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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. Windsor branch line

    Windsor branch line New Member

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    There’s been talk of it for some time , while the road is closed it would be the best time to do it although Finances may have something to do with it.
     
  2. Ploughman

    Ploughman Well-Known Member

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    Granted that there might not be the finances in place, but what could be done is to make sure you have the space to fit a new track with no new structures in the way.
    Is there future clearance to that bit of tubing masquerading as a signal?
     
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  3. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    What I don't really understand is the response of the board to the question about fundraising. It does read like a tacit admission that the number was plucked from the air. The poor performance is then excused with 'well we didn't need a million anyway because we made profit in July'.

    To me this the kind of spin of Comical Ali as well as reflecting the lack of grip that the board have on the finances.

    They pluck a figure out of thin air, declaring that if they don't get it the line will go to the wall.

    The appeal does badly - leading to people to wonder if the line will go to the wall.

    Then we are told that no it is all ok, the line won't go to the wall because our appeal was ambitious and our modelling the worst case scenario, so all is fine, we were all completely on top of the financial situation, look at our (small profit) in high summer, the appeal isn't a failure because of this so bow down to our genius.

    The point is - no one can really believe the PLC when it comes to the financial situation and their predictions of the future. Clearly, we don't need to contribute to the appeal because everything is fine, they were being both deliberately ambitious and pessimistic at the same time so it doesn't matter that the response has been so disappointing and the largest contribution is savings on the gas bills.

    Schroedinger's finances, simultaneously about to go to the wall if we don't pony up and doing so fantastically well that the failure of the appeal doesn't matter.
     
  4. Another Yorkshireman

    Another Yorkshireman Member Friend

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    There is no virtue in double-tracking the level crossing unless you intend to organise for simultaneous arrivals and departures passing outside the station on a regular basis. One turnout in the station throat ,where the lines from the two platforms currently meet to become single track, would have to be replaced by two crossovers, [or a scissors!] allowing both platforms access to both running lines. It would create havoc with the present ability [at times of maximum services] for passengers to transfer from an incoming train straight onto an outgoing, and would probably only be of any use at all during galas when the enthusiasts with cameras might find it jolly good fun.

    Even double tracking from the level crossing to Dunster would have minimal benefit, as the Blue Anchor passing loop is only 15 minutes away. More sense in a loop between Williton and Crowcombe one day to assist with train control.

    Apart from the fact that putting in another track would set back the current scheme another year, not just the permanent way, redesign of the signalling system would be necessary. Its a pipe dream and both impractical and unnecessary. And you want to do all this before Easter?
     
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  5. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Some while ago, @Robin Moira White stated that the best use of the double track formation outside Minehead would be to install an 'excursion platform' where the stock from visiting excursions could be serviced
     
  6. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Yeah, that sends out the same message.
     
  7. Another Yorkshireman

    Another Yorkshireman Member Friend

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    Which can of course be achieved without double tracking the level crossing.
     
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  8. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    The original double track installation was still largely in situ (but IIRC, disconnected) the first time I visited. AIUI, the original reason it was installed was to provide capacity for summer peak excursions, in a period when timetabling also needed to account for goods traffic, which round thataway constituted coal (heavier in winter, obviously, but used in gas production year round) and pretty healthy dairy tonnages. Don't forget Minehead was the rail head for most of the northeastern quadrant of Exmoor.

    If some millionaire benefactor were to fund such doubling, all well and good. Unless the line were the beneficiary of such largesse, where's the imperative? Should future rail tours dictate more capacity at Minehead, surely a stabling/servicing facility on the alignment of the former second running line would be infinitely more sensible. It'd certainly not be the permanent drain on resources (cash and volunteers) maintaining a couple of miles of - frankly unnecessary - double track.
     
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  9. Another Yorkshireman

    Another Yorkshireman Member Friend

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    Lifting barrier basees .JPG

    Seaward Way Level Crossing. One of four bases for the new barriers, now in place. Hive of activity down there this
    morning.
     
  10. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Not quite.

    An ‘arrival loop’ on the Taunton side of the crossing would effectively provide a third platform and also give somewhere for a long excursion train to be berthed and serviced after disgorging its passengers.

    Robin
     
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  11. Vulcan Works

    Vulcan Works Member

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    I agree that the Directors of any well run organisation should be confident in taking questions and having a healthy debate with shareholders. It is good practice to note such discussions so that information can be circulated to those people who can’t attend in person. The well intentioned legal requirement to table any agenda items prior to an AGM unfortunately plays in to the hands of those who want to avoid contentious matters being raised ‘on the day’. I don’t have knowledge of the WSR’s meetings but a railway that I am acquainted with has a suspicious tendency to laboriously run through the agenda items, which inevitably limits the remaining AOB time. To be fair it does publish a summary of any points raised BUT it is a brief summary that’s issued 12 months after the event (as part of the next year’s AGM Notice)…I can’t think why.
     
