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West Somerset Railway Operations

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

  1. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    Steven, my understanding. The PLC FD closed the overdraft facility to save costs. That is what he told me.
    I had hoped not to have had to state that.

    Michael Rowe.
     
  2. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Thanks again, Michael. If it was at most used to the tune of £10,000, I can understand that course of action and it was a considerably less dramatic situation than a first reading of your comment suggested. Indeed, if anything, it highlights that, at that time, the lead finance professional at the organisation considered the situation manageable. One can only presume 2018 revenues and costs proved otherwise, and I seem to recall comment from others that 'necessary facilities' were in place for the winter of 2018/19, so I presume the facility must have been able to be reinstated.

    Steven
     
  3. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Peter

    I tried to engage with you privately to explain matters and the nature of that private exchange means that I see little point continuing to do so.

    Your public responses do nothing to change my view.

    If you wish to understand the WSRA finances (I assume me you are a WSRA member) then I suggest you write to the Chairman.

    Robin
     
  4. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    Steven: I was only indirectly involved for the first two months of the train running period. ( As part of a
    very small budgetry group.) During that period pax numbers and corresponding revenues were down on 2017
    and significantly below what was a very demanding 2018 budget. The Chair and FD favoured waiting
    until the end of May "to see if numbers might pick up". With the resignation of the PLC Director
    heading up the budgetry group during May 2018 my involvement ceased.

    However afterwards, from my role as a TTI I was aware that pax numbers continued to fall short of budget. It
    was within this framework that at the AGM I, whilst recognising the then Chair's many talents,
    suggested he was not the person to lead the Plc at such a difficult time. I received considerable
    criticism from some in the audience. Subsequent to the AGM I wrote to the Chair and FD
    outlining, in considerable detail, where the Plc would be, come year end, the immediate
    cost reductions necessary and finishing my note with the statement "I am sure you do not wish to be
    overseeing the first major Heritage Railway to call in the receiver "

    I received the reply to the effect that all the actions I suggested were under way. They were not.

    I have not written this without some misgivings but: it has been implied by some, including
    on this site, that things were not that bad at 2018 year end. They were, there was nothing in the 'bank'.

    I do not know the current Chair. I however, from comments I have heard, have no doubt he
    saved the Railway from going under ( and I mean 'he' ).

    Conventional wisdom says, actually he has done the easier bit, the challenge is refocusing
    and reinvigorating the business. History is littered with organisations that were saved from
    extinction by drastic actions only to terminally fail not long after. Let us all support
    in what ever way we can so this does not happen.

    However I still cannot see a recovery plan. As on this site, there is 'Motherhood and apple
    pie', invariably beneficial when things are going well, less so in difficult times. I do hope
    the PLC Board now has a defined set of actions.

    Finally: Steven, I know you have always championed the previous Chair and FD. They
    were undoubtedly good, likeable and honest people. They for sure had the Railway's interests at
    heart but they were in a situation outwith their experience. It is not surprising they
    procrastinated and hoped for something better to turn up, but...ultimately they
    presided over a near disaster.

    Michael Rowe
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
  5. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    I DO understand the published WSRA accounts as does Mike Rowe. We are agreed that the WSRA could reasonably afford to pay around £ 100K towards suitable projects.
     
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  6. 34108

    34108 New Member Account Suspended

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    Seems like one person is giving the WSRA a bad name, common theme there,
    Not satisfied with causing a loco to leave the line now destroying the WSRA from the inside, line would be a much better place without them.
     
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  7. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    That is complete utter nonsense. The WSRA did not, repeat not cause a loco to leave the line. As for trying to destroy the WSRA from the inside what are you talking about? As it so happens Robin White, Mike Rowe and in a small way myself worked for many months to evict the EX6 +1 so why on earth do you think any of us should want to destroy it? It is true that we sometimes feel the WRSA could do things differently. I suggest you check the facts before posting again.
     
  8. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    Michael.

    Just to place some facts out there for debate.

    The 2018 budget set by ‘the budgetary group’ pre the previous FD (who was appointed to the Board on 23/2/18) was widely critisted by many in the WSR at the time as “just think of a figure needed to save the WSR and add a bit, then set a budget for the departments to meet”. Whilst a challenging budget needed to be set, there is challenging and there is "a budget set to match the problem" (other people’s words at the time not mine). I mention this just to be clear that the previous FD didn’t set the 2018 budget a number of people on the PLC Board at the time did.

    To put some context around it, the Flying Scotsman visit in 2017 meant the revenue figures in 2017 were around £600,000 higher than ‘normal’. I believe the group you mention set a budget for 2018 higher than 2017 including this visit. So was it achievable, I also believe if my memory serves that RM talked about the need to re-set budgets during the year?

