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West Somerset Railway Operations

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

  1. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    The details are well reported elsewhere, but he was forced from power in the SVR when it became clear that his real interest was in property development of the SVR.


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  2. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    In a nutshell: the SVR Company (a membership company) had been set up to reopen Bridgnorth-Hampton Loade and appointed Nabarro (one of the local MPs, a sort of less intellectual Enoch Powell figure) as Chairman. They needed to expand quickly to be able to fund purchasing the Alveley-Foley Park stretch when it closed to traffic, so Nabarro set up a new company structure with a PLC whose shareholders effectively controlled the whole organisation.

    However, Nabarro was accused of trying to run the railway in a dictatorial way; and of wanting to close Bridgnorth to use the station site for property development. It reached the point that volunteers threatened an all-out strike and he resigned; he died a few months later. The SVR was left with three main supporters' organisations: the membership company, the PLC, and the SVR Association set up to protect the volunteers' interests; the latter merged with the membership company fairly recently.
     
  3. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member

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    At GWSR the railway is owned by the plc but volunteers are required to be members of the trust, and the plc website says "coordination is facilitated by having some directors who sit on both boards". In recent years attempts to have WSRA representation on the plc board have ended acrimoniously with accusations of conflicted interest. The GWSR setup seems to suggest they've been better at managing any potential conflicts. Similarly the constitution of the F&WHR Trust (which controls the FR Co.) gives the Ffestiniog Railway Society a right to nominate a number of trustees.
     
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  4. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    That would be fine, were it not for the apparent habit of the present Board of sacking everyone who challenges their decisions.

    If you live under a totalitarian regime, the safest course is to bear in mind that the walls may have ears and to keep your head down. (This is a general statement, which may or may not have any relevance to the WSR.)
     
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  5. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    Frank with respect by saying Julian is making statements that are not actually true you are also telling the many people in the community, WSR and here that they also are not telling the truth.

    I know you have no respect for my opinions, you have been telling me that directly and indirectly since I joined the WSR 6 years ago, I respect your opinion in this regard and I respect your right to not agree with me. However lets stick to some facts. Yes Volunteers have a way of telling the current PLC Directors of their concerns (although there is no formal route because there are no policies or stated route). I think the evidence of removed people, press statements about removing trouble makers, removed HR Policies and posts here from others clearly demonstrate the outcome then they do speak out.

    You will also know I for example as well as others took the internal informal, internal formal (when there was one) and internal Sharholders (WSRA & WSRRT) route including a fraught face to face meeting in Nov when I was told “this (your complaint) is going nowhere, give it up or you will be sorry” (meeting notes available if you want them) before going public in this limited way on Nat Pres. If you don’t believe I tried very hard I will gladly give you the large number of supporting emails from both me and the PLC.

    You also perhaps need to read my Wife’s open letter regarding the feedback she is getting from the Community (including local Volunteers) and her direct experience as a local West Somerset Community Leader of the PLC’s current stance, Chris Ruddicks post and Mel Hillmans post here.

    With respect I don’t think your view of ‘don’t worry the PLC wouldn’t do anything wrong, they will have a chat between themselves and let all the staff know of their thoughts’ holds much water.

    Right now I’ve finished my ‘emotional’ rant. Julian is right the PLC can do as they wish. The two main shareholders (circa 9% shareholding each) are competing Charities who are easily played off each other and cancel each other out in voting terms. The vast majority of the rest of the PLC Shareholding is split between many small shareholders many of whom are remote from Somerset and whats happening in the Community, they therefore vote based on the PR coming out of the PLC as the only source of information (there are no other routes) they have, which is “back me or the WSR closes” etc. messaging.

    There are two issues here in my opinion, both curable 1. Do the people of the WSR and its local community support the current Boards current agenda?. 2. The structure of the WSR allows anybody who can get themselves into a position to not be accountable to the Community.

    The latter point you will know well of course and it is not the fault of the current PLC Board, it is historical. Given you have been in WSR Leadership positions on both the WSRA & PLC Boards over the last number of years you have seen first-hand how this structure brought the WSR to this point.

    Lastly how do you know that there will be “start of season staff meetings” whilst they have been held in previous years, they to my knowledge haven’t been set with an agenda of Directors attending who will discuss current concerns with the staff?
     
  6. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Nabarro's wiki is a bit :eek:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Nabarro
     
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  7. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    An interesting aside is that Nabarro was due to chair a meeting to rescue the Ilfracombe Branch which was postponed when he fell ill and died. The meeting was never re-arranged and the scheme foundered...

    Robin
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
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  8. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    An observation on the above exchange. While I agree with @Andy Norman and @jma1009 that the power of the plc board to act as they wish is in practice constrained very little by how the WSR organisations are set up, I agree with @FrankC* that in reality the goodwill of the volunteers is essential.