  12. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    Perhaps the appropriate question is whether a traditional limited company is the ideal corporate entity to run a heritage railway? Apart from the absence of tax benefits and rates concessions liability to corporation tax could result in donations going in part to benefit the taxman . Hardly an incentive to donate!
    It also means that at a General Meeting the only people entitled to attend and vote are the company's shareholders. Many heritage railways have wider stakeholder constituencies/affiliated groups whose views and concerns are important but individuals have no right to be heard at an AGM or EGM. Another drawback (unlike an incorporated members' charity or a Community Benefit Society) is that it's one vote per share. One vote per member can give individual members, especially volunteers, a stronger voice.
    Sometimes there's a belief that AOB at a General Meeting provides an opportunity for the meeting to impose commitments on the Board either to do or refrain from something. When that is rebuffed those attending feel their views/concerns are being ignored. However, there's clue in the title of the agenda item.... the word Business. I've seen the word "competent" used before it which neatly describes the situation . The only items that can be addressed under AOB are those that are genuinely part of the Business of the meeting for which due notice has been given to members. It's not an opportunity for shareholders to require a discussion, still less a decision, on anything that concerns them.
    A properly run general meeting should be seen as a great opportunity to communicate with stakeholders. Perhaps more important than the formal stuff, such as adopting the accounts and approving the auditors, is the real interest and benefit of answers to "How are we doing?" and "What are the challenges and how are we going to deal with them?". Ideally that leads in to a Q and A session that follows the formal Business but is technically not part of it.
    There's also considerable benefit in setting up communications with those stakeholders who are not shareholders entitled to participate in General Meetings. An example would be open forums with directors and senior managers present.
    The traditional limited company involves tension between its compliance with company law and the legitimate expectations of those with a stake in the railway( including non financial ones). There are signs this is contributing to a wider review of corporate structures in the heritage railway movement.
     
  13. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Which of the questions raised did not fit under AOB then? The question about the money spent on legal fees? The questions about fundraising?
     
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  14. Breva

    Breva Part of the furniture

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    I think you are right, the AGMs I've attended have been brief, and I got the feeling that it was not the place to ask questions that mattered to me (heritage policy)
    You make a good point that there are stakeholders who may not be shareholders. I became a shareholder purely to give financial support in times of need, not to earn a return, or influence policy. However, in the Trust everyone has to be included, as you can't work on the railway without their endorsement for your volunteer card (in my railway, at least). But our Trust, although the greatest plc shareholder, seems to be subservient to the plc, and their AGMs are whizzed through in a minimum of time. Our trust has a policy of heritage, the plc not.
     
  15. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I agree with this. At the same time, I agree with @Monkey Magic that none of the items addressed in the Q&A appeared obviously irrelevant to the Business of the meeting; indeed, all seemed highly germane to that Business. Indeed, compared to oft reported small shareholder comments at large corporate AGMs, they seem a model of relevance.

    I suggest that one of the key issues at stake here is the tendency to try to follow the letter of company law (and associated guidance), without considering the spirit of the organisations whose meeting it is.
     
  16. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    I'm not a shareholder so haven't seen the Notice of Meeting or the Agenda but the two issues appear relate to the normal agenda items of receipt of the Directors' Report and Accounts?
    Raising them under AOB might lead to clarification but there is no statutory requirement for shareholders to be able to ask questions or for the directors to provide answers. In the absence of a previously tabled Resolution specifically addressing either or both of those topics they would not appear to qualify as AOB.
    I'm not for one minute condoning lack of responsiveness to genuine shareholder concerns ( as will be obvious from my previous postings) but in strict terms the answer to your question is probably neither.
     
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  17. The Dainton Banker

    The Dainton Banker Well-Known Member

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    Just to clarify : You say "the two issues appear (to) relate to the normal agenda items of receipt of the Directors' Report and Accounts". So are you saying that the two questions (as we understand them) should and could have been legitimately raised under the agenda items of the Directors' Report and Accounts, in which case they would have required answers and would have been duly minuted ?
     
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  18. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    That does get to the point I have been arguing for nearly a decade on this thread, which is that the railway’s governance structure essentially excludes a significant body of stakeholders - the members of the WSSRT and WSRA - from any say in the governance of the railway.

    As I see it, you have two member-led charitable organisations that either cannot, or will not, use their considerable shareholding in the plc to direct it according to their member wishes. But at the same time, the shareholders of the plc - seemingly the only game in town - either cannot or will not provide capital funding to the railway to the extent it needs for renewal.

    That situation can only end in tears, IMHO.

    There are lots of nice fluffy statements (most recently in the Q&A document) about how the charities can use their charitable status to “top up” funding in the interests of heritage, for example paying the extra to lay bullhead rail rather than flat bottom. But that rather dodges the point that there is no point having the top up available if the plc can't afford the base investment in the first place!

    Tom
     
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  19. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    I still can't help but wonder if there isn't more flexibility to that kind of thing than those in Somerset think. I think back to our last landslip at Gotherington, our Trust granted £250k to help repair it. To my knowledge, we didn't use especially expensive GWR-esque sheet piling on that! It has been extrapolated in the past on this thread that cross-board directors make the charities commission happier about such things, which is where it all falls down in Somerset I suppose; no one can sit on more than 1 board for any great length of time before being forced out/feeling moved to resign etc.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2021
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  20. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    You use the key word "legitimately" and answers being required and minuted. As I understand the legal position (and others have out pointed out it may be unwise to focus too much on that) there is no right to ask questions or demand answers at any stage in the proceedings and the minutes could be confined to s record of the Resolutions and the results of the votes on them.
     

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