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West Somerset Railway Operations

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

  1. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    Having read a number of recent posts I would like to clarify some points and respond to some valid points. About 6 years ago I choose to Volunteer on the WSR, I choose to become a member of the Footplate Crew. I provided the labour and they provided the resource and experience in what can only be described as a mutually beneficial ‘inclusive’ arrangement which many out there will relate to. I could have chosen a wide range of places to go but the choice was mine to make. Late 2017 I was asked by the WSRA to lead on a Grant Funding Project because they saw the need for the WSR to adapt and find new ways of funding the WSR for a sustainable future. They choose to ask me and I choose to accept, because I felt I wanted to put more back into a hobby that had given me a lot of enjoyment.

    So far so good and I would say that all of the above is ‘inclusive’ a word the meaning of which I have had highlighted to me by External Grant Funders as a key corner stone to gaining funding along with good governance and a suitable company structure.

    The outcome of my efforts are on posts Page 936 post #18704. Page 1088 post #21750 & Page 1098 post #21947 and I would ask anybody who wishes to re-read them. During this time as you will see from these posts I agreed with some people in the WSRA in that the WSR has to change in order to expand and not contract further. That Grant Funding along with other increased fund raising activities is important as of course is a more robust, well managed ‘farebox’ in order to keep as near to breaking even or generating a surplus as possible. This subject has been talked over here in detail and that’s very useful debate but I think it’s clear that the farebox alone for any heritage railway is not enough, it’s just too expensive to run a railway in modern times and the WSR’s financial decline in the last few years is just one example of many.

    In order for that to happen the WSR has to restructure and realign, again it’s been talked about here. I think that doesn’t mean people have to be ‘excluded’ from what they do today for their hobby but some structural realigning means External Grant Funders will possibly fund if they choose too. Again it’s a choice for the WSR and the Funders to make. I was only the messenger doing what I was asked to do.

    I believe that the WSR has only one core problem, it has is a negative and exclusive culture. This has shown itself over a number of years. Because of poor governance it became common and accepted practice to ‘take out’ anybody who doesn’t agree with you by whatever means come to hand, this has even included recently a number of others who have had their employers contacted to slag them off. The last few posts sees a couple of previous Trustees/Directors who have openly said ‘Andy, you are wrong, we don’t agree with you so leave the railway and go elsewhere’ and even in one case one person concerned gave me some examples of railways to go to. Is that inclusive or exclusive behaviour from WSR Leaders and senior players, does that encourage people to come to the WSR or not?

    Also I have had some of my private information disclosed here in the last couple of pages by the PLC directly and PLC Supporters looking to dis-credit me. It’s even been stated here by a PLC Senior Manager and Board Advisor that my mental health is so bad that I’m unsafe to be on the Footplate of an engine. For the record I have never been diagnosed with any form of mental health problems in my life and I hold a current WSR Medical. This an example of WSR Culture when you don’t agree with others opinions, in my opinion it needs to stop. Play the ball not the player.

    I have set out my suspension from the WSR before, no process, etc. etc. The worrying thing was they ignored their own policies and then just removed them. That was put in writing to me plus the statement that they don’t apply to Volunteers even although they specially stated in a number of places they did. These remain removed currently and are not accessible on HOPS from earlier this year to this current time (unless of course they suddenly reappear now). This means the Safety Management System can’t apply in parts because it states that Volunteers may need to be disciplined (a SPAD for example) and it refers back to the WSR HR Policies which aren’t there.

    It’s been said quite fairly by others on here that I should not be raising these issues in Public, I agree. I tried doing it in private, I tried writing to many and I tried escalating it internally and with the relevant other organisations. The WSR Policies and in particular the WSR Whistle Blowing Policy which embraces UK law in the Public Interest Disclosures Act states this is the route I can and should take (the act actually put on me a moral obligation to bring it to light) and that I’m afforded full protection from reprisals and being disadvantaged in any way under the policy/act. I put my intention to do this in writing to the PLC back in January, this resulted in my Suspension this actually breaks UK law as does the other actions taken against me. So I feel I did everything to not put posts on here. For the record I have only ever posted these issues on here, in as small and quiet social media space as possible. I have never used Facebook or launched a campaign as others have said apart from one post about the 4f leaving which again was me giving my opinion.

    It’s also been said here that I have a personal vendetta against individuals. I refute that and would ask anybody here to re-read my prior posts, I have not asked for people to leave, I have not called for individuals to resign and I have not said people should be thrown off the WSR never to return as others have done to me. What I have said is that the culture of bullying and exclusion is at the core of the WSR’s issues and it needs to stop and I have ‘called out’ people’s actions which I think are wrong and more importantly stands in the way of External Grant Funders funding an inclusive, positive WSR.

    Ultimately I don’t know why the current PLC Board and its supporters here don’t want to change to allow External Grant Funding and have felt it necessary to drive me out but I would have liked to have known the counter argument.

    Sorry another long post which I’m sure the excluders out there will say is another ‘unnecessary novel’ from a disgruntled ex-Volunteer just ranting. As others have said, would it not be better if this energy was put to positive ways of rebuilding the WSR and can’t you all just settle your disputes in private and volunteer on the WSR to help it move forward. I agree, it would have been much better but I couldn’t and I’m not able to Volunteer on the WSR or use my energy as I did previously.

    The other thing I’m sorry for is getting involved with this in the first place, I’ve lost a hobby, caused myself a lot of personal grief and had my reputation within the WSR reduced to tatters. I was only trying to do a good thing that I was asked to do. Again it was my choice and I got it very wrong, I should have just kept my head down and fired steam engines.

