, not least that the directors cannot be forced to act contrary to their duties as prescribed in the Companies Act. If shareholders take control of the direction of the Company in any way there may well be undesirable consequences. For instance the ORR are increasingly concerned about the corporate governance of heritage railways. A Board subject to shareholder direction is unlikely to be a particularly effective or cohesive one. A railway without a decisive Board is unlikely to be a safe one. The last thing the WSR needs is a Prohibition Notice.
    The final challenge is whether the PLC can be forced to become a controlled subsidiary of the merged charity? Clearly its other shareholders are deserving of protection. The idea that the merged charity as a dominant shareholder can demand that the PLC is, in effect, handed over to itself seems fanciful. Indeed there are provisions in Company Law enabling the other shareholders to prevent that happening.

    So in summary whilst I would agree with the 14's desired outcome I believe their initiative cannot succeed in achieving its aims. Worse than that it's may only fan the flames of division and distrust.

    The fundamental problem is that there is a contingent of people who seem unable to accept that the PLC owns the railway ( or at least most of it.) You don't have to approve of the Boards' decisions, nor is it compulsory to like the Directors but you have to face reality. Ultimately they are in control. You can of course withold your financial support or withdraw from volunteering but what does that achieve? if the PLC fails ,and the operating licence goes with it, the railway becomes a huge potential liability for the County Council with no likelihood that any alternative acceptable to the ORR could be put in place for some time. Meanwhile money has to be spent on things like culverts or bridge repairs that might otherwise have gone into worthy causes like social care and the landlord would be sitting on huge potential re -development value. The political pressures are obvious.

    I still believe the only realistic option is to work with the PLC. Attempts, such as the latest initiative, to dislodge it or unseat its directors are likely to end in tears. Hold your nose if you must but my advice to back the PLC....or buy a bike.....remains as firm as ever!

    If the WSR is going to survive I suggest it needs three things:

    1) Grant funding of a structural ( and cultural ) change programme including creation of the controlling charity. Where the 14 are absolutely right is that change is needed urgently . The professional fees are could well be into six figures which, without such funding, is clearly unaffordable.
    2) It needs an urgent capital injection which is probably of the order of about £3 million. Decades of failure to invest in the mundane but essential rather than the new and exciting have taken their toll.
    3) It needs to stop chasing revenue and focus on generating adequate surpluses. For a line 26 miles long annual the capital expenditure required to keep it viable is probably at least £1 million. In that context the recent surplus of £300k , though a vast improvement, is still woefully short of what is required.

    Above all it needs the warring factions to stop trying to wrest control of the railway for themselves.
     
  12. Platform 3

    Platform 3 Well-Known Member

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    As someone who has not particular interest in the WSR beyond riding on the line, and who watches this thread with a mixture of fascination and horror, thank you for producing such a sensible and thoughtful post.

    As a trained charity lawyer myself (although now practising in a different area largely) I was a bit mystified by the recent developments concerning the WSST and couldn't work out how it would practically manifest itself into what the group concerned wants to see, however well intentioned it may be. As you have made clear, whilst technically possible this seems highly unlikely to succeed and moreover seems almost guaranteed to result in more money for lawyers, who surely have already made enough money out of the WSR.

    Personally speaking it seems that SCC are most likely, both as landlord and potential mediator, to hold the keys to sorting the mess out.

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  13. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    That comprehensive 'state of play' commentary, whilst not intended to do so, has accidentally also illustrated why there may well be no simple solution to the current difficulties even with 14 worthy souls throwing their hats in the ring to help sort it all out.

    Just when we hoped that this sorry saga might be coming to a conclusion, it begins to appear that the end may be in sight but not the end that everyone sensible wanted.
     
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  14. billbedford

    billbedford Member Friend

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    most of the recent conflict has arisen by the actions of the chair!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 6, 2020
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  15. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    Lineisclear has made some interesting points, and of course he does know what he is talking about. However I think he has missed one very important consideration.

    Although the Steam Trust does of course have to stick to its agreed charitable purposes, it has been pointed out before that those purposes are impacted by how the railway is running. Therefore its charitable purposes imply a responsibility to help to keep the railway running smoothly. Therefore it does have a legitimate interest in how the PLC is running the railway (or not).

    On the other hand, I agree with the recent comments that the PLC has no right at all to interfere in the business of the Steam Trust.
     
  16. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    In your very long post there are a number of themes that come to the fore and you contradict yourself.

    You claim to have no dog in the fight, but consistently defend the PLC and tell people to back the Board.

    You warn of the dangers infighting but at no point have you taken into account that it is the PLC board that has instigated all of the infighting that has blighted the WSR over the last 12 months.

    You say support the board while totally failing to acknowledge their role in creating this situation.
     
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  17. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Agreed. We're among the very many who've expressed such views. Trouble is, the snarling packs, if they deign to notice such input at all, barely pause to draw breath before resuming their increasingly and repetative circular arguments. Appeals to consider how their behaviour reflects on our movement as a whole likewise go unheeded.

    It's an absolute tragedy, being forced to watch the manner in which a fantastic railway, with so many dedicated supporters, is being steadily emasculated by those more intent on points-scoring, or battering their opposition to utter submission, than doing something truly practical, like extracting their heads from where the sun never shines for long enough to actually make any meaningful progress in addressing the many issues, now including those they themselves have inflicted, which currently face the line.

    [There was going to be another paragraph here, but I've so far found it impossible to edit it into a state which won't necessitate our long suffering moderators having to intervene over use of terms like ■■■■■■■ ■■■■s, ■■■■■ ■■■■ ■■■■■s or ■■■■■■ ■■■■■■les.]

    Put it this way, unless someone bangs some heads together ..... and soon ..... the prospects for the WSR aren't good. Are we talking quarantine, or amputation? Either way, IMHO, anyone considering anyone involved in this fracas for any responsible post elsewhere needs their ruddy head tested.
     
  18. rodders154

    rodders154 Member

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    Has Robin made the same mistake she did with the ex 6? When she went to court over the membership being withdrawn from the ex6 she was told a week beforehand that she would require the CC permission to take the ex6 to court but she knew best. If the steam Trust were to throw out the 14 it seems to me the same rules apply and if they were to resort to a legal challenge then I reckon they may find the same situation applies.

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  19. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    I hold no brief on behalf of the Board. Indeed there are decisions it has made and things that it has done that I disagree with. I’m simply pointing out that trying to apportion blame for perceived wrongs gets you nowhere. There’s a choice. Treat the Board as your enemy and try to bring them down, almost certainly sealing the fate of the railway in the process, or work with them to improve things.
    I’ve emphasised constantly that any restructure must be inclusive . However it needs a willingness to be included and to work with the PLC Board rather than against it.
     
  20. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    And where is the willingness of the board to work with others?

    Where was it when they chose to evict the SDRT?
    Where was it when they kicked out critical volunteers?
    Where was it when they wrote inflammatory press releases?

    Your advice is Red Riding Hood, you have to work with the Big Bad Wolf to help save the cottage and sod Grandma
     
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