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West Somerset Railway Operations

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

  1. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    Elsewhere on Nat Pres there is the welcome news that the NYMR has been awarded a £4.4m HLF grant along with other grant funding towards a £9m scheme which will help safeguard the future of the Railway. The scheme includes several diverse projects and a significant part of it is about improvements to infrastructure, mainly bridge replacements. What relevance does this have to the WSR? None, except that it shows what can be achieved by other railways but is effectively beyond the reach of the WSR with its present structural set up. Those that say it doesn't need to change this really need to think long and hard about it.
     
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  2. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    I only know the WSR as a regular visitor & based on whats said here.

    If I was to look at what I can make some sort of definitive comment on, firstly & this is exemplified by the recent issues at the WSRA there do seem to be some issues over for want of a better word, interpersonal issues.

    Secondly the ORR intervention, speaks for itself

    Finally my impression is of a slightly underfunded railway and of course one that clearly doesnt seem to be able to invest the sort of money that is needed into its infrastructure. I dont claim any expertise in these matters but the number of 'wet beds' and tie bars seen in recent years dont look good. Indeed one NP member who is better qualified to comment remerked on just that point a while ago.

    While I cannot say why, neither can I comment on the detail, the 'bigger picture' that all is not well is there for anyone to see if they choose to look.
     
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  3. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    Steve

    I can be accused of many things but burying my head in the sand over the current issues is not one of them, I would respectfully ask that you read my posts from about page 935. Post 18704 shows what I’ve done to try and turn the tide in my own small way and I think the others show I know there is a major problem that needs sorting now (or indeed a couple of years ago).

    Post 18786 states in its last but one paragraph: “……..do something about it or allow others to do it instead. Please don’t keep the PR to all saying it’s all going to be ok, it’s not . Unless you double the passenger numbers by next week for the rest of the year or get fundraising in large volumes now it’s not looking good”.

    However if your point is I don’t agree with the way its been handled and put across, yes you are right I don’t, I don’t think that turning the WSR into a Commercial PLC (aka SDR) is the right route. I believe that it needs to be a much better Community Enterprise Project than it is now, that’s what the experts in the field have told me over the last year and they have convinced me many times over. However some will and do disagree with me and that’s fine it needs an open and honest debate with some expert advice to make sure the direction is right, there are not any more chances to continue to get this wrong.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
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  4. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    Sadly the current and past management have failed over many years to get a grip. I am hoping that JJP will get a grip and rescue it. I think he need some strong financial, commercial and legal people to help him. He cannot do it all on his own.
     
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  5. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    When you say "However let’s keep it in perspective, it’s never been as bad as it’s been recently made out in my opinion....." and ".....Richard’s comment you reference was correct, it was ok to go into 2019...." I do think that justifies my comment about burying your head in the sand. You also say " .....the WSR has no major debts, no debt collectors banging on the door,...." which may have been fact but this was only because they have not spent on much needed infrastructure works.
     
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  6. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    Right, I see what you are saying. Just to clarify my point as I may not have been clear causing the confusion. My comments were in reply to Michael Rowe condemning the previous FD, Michael implied that the previous FD had not seen the need for an overdraft and how the Overdraft facility needed to take the WSR to the start of the 2019 season only came about as a result of the new Chairman coming in at the last minute and saving the day. Michael seemed to be under the impression that the previous FD had not identified the need for an overdraft and reported to all that there was enough money available, where in fact he was talking knowing that the OD was in place so hence there was indeed enough money to get to the 2019 season.

    The previous FD had calculated it in, indeed it had been in place for a number of years (albeit increasing) and he arranged it. However when he was made redundant the overdraft seemed to suddenly not be available and the new Chairman stated that nobody would lend the WSR the money (and in fact also said that JJP Holdings Ltd may have to provide money (shares?) to stop the WSR going under).

    My comment about no debt’s etc. was to say that that statement made no sense and I questioned it, as the ability for the WSR to borrow on overdraft was clearly available, there was a track record, the facts said so and the financial picture clearly gave a credit limit availability. Later on the bank overdraft ‘reappeared’ to the same level as the previous FD had arranged, so what was going to happen, happened. Therefore no need for a panic and nothing unexpected (not to say it was good, just not unexpected). Michael felt that the new Chairman had sorted it as a last minute thing thus saving the WSR, I was saying that was not the facts as I saw them or indeed did the previous FD or HPC Due Diligence process see it that way.

