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West Somerset Railway Operations

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

  1. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    Do you mean the sort of posts that say the WSR is doomed and heading downhill so rapidly it might lead to administration? I wonder who says that sort of fearmongering stuff...

    (I'm probably on Peter's blocklist so don't really expect a reply, but I was surprised by the speed with which he flipped around here! You can change your mind considerably in three days, it seems)
     
  2. AnthonyTrains2017

    AnthonyTrains2017 Member

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    Steampunk was certainly something new too use both
     
  3. misspentyouth62

    misspentyouth62 New Member

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    I would agree Simon that perception is important but with respect, it's not reality it's just a take on the situation based on what you have in front of you. Just read a daily newspaper and tell me that what you read is reality? (examples not required but there are plenty!)
    I would say that were I to be in a senior position in any company whether related to a Heritage Railway or not, I would certainly want any people involved with said organisation whether employee or volunteer, to follow a code of practice relating to communication and use of social media. That's not censorship, just good practice and it seems demonstrably that some are much better than others - that's my perception btw. :)
     
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  4. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    About 18 months ago the WSR did try to introduce such a thing, but there was something of a revolt, and someone arranged for it to be leaked to this thread (by a non-volunteer, as they would not themselves be subject to it), to try to embarrass the company into backing down.

    If you scroll all the way back to Christmas 2017 you can read the ensuing debate! The company did indeed back down in the end, I understand.
     
  5. Sidmouth4me

    Sidmouth4me Member

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  6. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I'm curious about this.

    Leaving aside anything about organisational structures, and just focusing on the "whole railway", then financially your options seem to be one, or a combination, of:
    1. Increase commercial income (fares, shop, non-passenger revenue such as filming, workshop services etc.)
    2. Increase altruistic income (donations, legacies, to a degree shareholding)
    3. Increase grant income
    4. Decrease operating and renewal costs
    Which sounds simple, but if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, whereas my sense is that most railways would be deeply interested in how to do those things on their own account. Moreover, quite often doing one has an impact on another - "run more diesels" might cut costs, but what if it dissuades more passengers than the decrease in costs? (Which isn't great anyway, since even with diesel traction, the contribution to carriage and infrastructure maintenance costs still need paying, not to mention the diesel still needs periodic overhaul). Conversely, "hire a visiting engine" will almost certainly attract some people and generate additional income, but how many more: enough to pay the additional cost?

    The railway operating model also has an inherent risk that, to a large extent, the annual costs (and cost profile) are fixed at the beginning of the year once you set out the timetable you wish to run, whereas your income is dependent to a considerable degree on on decisions sometimes made at very short notice: "what shall we do today?" Your passenger numbers could go up by 10,000 in a year without it even being noticeable on the ground: it would represent perhaps 40 - 50 extra passengers per day, perhaps 1/3 of a carriage on each train, maybe an invisible 20 extra cars in the car parks. (Invisible on the ground, but very welcome on the cashflow spreadsheet). But equally they could go down by the same number and you couldn't cut a penny in costs either.

    Many railways seem to be undercapitalised, a direct consequence of which is they increase their direct operational costs. For example, lack of storage for out-of-use rolling stock increases future maintenance costs. Under-investment on p/way results in increased wear and tear on rolling stock, which requires more frequent shopping, more minor repairs and therefore higher cost per mile. But sorting those is a big capital investment, generally with money that doesn't exist, and a payback measured in decades, so far too often it gets pushed down the road against higher immediate priorities.

    My point is: none of this is easy (and much of it isn't unique to the WSR either).

    Tom
     
  7. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    The WSRA has a code of conduct for its Trustees. This was introduced relatively recently. It was intended to be proportionate rather than draconian.

    We are flattered to say that requests have been received to copy it elsewhere.

    Robin

    https://www.wsra.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Trustees-Code-of-Conduct-190211.pdf
     
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  8. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    Sorry another long post, I’m just passionate about this, I do promise to shut up soon !

    You are right in all regards here in my opinion. My comment about it being do-able is taken from my perspective, having had the luxury of seeing all aspects of the WSR in action over the last year or more in all respects and having had many conversations with many experts in Community Enterprises, Funders and Charities plus the likes of SPARK, SCF, etc. who are experts in their arena and my own experience in business at senior management and director levels and as a Business Consultant for many years.

    That may sound impressive so I will shatter my own PR, it’s all actually, very basic and you have set it out into the work streams well. Its all about where you are as an organisation for each area now, today. If you don’t do any fund raising at all (other than what drops in your lap) do some and whatever that some is, is a 100% improvement (I’m talking about large ticket fundraising, the WSR does some low level already of course), if you are not welcoming to volunteers who disagree with your view, embrace the differences between you don’t throw them out of the door, if you need to increase passenger numbers get better at it (not the weakest point on the WSR in my view).

