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West Somerset Railway - Removal of the PLC Chairman and related matters

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by rodders154, Aug 14, 2018.

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  1. Aberdare

    Aberdare Member

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    Information dissemination.

    The WSR appears to be unique in having so many public arguments, many on this web site, about it's internal affairs. I suspect other organisations also have their internal squabbles but probably to a far lesser degree and possibly they are handled differently. I admire the quality and flow of information that is available about most heritage railways, and what they are doing in the various aspects of their work, great and small. Unfortunately as organisations corporate the WSR plc and the WSRA are both rather poor at keeping the public, customers, benefactors, well wishers, volunteers, paid staff and other stakeholders informed about what is going on, future plans, progress, events, etc, etc.

    A current example of evidence of this is the information from the Board that the financial situation is not good, and a conflicting statement from Frank Courtney that there are no financial difficulties. I rather suspect that the former is nearer the truth but no factual or official corporate statement has been forthcoming as to the extent of the problem since June.

    [Of course the WSR family has one excellent independent publicity organisation (or one man band) in the form of WSR.org.uk which as far as I am aware has no parallel on any other railway. So I definitely exclude Steve's work at WSR.org from my criticism.]

    Perhaps the overriding reason why the dirty washing is aired in public is the total (and I mean total) lack of up to date news, from the WSRplc especially. A quick look at "Stakeholder news" on the WSRplc web site www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/news/category/stakeholder-news shows absolutely nothing. Even "news all categories" has very little when one would expect something new every day. The WSRA is only marginally better, has not the WSRA's own locomotive 7821 recently moved to the shopping centre at Swindon, or perhaps they are unaware of this?

    Is it because of this that interested parties seeking news have to resort to this and other communication mediums?

    Is it because when no factual and clearly explained news is forthcoming some have to do their best to interpret what little they know?

    Worst of all is the use of non-official media or forums by senior management to enter into discussions which may or may not be company policy or official statements.

    To end on a good note, the WSR is a wonderful railway which few others can challenge. The hard pressed paid staff and multitude of volunteers do an excellent job, often in difficult circumstances, despite the issues at senior management level, our customers are rarely disappointed and mostly full of praise.

    Long may it last.

    Andy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2018
  2. huochemi

    huochemi Member Friend

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    That sounds remarkably like the much maligned "Ex-6" script! Four legs good, two legs better? :eek:
     
  3. Barrie the Beer

    Barrie the Beer Well-Known Member

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    Trying to work out which comments are, or are not, company policy has proved quite impossible. I, for example, had assumed relevant comments on the 'Chairman's Blog' were indeed 'official'. With hindsight this has proved to not always be the case. Initially I welcomed such an initiative, presumably designed to improve communications, but now I'm not so sure. Communication must be clear and accurate, if it is to be communicated in the first place.

    Blank pages on the official website, and the links to them, should be removed if the information they are intended to convey is not going to be released. Retaining such pages does nothing to enhance the company's image:
    https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/director-profiles
    https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/terms-of-reference
    https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/privacy-policy
    https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/corporate-plan

    Likewise ending on a good note, Dee and I had a lovely rare day out on the WSR today, travelling with Braunton in both directions. I can confirm the passenger experience is as good as ever and there was absolutely no suggestion of a volunteer strike about to occur!

    We've never noticed the wild hops growing lineside between Williton and Teddy Bear Crossing before (North side). Always something new to see.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2018
  4. JayDee

    JayDee Member

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    On a £3m turnover the line made a £12k profit.

    Or a profit of 0.4%.

    Most companies would be issuing a profit warning in that situation, I suspect.

    I've ridden this line a few times and seen the line out of season. It saddens me to see all this instability going on right when the railway can truly and utterly ill afford it.
     
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  5. ikcdab

    ikcdab Member

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    I am unwilling to post publically on here whilst a member of the PLC board. However I am always willing to engage with anyone who wishes to contact me. My official email is Ian.coleby (@) wsrail.net.

    Ian Coleby
     
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  6. MellishR

    MellishR Well-Known Member Friend

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    Please explain. How does a demand from the WSRA Trustees for the removal of two PLC directors (who might or might not have been on the Board as representatives of the WSRA) prevent other unspecified persons from getting onto the Board and doing terrible things?
     
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  7. jma1009

    jma1009 Member

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    I agree with MellishR.

    And what was "elegant" about the WSRA motion to remove Rodney and Frank?

    It wasn't "elegant"; it was brutal in it's effect for Frank and Rodney.

    Ian, Frank, and Rodney are still members of the WSR PLC board.

    Next news... Messrs Whitehouse and White get co-opted to the WSR PLC board as further co-opted board members as the new WSRA reps on the PLC board!

    Cheers,

    Julian
     
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  8. lochness8

    lochness8 Member

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    Much of the criticism on here in recent days has been directed, rather unfairly I feel, at the WSRA - but they have at least provided an explanation for their actions.

    However people need to not lose sight of the strange events that have occurred and keep asking the obvious questions:

    1) Why did Frank Courtney resign from the PLC before the AGM, only to seek co-option again afterwards? Nothing had materially changed in the intervening period, with respect to the composition of the board, so why would you do that?

    2) Why exactly was Ian Coleby deposed? And why has there been zero, and I mean ZERO formal explanation from the board of the PLC as to why such drastic action was necessary?

    3) Are the outcomes above the product of competent and trustworthy individuals who are fit to serve on a board?

    Despite all the speculation on here, we are still none the wiser on these points.
     
