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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    and I wonder who they may be. There are vultures circling in wait.
     
  2. Faol

    Faol Well-Known Member

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    Sticks and beams, quotes from the Bible and the biggest pile of speculation I have heard on this forum for many, many months so time for a few truths as I know them.
    The Steam Trust is a minnow in terms of the finances of the WSR. It started in 1972 when I was the Membership Secretary of the fledgling WSRA. The Trust was set up to deal with the collection of heritage items. To begin with it's membership was by invitation only and it was not until 2016 (I think) that the membership was opened to anyone. I joined in 2017. It was a very good small charity until it collected some GWR coaches. An over enthusiastic member brought in too many of these coaches and left the trust with too much work and 1 coach has been all but finished and another has started down the long road of restoration. There is storage space to rent and the ongoing purchase of covers to try and stop the rest deteriorating. The 3 at Dunster West are in very poor condition. However the Trust is simply a good small group similar to several wagon groups based on other heritage railways around the country. This year it has grown up a bit and taken over the education part of the various groups of the railway. As it seems, unfortunately, the Trust has built up a large collection of what are share bequests which has made it a big fish in the WSR family.
    Now the 10 and this is my belief tempered with meetings I have attended, this was a collection of people who were mainly the former Reform Group. They met in the Carew Arms about 18 months ago to discuss how the Board of the PLC could be changed but the conversation soon rounded to taking control of the Steam Trust's large share holding which if combined with the WSRA's share holding could basically attempt to take control of the PLC! Both myself and another prominent member declined to be involved because it appeared divisive and ungentlemanly. Now this group has obtained a majority of votes on the WSRA board but received a resounding rebuff from the Trust members. Therefore the Trust could nullify the WSRA block vote that is probably good for democracy.
    The Bailey Report calls for a new charity and believe me the vast majority of volunteers, employed staff and general hangers on want effected. The PLC has, in company with the WSRA and Trust and PDG, agreed this is the way to go. Now if you were a Director of a PLC with assets exceed £2M wouldn't you want a strong oversight of the what was happening to the Company assets. I'm sure I would. So that is in hand and will take time but will happen.
    The level crossing, I know nothing but would ask the question if the crossing is out of action how did the empty stock train and engineering train get out of Minehead yard some time in the last couple of weeks. I do not know but find it inconceivable that there is not a procedure in place for operation of trains over the crossing.
    So the Railway is doomed and is going "tits up", what an awful expression, well here is another "what a load of bo**ocks". This railway will have been in existence next year for 50 years in 2021, not running but getting ready. I know I was there and the old girl is not ready to die yet. She will survive. In my span of 50 years (not continuous) I have seen some pretty 'rum' characters associated with this Railway but it always survives. Don't forget that the WSR was a late starter as far as a Heritage Railway was concerned and, I think, it was the Chair of the GWS who wrote and said he disassociated the GWS with the Minehead line as there was no prospect of it ever getting going. Well it did it has and it made a relatively good job of it until the PLC got a bit financially wayward. Without many financial or management statistics it allowed spending to get out of control and there was no accountability. This was one of the main reasons I left because I could not convince my Board colleagues that reducing our cash reserves from £1M to around £300K was folly in the extreme.
    Since then the present board has managed to basically clear the £800K operating loss and still have some cash reserves and that does not include the £865K grant which I am hoping will see some fundamental changes to infrastructure.
    So sail on by Doubting Thomases we will still be here, running trains, as soon as the law allows, we might be a little rocky but the vast majority of us are committed to keeping the WSR open for business. New call FORWARD THE WSR TO BETTER AND BETTER.
     
  3. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Just on that, those in the know have said that the crossing is usable occasionally with special provisions in place for purposes such as stock extraction, but that these special provisions (I think involving a hand signalman) are not practical or safe for regular train operations.

    Further speculation on the crossing - would it currently preclude engines returning to Minehead shed, say, once a week, for whatever maintenence might be required if and when train operations can begin while the crossing is in its current state? How often can these special provisions be used, and if not, is BL set up for anything other than stabling locos overnight?
     
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  4. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Well said

    The question must be, firstly how did the board get into the position it did, I suggest '...no accountability....' had a bit to do with it, secondly how does the proposed new structure address these these issues?
     