    You are right its not simple and it will not always get it right but at least have an inclusive positive culture and a can-do attitude where people can come along, try and work in a culturally safe environment where people support each other. I’ve said in other posts that, that’s the only problem the WSR has (and as you say many other railways without a doubt). It would allow all the work streams to contribute and all people come and enjoy volunteering or working in a positive environment rather than a no can do, it won’t change and we won’t let it, old school attitude. I’ve personally seen this with my own eyes, others have seen it, the external partners I have worked with have seen and commented on it, so its not just one person’s view.

    The world of heritage railways is changing, the WSR is at the front of that change, its now a £3.2 Million turnover leisure attraction with a responsibility to the community, its not a couple of blokes in a siding with some items of rusty stock anymore. In addition, the environment it operates in is changing, the elements you set out here are all important and with larger price tags attached. As a result the people running the WSR need to change and adapt, it is the job they signed up for volunteer or paid.

    Coombes set out all of this need to change in his review of 4 years ago. I say it’s do-able because the basics haven’t been put in place after 4 years of saying it would happen, so the recovery is very do-able it just needs doing. We celebrated on the WSR when I raised £96k, that was achieved because some in the WSRA supported me and I went out and did it against the tide of old-school internal people who did all to stop me just because it was change. My achievements were nothing, whilst I was fighting that fight, the likes of the NYMR raised £4.4 million, the SVR a sum in the Millions, etc. And more importantly a Secondary school in Bridgwater raised £1 million in grant funding with a small team in 2018 and even a primary school with less than 100 kids set along the WSR raised £180,000 (25% of their overall budget). Therefore the WSR can raise £1 Million a year and its very do-able, many, many experts have told me that and they can help the WSR achieve it, it just needs to open the door and welcome them in.

    Therefore my view is firmly in my mind because if the WSR Leadership just sorted its self out culturally, welcomed people who try and do some of what you list here even to a low level and failed in much of what it did, then it would be a big step forward, failure is not something to just pick on people for, it should be welcomed as much as success.

    One of my mantra’s in business life is that you can do one of three things: Ideally do something and get it right, as a second choice do something and get it wrong but then learn the mistakes, tell everybody so they can also learn your mistakes and try again, or the worst of all things do nothing.

    People within the WSR will know I have said many times that the culture needs to change. I had a senior paid member of staff once tell me not to get involved, that I was wasting my time trying to do something as the Boards will not allow any fresh ideas and will crush me if I began to make a difference. As a result that member of staff also did nothing and kept their heads down. That person is still there, most likely still doing nothing, they were right and I’m now talking from the outside, I did some things and now I’m not there. Others here and in the WSR can tell me I’m wrong or say they don’t like me, it just adds to my point, I tried.

    Do I blame that person who told me that or the Boards? Neither, I blame the culture, set up by the old school mentality who havn’t seen that the WSR is a different thing today and faces all of the challenges you set out here and more.

    Thank you for your comments, I think you are spot on, it’s about culture, inclusion and a common goal, not: blame, negativity and exclusion. I believe in the WSR as a concept, it has so many opportunities it hurts, again I have seen that and more importantly many of the external partners I worked with in 2018 pointed them out to me. If the WSR just did some of the things you set out here to a decent level it would be in better shape, it should not be afraid of getting things wrong, as you say if it were easy everybody would do it.

    The WSR has many more positives than negatives, a number of funders have expressed amazement that the WSR has actually survived to where it is today as a full blown heritage attraction without the basics of funding, culture and inclusion in place and have said that it is a great business model in its own right and told me if it only gets half of the rest right it will be safe. Hence my opinion that a recovery is very do-able, it just needs a minority of people to allow it to be done and some people who should be welcomed to come and do it, the rest will fall into place. I keep using the word ‘inclusion’, that is very deliberate.

    As you rightly say we shouldn’t just pick on the WSR in anything here, the world and heritage railways are changing quickly and many of the answers lie outside of the traditional railway circles. Time to look outwardly, embrace change, include and positively move forward, the time of ego’s, self-interest and knifing people out who disagree need to stop, it can and will only lead to a continuation of the current direction, time to do something different !!
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2019
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  9. AnthonyTrains2017

    AnthonyTrains2017 Member

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    944575FE-04F2-4662-8FAD-26B1811DDDB4.jpeg
     
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  10. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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  11. gwilialan

    gwilialan Well-Known Member

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    OK, Here is a completely personal view, not based on any detailed knowledge of the people or personalities on here or at ‘the railway’ (and now from even further away - so does that mean my comments are even less useful or does it mean I might see more of the whole picture than those closer to the coal face?)