    That cuts two ways. It certainly allows the plc to claim support while those volunteers continue to volunteer - and even replenish. But it also carries a grave risk to the future of the WSR as currently structured - if a significant number of those volunteers should decide to reduce their commitment (and it doesn't even have to involve leaving), the operation will become difficult or impossible to sustain. And goodwill, once lost, is very hard indeed to recover.

    Those concerned about and for the WSR should be focusing not just on specific actions or structures, but the long run sustainability of the operation. If the portrayal on here of an autocratic leadership is remotely accurate, the risk of this alienation and loss of volunteers is a grave risk.

    * - I take as a given that any company must operate within applicable law and regulations. With that in mind I note that one poster has laid claim to a "protected disclosure" as a "whistleblower"; I await with interest to see how the WSR plc respond to that individual's claims and to what extent they respect the law in that regard.
     
  9. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Perhaps for another thread but given what happened at the SVR under him, it suggests that any Ilfracombe project would have been likely to have ended up with the same management structures and problems.
     
  10. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Ilftacombe Station would certainly have made an interesting development site.
     
  11. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    :Gagmewithaspoon:
    Just as a point of information:

    Case law (including some I may have helped to make:rolleyes:) establishes clearly that volunteers are neither ‘employees’ nor ‘workers’, the generally protected categories under employment legislation.

    Two caveats:

    (1) Heritage railways have health and safety and insurance responsibilities to those volunteering for them, and

    (2) treating volunteers with an equivalent level of respect to employees is IMHO essential to keeping the volunteer cadre happy.

    Robin
     
  12. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    Thank you for the point of information, and I accept the clarification. Meanwhile, I agree wholeheartedly with your caveats.


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  13. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    That provides some support for the PLC's declaration that its HR procedures did not apply to volunteers, but didn't the PLC then suspend them altogether?

    Also, even if defined HR procedures for volunteers are not required by the law, does it make any sense in practice not to have any?
     
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  14. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    Robin. You will also be aware that the PLC HR Policies including the Bullying and Haressment policy and Whistle Blowing Policy which of course referenced and aligns with the Public Interest Disclosures Act (Whistle Blowing Act) specifly included volunteers in addition to the legal view you state above. These policies were long standing and agreed with all other parties internally. Therefore the protection afforded to volunteers was clear regarding whistle blowing. To pick up on #35B's point once the informal route of trying to have a sensible conversation were exhausted protected declarations were made referencing policies. The removal of the policies and my ID Card came afterward. Perhaps the importance of that will not be lost. Just to be clear and to take the heat out of this I don't intend to legally challenge this, the WSR has enough problems already. I just want people look at it from a morale stance and ask if this is what the WSR stands for?
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
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  15. FrankC

    FrankC Well-Known Member

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    Just to try to avoid a further misunderstanding, Andy, I respect your opinions in the sense that you are perfectly entitled to hold them. I just don't agree with many of them - there is an important difference!

    For the avoidance of doubt, I also personally believe that it is not usually particularly realistic - and certainly not constructive - to try to throw people out of a voluntary organisation, as the last many pages of this NP thread have very well demonstrated! (You will remember that when you were a trustee of the WSRA and I was Chairman, it was certainly your choice to resign, not mine to ask you to leave.)

    Frank
     
  16. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    So a question is this - if those HR policies are suspended, then volunteers are no longer protected by them? Would it not incentivise actors who wish to remove volunteers etc from the line to gut those policies knowing that under employment law that volunteers are not a ‘protected category’.

    Akin to Matyas Rakosi’s salami tactics, slice by slice by slice.

    Or is this a conspiracy theory?
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
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  17. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    ...as opposed to have become a very UNinteresting industrial development site :-(

    I regard myself as fortunate that I did at least have the experience of going to Ilfracombe (and back) by train on a couple of occasions, even if not by Mr Bullied's steam traction :)
     
  18. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    We always have a couple of directors at least at each departmental AGM on the GWSR. Aided of course by the fact that the chances are at least one of them belongs to that department so are there anyway. As I've said before, virtually all our directors are to be regularly found doing "normal" roles on the railway so are easily approachable, which perhaps helps with the general outlook and atmosphere.
     
  19. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    .....whilst IUI another heritage railway organisation elsewhere is trying to amend its HR policies in order to incorporate procedures that will enable it to throw out members who disagree with the decisions of the Board. So simply having a HR policy per se does not seem to necessarily offer sufficient protection.
     
  20. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    With the 1:36 up grade beginning at the southern end of the platforms, pretty interesting from an operational perspective too! I never knew steam there, as my one and only visit (must've been around 1966/7) was in DMMU days .... and boy, did those make a racket slogging up to the summit!
     

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