    The last question is, will this behaviour of exclusion, character assignation and a culture of always having to agree with the PLC Board or leave going help the WSR to gain more funding and more volunteers or not?

    As a last note. I have had the PLC Chairman ask me to meet with him later today on an informal one to one basis, which I’ve welcomed. So let’s see, I’m going with my positive head on and I’ll keep you all posted.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2019
  2. Beckford

    Beckford Well-Known Member

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    "I have had the PLC Chairman ask me to meet with him later today on an informal one to one basis, which I’ve welcomed. So let’s see, I’m going with my positive head on and I’ll keep you all posted."

    In which case, irrespective of the merits of your case, it might have been wiser to defer your post until after the meeting with him.
     
  3. alastair

    alastair Member

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    Apologies for saying this, but perhaps it would be better if you did'nt?...
     
  4. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    You are of course entitled not to read my posts, but if the consensus of opinion here is I don't then I will respect a collective decision of users here.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2019
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  5. Herald

    Herald Member

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    Having come this far the discussion does need to be sensibly closed down possibly with some sort of joint statement showing how both sides have learnt from it?
     
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  6. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    Andy, you've obviously given a lot to the WSR, and the WSR can't afford to lose people like you, but ...
    don't you think you're backing yourself into a corner with this post?

    If the PLC Chairman is meeting you later today, isn't this an olive branch that should be given a chance?

    I really hope that when you keep us all posted, it will indeed be with some positive news. I'm not in a position to say whose fault the breakdown between you and others in the WSR 'family' was, but usually in these situations there is fault on both sides. Let's hope that the situation can yet be retrieved.

    John (a mere observer!)
     
  7. horace

    horace New Member

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    Good luck with your meeting I hope there is a positive outcome for all parties.
    What ever the outcome I think it is time for public discussion to end and for the matter to be dealt with privately.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2019
  8. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    and as the WSR is desperate for volunteers such process would benefit both parties
     
  9. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    John

    Thanks for your comment. Its a fair point but I don't think I'm backing anybody into a corner and would certainly never try and do that. I've not set any demands either here or for the meeting to take place other than a request to him that we keep it positive which he agrees with so neither of us should feel a pressure to resolve this. I've never said to anybody "either you do this or else", it has to be about the choices people make based on the information they have or none of use will work together and we will all go our separate ways.

    As for an olive branch, yes and whilst I could say its been a while coming he did confirm to me in his email to me last week it was as a result of me posting on here and that it needs to stop. That we can both agree on and its a good starting point for an open and honest conversation to find an outcome that works positively for the WSR.
     
  10. oldmrheath

    oldmrheath Well-Known Member

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    Your name will also go on the list.....

    Jon
     
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  11. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    Shouldn't that read 'Your name will go on ze list'?
     
  12. jnc

    jnc Member

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    Really? That's extremely troubling.

    Noel
     
  13. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    Isn't that a bit juvenile - I'm sure that our German friends could find British efforts at speaking German (when the Brits can be bothered to attempt a foreign language) to be comical. Come on, we can do better than that!
     
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  14. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    Good luck with the meeting.

    John
     
  15. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    That is important, but it simply won't do to dismiss a part of the safety management system being deleted for convenience. That seems to me to be the heart of the issue with @Andy Norman . @bob.meanley has shown that there are two sides to the substance of Andy's disagreement with the "management" for want of a better word, no surprise there, but regardless of the rights or wrongs on either side of that disagreement, not having any due process and just chucking people out is unacceptable. That alone would make me extremely uncomfortable to volunteer on the WSR, and I've seen nothing to suggest that any due process was followed. Bob Meanley pushed back on the substance of Andy's disagreements, but nothing on the absence or not of due process which is extremely concerning, and is rightly being picked up on by volunteers from railways all over the place on here.
     
  16. free2grice

    free2grice Well-Known Member

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    I find it difficult to understand how the PLC Chairman is expected to have a conversation with you after you have made such comments as above. The timing was not good.

    If he allows you to return to the WSR how will he know that you won't repeat the full details of the conversation to one and all at National-Preservation?

    IMHO you should have kept the details of the Chairman's invitation private and then if the outcome was not to your satisfaction you could have reported it here later.

    I wish you well with your meeting and if we don't here from you I'll take it that you have returned to your beloved WSR. <BJ>
     
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  17. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Resident of Nat Pres

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    An observation, not based necessarily upon the WSR but from personal experience of working with volunteer heritage organisations from the outside as funder/professional advisor. Whenever such groups seem to have overlap (often not clearly defined) a degree of empire building and conflict seems to occur, not really sure why but its very common as 'x' has buolt up their role for 'y' years and feels threatened if there is a change or a new party on the scene who they fear might dilute their influence/importance.

    Secondly it is often the case that those reaching the higher echelons of volunteer groups have often come from managerial/proprietor positions in their professional life and struggle to adapt to managing volunteers (who don't have to be there) when they are used to paid staff doing what they are told, its often an aspiration to 'give something back' although to some it may just be honour seeking.

    Hence its clear in the WSR case that generally for the majority the volunteering experience is positive and brings something positive to the railway, this is apparently not the case at the peak of the pyramid.
     
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  18. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Again an observation, however if the SMS is being diluted or documents refered to within no longer there is the SMS robust and valid for safe operation as a fundamental issue?
     
  19. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Member

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    You stupid boy. :rolleyes:
     
  20. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Member

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    I must say that I was disappointed that Mr Meanley a person of integrity in my opinion, would get involved in such matters that my opinion of him has taken a knock back. :(
     

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