  9. lochness8

    lochness8 Member

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    To be fair, videos and photos of 7821’s move were posted on the WSRA’s Facebook page on the day, which has several hundred followers I believe. But I do accept that not everybody moves in that particular social media sphere and unfortunately there was nothing on the WSRA’s normal website.
     
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  10. 1472

    1472 Well-Known Member

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    Talk of "profit" in the usual sense in this context is nonsense. We are not talking about the distribution of dividends - we do though need to be talking about a positive surplus being generated for reinvestment in the railway. Whilst financial results covering one years trading are necessary they are of passing relevance when compared to the short, medium and long term financial needs of the railway and the plan to ensure that such expenditure can be met at the right time.
     
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  11. Colin Allcars

    Colin Allcars Member

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    In the last 17 days this thread has generated 29 pages of hot air, speculation and innuendo and we are still nowhere near what has happened and why. I love the WSR and this public demonstration of discord saddens me, especially when there is so much to be done.

    To those posters here, directly involved, please go back to your boards and SORT IT OUT, and be open about it.

    To other posters with agendas and axes to grind, unless you have something constructive to say, keep it to yourself.

    To an outsider, sackings are bad, but this public demonstration of internal politics is even more disturbing.

    Enough is enough. The ASG is nearly here. May I suggest a day rover or three, and just enjoy the railway?
     
  12. DragonHandler

    DragonHandler Well-Known Member

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    It seems to me that the lack of answers to these questions, especially Q2, is the direct cause of the 29 pages of speculation and debate that we have.
    It also seems to me that those 29 pages are not helpful to the reputation of either the WSRplc or WSRA boards and could actually be seen as potentially damaging to the public image of the railway.
    I also think that had the WSRplc board answered Q2 when the situation arose this whole topic thread would not have existed, or if it did it would have died out after a few postings, and the whole incident would, for most people, have passed into WSR history.
     
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  13. DragonHandler

    DragonHandler Well-Known Member

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    That is exactly what I intend to do, and I also plan to be at the 1940's weekend as well.
    (I love the WSR, I guess I must do to even consider making two 300 mile round trips within 10 days :))
     
  14. daveb

    daveb Member

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    The one thing that had changed was that, in the intervening period, the WSRA AGM took place and Frank became a WSRA Trustee. Did he resign from the PLC board because he thought he would not be elected as a Trustee by the WSRA membership whilst also a PLC Director?
     
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  15. lochness8

    lochness8 Member

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    No doubt you are right. But what is the alternative? I think I speak not only for myself but for other Shareholders, Members, Volunteers and Stakeholders when I say that all we want is accountability. We want those who have taken or been involved in the recent actions to explain what has happened and to be accountable for the damage it has done and the uncertain state it has now left the railway in.

    Now the WSRA have been good enough to provide an explanation to their part in this drama, whether or not people agree with the action taken is another matter. Now it is Frank Courtney and the PLC’s turn. The longer the silence continues, the worse this gets.

    I submit that some of us are not content to sweep this under the carpet and ‘just move on’, as some would have it.
     
  16. Colin Allcars

    Colin Allcars Member

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    Precisely. The WSR cannot move on to more pressing matters unless this is dealt with.

    We need this affair sorted out by those directly involved AND we need the relevant parties to be open about what happened AND most definitely for this not to be swept under the carpet and cracks papered over.
     
  17. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member

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  18. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    Steven I agree that the WSRA was conceived as a support organization to the WSR and therefore the plc, but don't you think, with your considerable experience elsewhere, they could have done much more to fulfill that role in recent years?

    I keep hearing this 'one railway' concept being quoted so raise the question as to how the WSRA has tangibly managed to Support the Railway in recent years? In what way have they made a notable contribution? They actually cost the plc money with their occupation of Williton and Lydeard and have been a considerable distraction for some now. This cannot be addressed by two Chairmen getting on well and cannot achieve anything unless Both Boards Work Well and Co-ordinate strategies Together in Complete Harmony. I suggest that recent events have done little to foster that requirement!

    I believe it is time that the WSRA knuckles down and do something significant to contribute because the WSR could easily exist without them and I do not want to see that happen
     
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  19. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    One thing that springs to mind is that: nowhere else ever has to continually repeat the mantra that they are One Railway. The fact that it seems necessary in West Somerset to continually repeat it is itself not a sign of a healthy organisation.
     
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  20. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Well-Known Member

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    Andy, yes we have a wonderful Railway.

    Yesterday I drove into a full car park. I found the last spot, at the absolute far end by the entrance to Glendale
    Road. It would have been quicker, by the time I collected my pass to have parked in the town.

    On entering the station, in front of me was a Bulleid light Pacific simmering at the water tower and
    beside it two Manor 4-6-0s, resting in front of the Shed. For one who as a 28 year old witnessed the
    'demise'of BR steam in 1967/8 such a sight is still miraculous; to have envisaged such a possibility
    in 1967 would have been dismissed as 'up with the fairies'.

    But the costs of maintaining such is growing (almost exponentially). The Heritage Railway movement,
    not just the WSR is going through stresses and strains. I am afraid there are some tough Commercial
    decisions to be made. (It is hard for an unreconstructed anorak to recognise that steam may have to be
    rationed. More use may perhaps be made of diesel locos; especially DMUs and where feasible
    purely commercial services run, not just on the WSR but throughout the Railway Heritage World.)

    I note your comment re financial information. The Plc annual reports show a decline in cash held
    at year end from c.£1,000,000 to £250, 000 over a three year period. A major cause of concern,
    but the Plc based on my understanding of current pax revenue is trading positively. The Plc is not
    about to 'belly-up' but the trends are worrying and cash management through the 2019 Winter months
    will I suspect be even more challenging than normal.

    Michael Rowe
     
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