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  5. Faol

    Faol Well-Known Member

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    The facilities at BL includes covered pits and loco springs are regularly changed there, DEPG regularly undertake examinations and brake work at BL to their diesels. There is also WN where room can be made to sort out bigger problems.
    Well I would love to answer some of this if only I had the answers. As an ex PLC Director I really should not be answering but the 'a' word had a lot to do with it and a lack of business objectivity was also a problem. Cost benefit Analysis was on a different planet. I was, for a few weeks of the new board, the safety advisor before my services were dispensed with and in that time I tended to see the accountability being addressed.
     
  6. 6960 Raveningham Hall

    6960 Raveningham Hall Member Friend

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    Whilst I welcome the results from yesterday’s Trust AGM I would be very unhappy to see any retribution levelled against those who stood for election and removal of their ID cards would be a mistake in my opinion.

    However, several of ‘the 10’ are Trustees of the WSRA and I think they need to consider if it is appropriate for them to continue in those roles.
     
  7. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Glad to hear that on the first paragraph. Sadly some of your colleagues disagree, with some rather unedifying comments on Facebook.

    As for your second paragraph, does this not merely highlight the problems in having separate overarching charities? Robin for example was reelected with a large majority by one WSR membership organisation, yet rejected by another. What does that mean for a mandate in terms of taking decisions that affect the railway? No wonder squabbles abound.
     
  8. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Clearly there has been a lot of mis information doing the rounds, and people lost sight of the larger picture, as the above post clearly illustrates, its come down to personalities rather than what's best for the railway, and some people clearly view it as their own railway, I'm glad to see someone urging a sense of caution, removing peoples id cards would be vindictive, and for what, having a view that does not match that of those in charge, if anything, it would backfire, and make more strife more likely, especially if the railway has no functioning grievance system, open its self up to legal claims, all those ten members did was to stand for election as members of that group, as its not illegal to stand in an election of a group you are a member of, it would be sheer folly to remove anyone's id card.
     
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  9. D1039

    D1039 Well-Known Member

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    Genuine question.

    The Bailey proposals are supported by the Trust and, as I understand them, are for plc shareholders (including the WSSRT) to donate their shares to a [probably?] new controlling charity. A look in the WSSRT accounts shows three 'investment' shareholdings, the largest being the WSR plc, with an impairment charge leaving a book value of around £5k.

    To donate its plc shares the WSSRT trustees would presumably have to decide their ownership no longer meets the WSSRT's charitable objectives? Pursuing that logic, if someone offers them £6k for the shareholding would they be obliged to accept it rather than give them away?

    Patrick
     
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  10. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    I'm glad you have faith in the present management team. Many of us on this forum do not share that faith, based solely on the actions of the various board members as reported in the press and elsewhere. It is not a question of personalities, but principles, although it is abundantly clear from the many public pronouncements of your fellow supporters that, to them it is all about personalities. It's fine for you, you both support the railway and its current structure and personnel. However, for those that think that the £800K "loss" and the following £300K "profit" was an accounting sleight of hand achieved by writing down liabilities like the overhaul of No 88 and stretching the "loss-making" year to cover two closed seasons, the structure of the WSR leaves no opportunity either to do something about it or even to express our concerns, without being accused of "wanting to see the WSR fail". That's before you get to the eviction of the S&DRT, and the lies and obfuscations from the Plc board surrounding it, something that has cost the WSR a huge amount of goodwill without bringing in a single extra penny in revenue. You appear to think we should have just sat on our hands and watched it all go downhill. That's not the spirit that built the railway in the first place.
    You point out that there was no accountability. There still isn't, and if the Bailey report is implemented, there will be even less. It is precisely the authoritarian, top-down nature of the structure of the WSR which has led it into the position it is in today. Do you really think that a reasonably large board of directors, accountable to someone other than themselves and a lot of dead or absentee shareholders, would have made the decision to evict the S&DRT? A very small number of men took that decision, and what was there to stop them making it?
    As to the financial position of the railway, it may look very rosy, the way you put it, but as well as cash reserves there are huge debts and the £865K has to be spent by the end of March, that's four and a half months away, well, four months if you take out the Christmas break. Added to this is the fact that everybody outside the railway as well is busy at the beginning of the year, trying to get money spent by the end of March, the weather is poor, the temperature is low and the WSR has to get up and running and start rebuilding a level crossing as well as spend £216K a month on pre-prescribed tasks. Of course, the management could be up to this Herculean task, but a month has gone by and there has been no progress worth reporting, so, from where I am sitting, it's not looking good.
    That's the point, even if the impression gained by myself and other posters from afar is completely false as you state that it is, this is at least a complete failure of public relations, which on a railway that relies on donations of time and money from outside, is a pretty serious failure in itself.
    We'll just have to hope, like Christian soldiers, that faith will be enough to carry the WSR through the next year. Personally I would like to rely on good governance, but it seems faith is all that is available.
     