    That’s not to say you are wrong about the needed investment of £500k pa for track, lack of investment, the whittling away of the large reserves the WSR had or indeed the fact that the overdraft which had been in place for a number of years was increasing every year and should have been decreasing, those are separate issues.

    I hope that makes sense, I was only referring to who saved the WSR this time. Whilst I’m critising the messaging given out by the new Chairman, to help balance the picture a little there were other savings that needed to be made, I think he mis-hit in his actions and sold off things in an unnecessary ‘firesale’ and got rid of the wrong people, but things did and still do need to change, and have done for a number of years.

    As for me saying it not being as bad as it has been made out recently, it didn’t need the panic in my view. Being a Business Consultant as well as other things in my professional life I didn’t see the “we are within days of closing” doom and gloom messages put around by the PLC as a true reflection. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a good position but the recovery plan needed is very do-able and believe it or not quite straight forward. You are right it needs to change, but it’s a path I’ve seen and been involved with many times before with business’s in a far worst state. The WSR can be saved, it deserves to be and I will be cheering it along from the sidelines, it just needs robust and professional help now. I hope it gets it.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2019
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  7. huochemi

    huochemi Member Friend

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    You state your views cogently but I would not be as sanguine as you as to the financial security of the plc. Also, Lloyds Bank has effective control on the plc's access to loan finance, with its fixed and floating charge over all the assets (such as they are) of the plc. Having said that, loans are not a suitable source of funding to tackle under-investment on the infrastructure. The preserved railway model is shaky at best but requires capital to be provided free and non-repayable to have any chance of ends meeting. It is difficult to see how anything other than a share issue (absent some deus ex-machina, such as the local government finding a few million down the back of the sofa which it has no better home for than giving to the plc) is going to get funds into the plc. One might have expected such a share issue to have been launched by now (although I seem to recall that an all parties funding strategy meeting is imminent). Looking to the WSRA to provide funds as the solution, as keeps being suggested, seems a triumph of hope over experience. That is not pejorative or bile-ridden, it is based on the position as re-iterated in the most recent WSRA AGM minutes of the constraints the WSRA has in providing support to the plc - see https://www.wsra.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2019-AGM-Minutes.pdf . One might add that it is difficult to resist wondering quite why the WSRA is so constrained, whereas for instance the Bluebell Railway Trust (to pick a random example) could say in its 2017 annual report (inter alia):
    "During the year the Trust received donations which, including the associated Gift Aid tax and the value of assets given to the Trust, amounted to £712,518 (2016 - £652,047). The major appeal and sponsored walk in 2017 resulted in donations totalling £152,034 for the Tr(ack) Action Appeal which has since met most of the
    cost of replacing half a mile of badly worn track at Rock Cutting between Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes.....".
     
  8. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    You make some good points here and raise some good questions, perhaps the truth as to how worried supporters of the WSR need to be lay somewhere between the panic 'we are all doomed' PR and my what may appear to be laid back confidence. You are right about a share issue, my focus was Fundraising but that is of course only a part of the picture. The constraints on the WSRA have held the whole thing back, The Coombes Review was clear four years ago on this, but also all in control have not acted quickly enough, the answers to your very good questions have been there for a while. The forthcoming (or perhaps already happened) Fundraising meeting should heavily involve a company called SPARK who I brought in during my time as recommended by Somerset Community Foundation. Both organisations have lots of experience in the exact things you talk about and how Charities and Fundraisers can achieve what the WSR needs to achieve. They acted as my Mentor during my latter time at the WSRA and were a condition of the award from HPC and in a very positive way to also act for the WSRA Board as Mentors. They also raised the same questions as you do here, and more. That meeting and some positive actions from it would be a step in the right direction, there is much help out there to aid the recovery (part of my confidence, perhaps) it just needs the people in control to listen' learn and then act.
     
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  9. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member

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    Some happy faces after the meeting:
    http://www.wssrt.co.uk/2019/05/04/wsr-wsra-and-wssrt-meeting/
     
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  10. simon

    simon Part of the furniture

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    Funny, i thought the WSR stopped short of Taunton.
     