    2018 results brought in a 6.7% increase over 2017 (with the FS figures removed) from a marketing department revenue perspective, That of course doesn't cure the issue at hand and you are indeed technically right to say that 2018 didn’t hit target so I’m not saying you are telling an untruth, just was it realistic, achievable or ever going to happen?

    I do agree with you that the current woes are as a result of lots of poor management not just the latest issues or personalities. There was as you indicate a run up to this, again that’s been in the public domain for a considerable time so it’s worth putting on record that whilst I have critised the current PLC Board for some actions they have taken in the last few months, I also see they did face the problem head on where previous Boards just hoped it would go away.

    However that’s not what I think #Bean-counter’s point is. It’s also not relevant if RM cancelled the overdraft or not, you can un-cancel it as easily as cancelling it, it’s a form and a fee. The issue was would anybody lend the money for the winter layover? Bean-counter seems as confused as me (sorry if I’m speaking for you here Steven, please cut me down if I’ve read this wrong) regarding the ability for the WSR to have an overdraft. All were told that nobody would loan the WSR any money by the new Chairman just after he was in post.

    Bean-counter’s interpretation of the accounts doesn’t seem to support that. My interpretation of the facts also doesn’t support that. Neither does a leading credit reference agency agree who I use, who classed the PLC as ‘green good’ through the whole 2018/19 period (I can provide the exact credit score and recommended credit limits if you like), I also have from them a history of the PLC Credit scores going back a number of years which again support the ability to borrow. I’ve mentioned that HPC Auditors also looked at it and were happy, as did a number of other people who engaged with us. So the facts don’t seem to match the rhetoric used.

    So again a question: Why were all suddenly told “we have no lending ability and we are days away from going into administration, but I will save you”. The other relevant question is why was an FD, who was also the paid WSR Accountant and the Company Secretary replaced with another sub-contracted Company of Accountants called Four Fifty Partnership, of 34 Boulevard, Weston Super Mare. Which is also the registered address of JJP Holdings Ltd (common business practice to use your Accountants to register your company address). And why is the current PLC Company Secretary who replaced the previous FD also the Four Fifty Partnership. I’ve also heard repeated claims from others privately that Clark Willmott Solicitors, the new HR People I mentioned also have a similar relationship.

    Now of course I’m not suggesting any wrong doing but I would very much hope that the current PLC Chairman has registered at a PLC Board meeting a number of conflicts of interest in order to protect himself, as clearly when running such a community based organisation like the WSR you would protect yourself from this type of thing being public knowledge or better still tell the public yourself first. I’m sure of course that the fact that the person concerned, who came in to save the WSR felt he needed to have all of his own people in the key positions of control. But it seems that the outgoing people were removed quickly and in the case of HR, Head of Marketing & Head of Operations for other stated reasons (redundancy). However can I respectfully suggest that when your Board is also made up of nearly all ‘invitation only’ co-opts this could be seen in the wrong light as all elements of control leading back to one place.

    A number of people in the funding environment I spoke to pointed this out to me, again they would not fund a potentially ‘one person controlled organisation’, they view it as bad governance, they are about Community. Again I mention this only to help the WSR recognise another thing that needs ‘re-arranging’ if they want people to fund them, again its back to: Where is the money coming from (less £100k now, well done FOMS) and what’s the plan, as you say Michael you can’t see it either.

    Again, comments brought to you courtesy of the WSR Whistle Blowing Policy.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
  9. Yorkshireman

    Yorkshireman Part of the furniture

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    Absolutely spot on one man bands never work in a situation like this. It has to stop.
     
  10. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Michael - I have, as they rather distastefully seem to say these days, 'no dog in this fight' - all I know of the former FD and the former WSRplc Chairman is what I have gleaned thanks to NP. However, from this source, it appears that warnings were being issued and certainly the impression given was that something was preventing those post holders from taking necessary actions. The new Chairman, who I similarly have never met, has clearly overcome those obstacles, although we do not, of course, know if the actions you suggested, the actions the previous FD and WSRplc Chairman proposed and what has in fact been done are the same or even similar.

    @Andy Norman's post sets a somewhat different context, particularly in respect comments about the previous FD. The budget process sounds rather familiar, to my shame! Yes, we have all been there and usually because of departments pleading that they absolutely must spend more than the organisation can afford. It is, however, usual to both adjust for 'one-off' incomes and include a suitable Income Contingency against planned growth - I haven't seen the Budget in question so don't know the extent to which either was done. The question of the ability to borrow is also interesting - that is not to say borrowing would be desirable or even advisable, but it would be interesting to know how WSRplc did get through the winter!

