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West Somerset Railway Operations

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

    And talking about tomorrow...the Minehead Branch rails should be polished by nos 53808, 7752, 7828, D7017, D7018 and the DMU. Good for webcam watchers, absolutely brilliant for those travelling...

    Steve
     
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  1. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    Please, we never said or thought the revenue for the ACE event would equal the FS event, not least because
    the budget was based on c. half the number of passengers ! There are no "lies, damned lies & statistics",
    I am telling you as it was, I was there. If I was not I would use AFAIK, I surmise or similar epithet.

    Michael Rowe
     
  2. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    How much was spent on the track to enable the visit to go ahead? Was this done during summer services at an increased cost compared with had it been done during the preceding closed period? If so, why - were any problems not known about or was the visit arranged after winter work was completed? Was that 'money well spent', producing track that is good for a few decades without further expenditure, or was it a 'patch up' to avoid the embarrassment of a cancellation which is now part of what is going to require £500k per annum (WSRplc's figure, not mine) to put right?

    There is a very (too?) robust debate going on here, where 'being proven to be right' seems more important than 'where do we go from here'. People seem to feel the need to rigoursly defend their past actions, even when, on the face of it, they wopuldn't have been to directly involved not being Directors. I and many others on here have only what is said here, plus experience elsewhere, to go on but forgive us observers if we challenge the increasingly bold claims being made here.

    Social media is both a tricky question and an unavoidable fact in the modern world. Fail to engage effectively, and it can be easily portrayed as a 'cover-up', especially if all is clearly 'not well'. Engage recklessly, and matters can be made worse. Actually having a clear and agreed plan that is not subject to long-running feuds risking undermining it and then clearly communicating it helps. Not having people who have been upset by past actions to question actions (or seeming inaction) is also useful! I am not making any specific comments other than what might occur to readers of this thread. The West Somerset Railway clearly presents a friendly and enjoyable experience to its passengers, yet their numbers keep falling and have been doing so, I understand, for a number of years. Infrastructure can suffer catastrophic damage from storms but in the absence of this does not deteriorate overnight. Cash reserves have been used up. An overall image emerges and it isn't good.

    What is clear is that a bunker mentality won't solve anything. I repeat - social media exists - use it to your benefit, don't leave it to your critics least it appears that you have no answer to what they say..........

    Steven
     
  3. 6026 King John

    6026 King John Member

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    Does anyone have any more information about the workings tomorrow:

    What is the charter train?

    Why are the Hymeks heading for Minehead when they don't appear to be scheduled to work any trains?

    Will the Hymeks run together or as a pair?

    So many questions...……..
     
  4. The charter train - it is not a charter from Network Rail. Sorry I have no more details.

    Hymeks heading (together) for the pit at Minehead.

    @Robin Moira White has already revealed the purpose of the other charter (using the Inspection Saloon).

    Lots to see.

    Hope this helps.

    As ever, all subject to change.

    Enjoy.

    Steve
     
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  5. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    I am not involved with the other charter (I am Saloon Guard) but I believe that is the QB.

    Robin
     
  6. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Member

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    About six miles.
     
  7. j&mkeynes

    j&mkeynes New Member

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    Interesting that there has been no answer to this fairly innocuous question. A new elephant in the room? I also note this question has been asked elsewhere on social media, and no answers have been forthcoming. I further note this morning that this question's appearance on some sites is not tolerated. A question asked yesterday on the MRLG website asking for an update has been removed overnight. One has to wonder....
     
  8. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    On the other hand, why does it seem - on this site at least - that the WSR is uniquely prone to this level of comment? Is this thread shaping perception, or reflecting an underlying reality? [Look at the threads for the other major heritage railways - the odd one or two posts now and again, whereas this thread quite often gets 30 or 40 a day. I wanted to look back to an interesting post made by @21B that I remembered from a week or so back: it was made 10 days ago, but is 16 pages back up thread, on page 945.].

    As has been alluded to by several "external" people on this thread, the challenges being faced by the WSR aren't unique: tough trading conditions, declining "bread and butter" traffic; struggles to renew infrastructure at the necessary rate; recruitment and retention of volunteers; a more overt regulatory environment; shortage of capacity to overhaul locos and rolling stock at a sustainable rate; the need to professionalise boards with directors having functional specialism and accountability in the key safety-critical functions, while maintaining democratic connection to the membership and so on - these are live issues across the sector, and are likely in some cases to make some volunteers uncomfortable, especially if they mean necessary changes from "how things have always been done".