    Bashing or criticizing or generally moaning about “The WSR” seems to be fair game for many on here but I think that is unfair and that those who do are missing the point.

    The trains are running, passengers are being carried, stations and trackside (in most cases) are neat and tidy and visitors still seem to be enjoying themselves so I’d suggest that it is completely unfair to fire a broadside at “The WSR” as a whole when so much that is working is down to the volunteers who are still turning up and just getting on with it despite all the ‘goings on’.

    If you don’t agree with management decisions – say so. Don’t just lump the blame on everybody. If you think things should be done in a different way direct your comments to those whose responsibility it is to do those things. Yes, there still appears to be problems getting a joined up approach between the management and everybody else, Yes there is still some petty personal ‘point scoring’ between individuals (although much less on here recently) and perhaps there are still a few buckets of sand in the Board Room that heads need to be removed from but please don’t criticize the whole when your comments are actually aimed at a specific few.

    I’ve been in both places and I know a lot of volunteers just want to get on with it, they are not interested in management, it takes them away from their chosen area of interest. I’ve also seen the frustration when, occasionally, they have stepped up to Board level and come up against the so called ‘professional’ manager who is more interested in running the railway than making the railway run so, please, lets not knock those who are doing their best with whatever ‘those above’ decide by tarring them with the same brush as those your comments are actually aimed at.

    Thank you
     
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  12. burmister

    burmister Member

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    Agree totally with most of that except the claim that diesels cost more or less the same as steam. On our railway we run a lot of both and the way the service is costed a Diesel Loco day costs is Around 60% that of Steam day mainly because of the steaming fee running allowance needed to cover the cost of 10 year overhaul for a Steam Loco. A DEMU/ DMMU day is even cheaper all depending on the actual running agreements a Loco group has of course. Providing the electrics are kept clean and the injectors are kept in tip top order ie no dirty black clang so beloved of certain enthusiasts and oil monitored the Loco should not require a heavy general over for decades at preserved railway speeds most items can be swopped over such as brake valves, contact tips cylinder heads over a weekend. The most expensive item and time consuming work we find is bodywork especially BRCW Locos.

    Brian
     
  13. The_Rail_WAy

    The_Rail_WAy New Member

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    Gosh this thread is such a soap opera - is there any chance mods could open a thread entitled 'Operations at the West Somerset Railway.'

    I am sick of having read long winded, whiny, argumentative regarding about the in-house bickering and politics amongst members/ex-members etc the WSR.

    A thread about whats actually going on at the railway and a separate one for in-house bickering would be great. Just a suggestion of course, but this thread is quite painful at times....

    T_R_W.
     
  14. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Part of the furniture

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    It's been tried before, but inevitably the politics one ends up getting locked then it all carries on here - in what nominally is the operations thread!
     
  15. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Agreed that the maintenance can be less, but my point about steam vs diesel costs was about the whole cost of running a train, not just the loco cost. That cost is basically the loco running cost (fuel, oil, water etc) + contribution to loco overhaul + contribution to infrastructure renewal + contribution to C&W overhaul + contribution to the general business running costs. Of those, only the direct and overhaul loco costs are altered by choice of traction - you still have to provide the same contribution to infrastructure, C&W and business overheads whether you are running a class 33 or a Manor at the front of the train. Running a diesel will probably cut cost, but not necessarily as much as a comparison of traction costs might imply: even a 50% cheaper to run loco may only result in a 20% cheaper to run train once you factor in all the other costs. At which point, you have to be sure the diesel doesn’t deter more than it saves.

    (As a ballpark figure for infrastructure costs alone: the WSR runs a timetable consisting of 4,5 or 7 round trips for much of the year). If you take 5 as a working average over a 250 day season, that means about 1250 trains over the year. They have publicly stated a need to invest £500k p.a. in the infrastructure - so a ballpark figure is that each train has to contribute £400 to infrastructure renewal to pay its way. Those are the kinds of costs I mean by “whole cost” of running a service: the traction is only one component.)

    Tom
     
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  16. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    It would be interesting to see the relative costs of steam v loco hauled diesel v DMU
     
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  17. Greenway

    Greenway Well-Known Member

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    Two points:
    1) You don't have to read the thread and
    2) Try another web site, maybe Facebook, for the 'rose tinted' views. :D
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
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  18. 45076

    45076 Member

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    Whats "rose tinted" about wanting to know about current operational matters?
     
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  19. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Member

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    This is a typical reply one expects on this thread.
     
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