    I suspect again we are wandering into matters which may be beyond what should be discussed here. I think we can all agree that a detailed plan would be very reassuring for the West Somerset Railway family and I totally concur that averting a crisis can be merely delaying it and 'success' can still be some distance, tough decisions and hard work away.

    To brighten matters, friends travelled on the West Somerset Railway earlier this week and thoroughly enjoyed it, being impressed by the line and the friendly staff.

    Steven
     
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  11. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    Andy, please, please. The final 2018 budget that was agreed by department heads, and worked up early 2018
    was established during a days meeting attended by each of the HODs at separate meetings, each Meeting with Richard
    Maw, ( before he was appointed to the Board) , Paul Conibeare ( similarly) Frank Courtney ( a Board Member)
    and myself.

    (It was recognised that the budget agreed during the Fall of 2017 was less than rigorous. The
    various HODS were questioned intensely wrt their forecasts, whether income or expenditure.
    As a result there were very significant changes from the Autumn budget, which I believe
    although I am dependent on hearsay was hardly rigorous in either information gathering or
    deriving conclusions. )

    There was an agreed very tight budget, RM also produced a second budget which offered a further challenge
    by incorporating a revenue uplift. We never believed that was a possibility.

    Please note the HODs were informed of the meeting well ahead of time, and in their
    own articulate ways, gave a presentation to the four of us. This was followed by a
    vigorous Q&A.

    The one off financial effect of the FS event was fully understood, not least because Frank Courtney
    and I had been intimately involved with said event.

    I discussed the results of the meeting separately with the then Chair ( as I believe did others) and firmly
    stated if we did not see an uplift during March and April from 2017 figures then the budget could not
    be met. I also at the time stated firmly that whether that occurred or not, immediate overhead
    reductions should be implemented. ( I believe I was not the only one to make said representation )

    Andy, I have no knowledge of the happenings appertaining to your apparent rupture with the PLC. I
    am sorry to see somebody so obviously distressed.

    However your various postings continue to be in error with the financial facts wrt PLC during 2018. But then I
    remember at an earlier period you questioned why the PLC was not investigating significantly in the
    Railway Infrastructure when the accounts showed a dwindling cash position. Indeed you bridled
    when I suggested in BCG terms the PLC was effectively a 'dog'. You then excused yourself on the
    grounds you had not been involved with the Railway as long as I have. Andy I can see you have
    an enthusiastic following on this site, I therefore regret that so many of your statements re
    the financial health (or otherwise) concerning the PLC are incorrect.

    Michael Rowe
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
  12. FrankC

    FrankC Well-Known Member

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    I have a rather different key question, which members of this forum may be able to reply to. I was a member of the PLC board until about three weeks ago. I therefore have inside information about many matters that are being discussed in this forum. From this I can see that some of the matters asserted as fact here are correct, some are incorrect and some are not actually fact but are assumptions, sometimes taken out of context, from other experience the writer, whoever that is at the time, has.

    Does this matter? (That is not my key question - that comes later) Well, yes it does matter because the overall picture being given here is, let's face it, of incompetent PLC directors and incompetent WSRA trustees leading hard working volunteers doing their best. This is the impression being given to all the readers of this forum, which include railway magazine editors, the railway regulator and who knows who else. This forum does not overall portray the WSR that I have known for the last 35 years. ALL the directors and ALL the WSRA trustees I have known (yes, I know who that includes) have been or are highly committed to a successful railway. One way or another I have worked with most of the Chairman. In my view their commitment has been outstanding. That doesn't mean I've always agreed with them. It is also the case that the directors have had various levels of competance and experience in different fields. The necessary experience is not easy to find.

    So the question is this? How should heritage railways, and the WSR in particular, respond to social media? Should it do nothing, and end up being seriously damaged, which I suggest only a very few posters on this site actually want? Or should it engage and respond to every hare that is set loose? For those on other railways, I would say that we all need to come up with an approach. At the moment the WSR is the butt of this, but your turn will come!

    Frank
     
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  13. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Meanwhile, back at the Railway...

    For those who like unusual movements, the 11:00 from Bishops Lydeard tomorrow is scheduled to be the DMU hauling the Hawksworth Saloon as a charter for the South West and Wales Area of the Institution of Railway Operators.

    It is due to return, rather more conventionally, on the rear of the last steam service.

    Robin

    (Photo by Steve Edge)

    D79A16D8-7642-4409-B803-ED3DCED38B70.jpeg
     
  14. AnthonyTrains2017

    AnthonyTrains2017 Member

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    Is Wincanton far from Templecombe?
     