    Most railways are facing those issues to some degree, without the debate descending to the level of acrimony sometimes exhibited here. So perhaps the critical thought is around having a degree of reflection from some about which "hares" they choose to respond to, and why. Very often, the standard pattern of conversation on this thread starts "we need to do X" and within half a dozen posts, the conversation has turned to the minutiae of what happened on boards years ago, rather than what might happen in the future. In the end, it doesn't matter whether it was Buggins or Boggins who can take the credit for being the first to notice a serious deficiency in the annual widget replacement rate: the critical question is what are you going to do about it. Reading this thread tends to give the impression that too many are more concerned with justifying their role in the battles of the past than thinking about the future.

    From which: the WSR has publicly stated it needs about £500k per year of additional investment - for years to come. So maybe rather than endlessly raking over whether particular boards in the past were too blasé about that gap, how about having a serious debate about what the actual plan is to raise that amount of money, year on year? Ultimately, that is going to take open engagement with your stakeholders (and yes, including through social media channels like Nat Pres); not trying to stifle the debate.

    Tom
     
  9. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    Tom,
    While I admire the sentiment in the last para's of your post is debate on social media going to fund the £500k per year you quite rightly say is needed. Genuine question as I would have thought the work required to get this funding would be done by small groups and by running targeted and focussed fund raising campaigns. I'd be interested to hear how the group of posters on this forum, or any social media platform, could be brought together to deliver the cash as opposed to expounding their views about how the cash should be delivered by others.
     
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  10. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    Tom whilst I agree with the general tenet of your posting there is time when one finds oneself
    between the devil and the deep blue sea.

    When someone persistently posts incorrect information and this supposed data is
    being used to belittle others does one keep quiety and give said information
    credibility or state the facts and receive opprobrium for harking over the past ?

    The WSR has I think a fairly simple to state challenge ie maximise revenue for
    2019 within the constraints of the published time table and fare structure.

    There are various small options being tested e.g. First class accommodation.
    It is such minor adjustments that can ensure the Railway passes into 2020
    in reasonable shape. I am sure I do not have to say to you that any extra/
    additional event/service should involve a minimum increased variable
    cost and generate additional net margin. It is this net margin (misleadingly
    referred to as profit by some) that covers the fixed costs ie salaries, rates,
    services etc.

    I think everybody agrees that to produce a significant sum for infrastructure
    work (particularly track work, including ballast, sleepers, bridges etc. ) will
    require more shaking of the begging bowl whether for further share purchases
    or cash donations.

    There is a big challenge ie whilst keeping the show on the road, increase
    fund raising activities and plan for 2020 e.g. A timetable reflecting
    today's passnger aspirations and when they prefer to travel. Seek
    events outwith our day to day timetable that offer oppurtunities to
    generate additional net margin. All this whilst keeping a tight grip on overheads.

    Challenging but doable. This we should support.

    Michael Rowe
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
  11. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Well-Known Member

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    Come on Michael please be fair. You referenced in your first post your comments toward other peoples poor performance as 'Revenue' so I used the revenue figure for the FS visit, you then switched to the Profit (as I called it) as you said £260k was after all costs. Then it’s Net Margin because there are overhead costs not included with your comment “all costs”. However my understanding of ‘Net Margin’ is that’s it’s shown as a percentage of profit against revenue not a monetary figure which is normally referenced as Profit, however maybe I’m wrong, perhaps we just use different words for the same thing.

    However through that conversation I was agreeing with you, you are correct as I recognise the revenue figure I used and the Profit or Net Margin if you prefer the word you used as both being accurate. I also agree with you that that was before the £260k left was as I was lead to believe spent on the track. So I’m not sure how I “persistently posts incorrect information”. If that’s the case we are both wrong.

    I think that we can agree that both Profit and Net Margin do need to increase and I agree with you about the other ways of turning the WSR around, but I would also say that External Fund Raising must be added to your list as a part of a ‘Healthy Balanced Diet’ for the WSR. I also agree that its 'do-able' I used the same word a number of posts ago

    Let’s agree to disagree and all get back to the future.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
  12. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    Or, as you could also phrase it, "it's not my fault Sir, he started it!"
     
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  13. mikechant

    mikechant New Member

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    Still no answer re the Taunton to BL service this year? I guess maybe discussions with GWR are ongoing behind the scenes?