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  11. Faol

    Faol Well-Known Member

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    This is really too much. As I am now very ill I do not often come on here but comments like this add nothing to the WSR. We have some 1000 volunteers with 400 extremely regular people (volunteering weekly). I will not deny the railway has some difficulties concerning governance and finance but they are getting there.
    Your comments Monkey Magic are just tragic. I started with the WSR in 1970/71, went away to work then returned, went away again and returned in 2006/7. I have held minor and major posts including a 2 year Directorship of the plc and 1 spell as a committee member of the WSRA and 1 short spell as a Trustee of the WSRA. Your comments are mostly borne from reading comments on here. Over my 40 year span (not continuous) I can count on 1 hand what I consider to be bad volunteers but I can count many hundreds of good ones. Please Magic Monkey stop making wild and stupid statements based on unsupportable notions and give the WSR a chance.
     
  12. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    Well said. The WSR is a great railway, and I'm sure that it will become even greater.
     
  13. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Well-Known Member

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    Firstly I am sorry to hear about your ill health.

    Although I said that I had said all I wanted to say but I think I ought to respond. I am an outside observer. I have no personal connection with anyone on the line but I do have a different connection to the line, not as long as yours but I would guess my first visit to the line was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It is a line I associate with many happy memories. I hate seeing lines in trouble and having difficulties. I would like to help but...

    As an outside observer, I am telling you that because of the way people behave here it gives such a negative impression of the line that there is nothing appealing about volunteering at the WSR, even though I should want to help. When I look at how people behave on here I am left thinking - would I want to spend 6 hours in a signal box, shop, footplate, or works with them? And the answer is no. I write this in sorrow.

    Now, what is ironic is this. I am telling you my view of the way your colleagues act and how that influences my attitude towards the WSR, and yet, the response of those involved in the WSR is not to reflect on how they appear to outsiders, but to blame the outsider for forming that impression. (Let’s see, so far I’ve been called a rock thrower, voyeur, stupid and told that it is my loss). You ask to give the WSR a chance in the same sentence as calling me stupid. I am not sure insulting me is really the best way to convince me that my view is wrong and that I should be volunteering and it will be a positive experience.

    But here is the main thing, not once has anyone said ‘maybe it is us’ and engaged in some self-reflection. Maybe, just maybe it is those involved with the WSR rather than the outsiders who are the problem.

    I’ll keep reading about the WSR , I’ll keep looking at how people involved interact and engage with each other and hope that things will change. It isa shame that it is the way it is, but that is how it is.

    And now I have said all I want to say.
     
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  14. Faol

    Faol Well-Known Member

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    Best let sleeping dogs lay then and I will go on working towards my death in peace.
     
  15. rodders154

    rodders154 Member

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    I was at the board meeting with the ex-financial director and I dont recognise your interpratation of what was happening Andy. This will be my only comment on the subject but I couldnt keep quite when the above is were being stated as fact.

    Rodders

    Ex director of the WSR PLC
     
  16. misspentyouth62

    misspentyouth62 New Member

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    So Monkey, is your judgement formed solely on reading social media (NP) or do you have any bad experiences with specific f2f encounters on WSR that you would wish to share for greater clarity? I'm in a similar position as being an interested supporter in all things heritage railways but not (yet) being in a position to get my hands dirty so to speak. I would not make decisions based on what I read here nor what I read in any other source of media. If I'm understanding what you are saying, you're put off with exactly that, whereby I would suggest that if any heritage railway aired all of their dirty laundry in public like this one seems to like doing then you might decide to stay at home and never volunteer. The WSR is over time, made up of thousands of people from all walks of life, some naturally giving more of their time than others. If you expect there to be no disagreement and in-fighting at all then I would be hugely surprised.
     
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  17. simon

    simon Part of the furniture

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    Perception is reality and the perception of the WSR on here and in the railway press is not good. Its a really shame but the usual suspects have been feeding the image for many many years on here. IMHO its about time they studied the way that other railways put forward an image and follow the lead given.
     
  18. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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  19. AnthonyTrains2017

    AnthonyTrains2017 Member

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    F81367AD-9CA2-45CB-8455-8EAB693CAC77.jpeg Lovely surprise to see the 37 on the turntable this afternoon when I stopped off at Minehead for afternoon tea with the wife.

    Thank you to you all that keep the WSR going but funds and giving up freetime.

    Certainly brilliant to have a local heritage railway.
     
  20. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    Anyone basing their view o the WSR on this forum gets a very inaccurate impression. Of course everything is not perfect but much better than some of the no hopers on here would have you belive.
     

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