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  15. AnthonyTrains2017

    AnthonyTrains2017 Member

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    Typical I put my name down to work Saturday and then found out both hymek L/E to Minehead.
     
  16. Ploughman

    Ploughman Well-Known Member

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    I have noticed a number of posts that make reference to raising funds for the purchase of new rails.
    While this is all to the good, I hope someone has remembered what the rails sit on.
    Has an assessment of the state of the Drainage, Ballast and sleepers been carried out.
    Permanent way is a system and involves each of the above items not just rails.
     
  17. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    We are talking about the same thing but with different opinions. We can disagree over whether HOD’s agreed or were just given budgets. As you indicate the ACE Weekend played a part in the budget setting. You and Frank felt that three Bullied Pacific’s over one weekend would attract the same revenue as one Flying Scotsman over 10 days, including the three engine hires and lorry moves and the other same costs for marquee’s etc.

    Many people told you both that they felt it wouldn’t, however you both went ahead and set the budget with the ACE Weekend budgeted that way against the tide of opinion within the WSR. It was a very hot topic of conversation at the time around the railway. As we both know in the end the ACE Weekend was cancelled because people saw the cost/benefit and forced you both aside. However as you will also recall that was not before your close friend and yourself tried to cancel the 1940’s Weekend a number of times (I can show you the emails, I like keeping such things) plus also diverted all of the marketing budget away from everything for the year so it could be put into the ACE Weekend.

    I’m not saying you didn’t try to do a good thing, you felt passionately that it would work. What I am saying is that your post you indicated that the previous FD failed totally in 2018 in setting and meeting targets and budgets and 2018 was a reduction from 2017. Whereas you and I (1940’s Weekend) and many others were all there as well so we all also played a part in what happened so should share the responsibility. As it turned out money was wasted on the ACE Weekend Marketing and time was diverted from marketing for no gain. However you are now putting across the revenue reduction against target as a failure of others to meet the budget. Perhaps this is why the WSR is in the trouble it is, because it’s always somebody else’s fault (not just directed at you it’s an ingrained culture).

    As for you continuing to say I’m wrong, it’s a continuing theme from you when you are under a bit of pressure from somebody who disagree with you. Please start to play the ball not the player. I’ve given some facts here which will stand and expert opinions which are from people who know better than me, as for my personal position and opinions I will allow my peers to judge me.

    However all of this is in the past, people need to be comfortable that the WSR is in safe hands, if they are, then fine, if all I have said here about funding is wrong then the funding will appear in large amounts anytime soon and all will be well and more volunteers will come and be happy.
     
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  18. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    I agree with you Frank it’s a thorny issue. Social Media is in effect an emerging technology and has a new power. Perhaps the starting point is, should anybody be allowed to talk about ‘their’ railway or it that only for the leaders to do. Is Social Media an extension of a chat between friends down the pub or a dark new communication tool to be feared by those at the top?

    Another question is: Has not talking about it and will stopping people talk about it going forward cure the problems the WSR has? The times you have been on one Board or another and been involved with trying to increase the power of the Leaders to stop people posting has never gone well has it.

    I don’t have the answer but do you allow people to talk or just listen to what they are told and take it as the truth ?

    You seem to be saying that talking about things causes the problems and results in ‘serious damage’, do you risk shooting the messenger? You are right all hobbies in all areas where there are different opinions have to face this not just the WSR.

    Perhaps the past gives a clue, you were in the middle of the EX6 + 1 removal (and all credit to you for that) If Social Media had been banned (Nat Pres in particular) then the Reform Group would never have been able to support your actions and nobody would have know. As you will agree recent posts here are not a patch on the number and ferocity back then. What would that have meant today. There would be no WSRA, property developers may have bought the lines freehold and possibility no trains would be running? Just be careful what you all wish for, as you say much positive debate needed.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
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  19. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    Andy: this is becoming ridiculous. The FS event produced after all costs including a notional revenue if an ordinary
    service had run , but before expenditure on the track, c. £260K.

    Tha ACE event was budgeted to produce £100K, after all costs. ie three Bulleid Pacifics barely exceed one
    Flying Scotsman as a revenue earner. Andy, stop knocking everything with incorrect information. I
    do not intend to pursue this discussion further.

    By the way, there was a mistake in my posting, I meant FS not ACE, sorry.

    Michael Rowe
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
  20. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    Ah, we are talking about the same thing, your initial post referenced Revenue. Now you are talking about Profit (revenue less costs) so we are both right. The expression "Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics" comes to mine. As you say its in the past, we all need to move on, we all did our best but now its about tomorrow.
     

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