    I'd just note that I'll be visiting as soon as this service is in place, even though I've already visisted recently.
     
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  14. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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  15. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    It's a fair question. As you say, a lot of the initial leg work to set up an appeal will be done by a relatively small group working mostly behind the scenes.

    But then what? Think of it from a potential donor's point of view. (And I am thinking here primarily about an individual making a donation, though I suspect grant-giving bodies have a rather similar thought process, just pursued with more formality).

    What would make me donate to any railway preservation project - or indeed, to any charitable body?
    • Firstly, you've got to show me that your objective is worthwhile and aligns with the kinds of things I wish to support.
    • Then you have to demonstrate that the plan is credible, including the fundraising plan.
    • Finally, you have to convince me that, given my financial support, there is the overall management capability and buy-in to deliver the project efficiently.
    So you have a marketing challenge, since you are trying to win my pound in competition with many other demands, including supporting other charitable endeavours. I would suggest that the portrayal of the railway on social media - both positive and negative - is critical to that support.

    Tom
     
  16. Matt78

    Matt78 Well-Known Member

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    The term “profit” is a somewhat abstract concept on a heritage railway. To my mind there is

    firstly event profit which is direct income over expenditure on a certain event. There is a somewhat famous comment on our railway “all our events are profitable but we make an overall loss”.

    event profit should really be termed “gross contribution” as whatever event expenditure exists then you have fixed costs whether or not you run any event. This would be insurance, staff wages , utilities and rates etc.

    Then there is the overall bottom line - did the railway cover costs for the year? Again somewhat abstract as a profit can be claimed without counting the cost of renewals, however this is a false economy as you are storing up problems for the future. Renewals and improvements can be covered by other revenue such as grants or legacies or donations, which are not directly related to operations.

    To be honest a set of accounts which showed a) break even and b) substantial investment in the future costs (loco hire fees set aside for overhaul ; p way renewals etc) and c) sufficient cash in the bank is a much stronger position than a “paper profit” with no investment and no cash set aside.

    Regards

    Matt
     
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  17. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    I see your point. We certainly need a positive image on social media.
    The points you have bolded are already know to those of us sitting in the back rooms.
    Grant gives have their own objectives and the worthiness of a project will not be the only criteria they use. Clearly as you indicate they also look at governance, delivery and realism when considering what to fund. Grant givers will often give a small grant to test capability in these areas as a prelude to a larger award.
    Back to the point about social media, why would those who claim to support something seek to trash it on social media? Surely you either join in the effort to help in some way or you remain silent? Again a genuine question, is there an expectation that those in charge should read and listen to the voices of social media. I ask as I heard it said about Brexit that a lot of people had posted on social media so saw no need to vote.
     
  18. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    I remain confused. You assure us that the WSRplc Chairman 'personally' prevented liquidation during the past winter, decry a 2018 Budget which you say was stuck with on a 'let's see if the passenger revenues' improve basis (which also involved ignoring your own personal recommendations) yet seem to be adopting a similar approach for 2019 by saying maximising Revenue and applying a few 'minor adjustments' will see the West Somerset Railway pass in 2010 in 'reasonable shape'. Sorry, none of that adds up, even before we consider the '£500,000 per annum' required to keep the Railway going.

    Again, we have all been there trying to 'trade out of it' but this can only be a partial answer at best. Major, once every few generations, renewals of infrastructure will never, realistically be met from Revenue and will always need rather more than 'shaking of the begging bowl ... for further share purses or cash donations'.

    If what you have said is really the official WSRplc approach, then I fear for the future of the Company.

    Large scale fundraising from a variety of sources is what is needed, including seeking major grants from a number of sources as well as individual donations to form an overall funding package. You may be able to stablise for a couple of years while it happens but some sort of major project like that which has just enjoyed success at the NYMR would seem an essential part of overcoming past underinvestment and securing the West Somerset Railway's physical well-being for the future.

    Thing is, that would probably require a level of 'one railway' co-operation and probably some structural change to achieve which one might conclude from some of what has been said here would be difficult for some to swallow, and hence they may be inclined to prefer smaller donations and share sales (effectively, possibly even more of a donation than an actual donation in some ways) because they see that as less threatening to their 'control' of the Railway. I hope that conclusion would be mistaken.

    Steven
     
  19. granmaree

    granmaree Member

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