  11. 60044

    60044 Member

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    Well I'm still bewildered at the thought that the PLC will be able to set up a charity, that it controls, to benefit itself will be acceptable to the Charity Commissioners! Seems to be counter to the fundamental principles of charitable giving to me! And if they don't control it, why is it worth spending the money to set it up when the WSRA already exists to fulfill the same purpose? Perhaps someone can explain how that can work? Aren't these questions the Charity Commissioners will ask?

    As Faol says, we should not underestimate the ability of the WSR to survive but I fear that its ability to prosper has been severely compromised, they are in a very deep hole. It can be done in the short term to a certain degree (The NYMR has come through some very hard times in the past) I wonder if the Foxcote Manor Society's liking for the WSR may perhaps be related to reports that Llangollen owe some loco owners up to three years of hire fees and whether they may be jumping from the frying pan to the fire.... The PLC may have £2M in assets but they all appear to be in hoc to their bankers and if there isn't a significant increase in profitability next year there's nothing much left to offer as security, apart from the Director's personal guarantees, and how many of them are likely to want to risk losing their houses?
     
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  12. Faol

    Faol Well-Known Member

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    I will just pick up on one point....'other posters from afar is completely false as you state that it is,' where do I state that????
     
  13. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    A question for "anyone in the know" who may care to answer please...

    In the past there have been occasions where roads were built across railways after the railways had been constructed. It was the practice then for the railway company not to grant a 'right of way' for road users and the crossing would be closed on one day a year (usually Christmas Day) in order to maintain its legal status.

    So - is Seaward Way actually a public right-of-way on that part which actually passes across the railway?
     
  14. jnc

    jnc Well-Known Member

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    To me, it's just more evidence of the deep and continuing split on the railway.

    I think the SDRT made the right call to start the move elsewhere, for all the cost and disorganization downsides of a move. It will be interesting to see if the extended lease on the yard is merely to allow a more organized and less harried departure.

    Noel
     
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  15. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Apologies, "state" is overstating the case. "Imply" would be a better word. In other words, myself and others have the impression that the current management team lack competence, you imply that this is a false impression, and that things are other than they seem.
     
  16. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    I read it that the new lease is to allow the S&DRT to wind down their operations at Washford gradually, so they can move without incurring too much in the way of expense.
     
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  17. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    I think you may very well be right, Such is the mutual dis trust and hatred that its going to take a massive change to bring people together, some people would probably prefer the line to close than let X, or Y run it.
     
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  18. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    The precise mechanism by which the Plc shareholding is to be transferred to a new controlling charity hasn't really been explained. Presumably it will be a compulsory process to prevent awkward b*ggers refusing to give up their shares and derailing it. Is it something that can be arranged via a vote at an AGM or an EGM? If it is a compulsory process, surely the value of the shares becomes £nil. Alternatively, will the shares be compulsorily purchased at x pence in the pound and is this why the process is going to cost so much? So many questions, so few answers for the poor bloody shareholders. After all, it's their company that these proposals affect.
     
  19. John Palmer

    John Palmer Member

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    I claim no specialist knowledge of the subject, but reference to the County Council's online map resources (at https://roam.somerset.gov.uk/roam/map#) indicates that the whole of Seaward Way is classified as an adopted highway, with no different classification being applied to that part of the road as constitutes the crossing over the railway.
    The interplay between the Common Law, laws relating to railways and laws relating to roads gives rise to a real witches' brew, but the best sense I can make of it is that the whole of Seaward Way, including the crossing over the railway, is likely to be treated as having been dedicated to use as a public highway, and that the onus would lie on the owner of the railway land underlying the crossing to rebut any implication that the road had been so dedicated. The absence of any signage giving notice that the railway owner denied that any such dedication had taken place, whilst not conclusive, would be an obstacle to any attempt by the railway to deny that the public had a right to go over the crossing in the course of using Seward Way as a public highway.
     
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  20. D1002

    D1002 Part of the furniture

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    I now have a copy of the votes cast, and the answer to your question is yes. More or less identical.
     

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