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S&D Railway Trust and Washford Matters

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Andy Norman, Feb 24, 2020.

  1. jma1009

    jma1009 Well-Known Member

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    Some very pertinent posts today and yesterday

    If the WSR PLC start court proceedings to evict the SDRT from Washford on the basis of it's Notice to Quit under s.25 Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 Part 2, the SDRT could/would apply for a security for costs order requiring the WSR PLC to pay into Court an amount to cover the SDRT's costs in defending the case, given that the WSR PLC is technically insolvent at the current time or of dubious financial status.

    Those are the Court rules and have been pretty much unchanged for very many years.

    If the WSR PLC board - which is only a very small board - do not see sense over it's knee jerk reaction or fit of pique over the SDRT and Washford then it is in a lose lose situation. It will have to pay statutory compensation to the SDRT, and will be left with nothing at Washford; no track in the yard, no buildings in the yard and an empty station and signal box, IF, with a big proviso it follows this through. My own considered view is that the WSR PLC's Notice to Quit is invalid.

    Now, let us consider what the SDRT have done. They have maintained and restored Washford Station of themselves with no call or expense on the WSR PLC for some 45 years. They have an excellent Museum plus devotees of the S&D have long supported not just the SDRT but also the WSR, or just the WSR rather than the SDRT itself because the WSR is an evocation of what part of the S&D was in essence, and the WSR has encompassed this for some 45 years, and made some play on this link.

    The Washford site in the yard is an attraction in itself, plus the Museum and restored station and signal box, and at no cost whatsoever to the WSR PLC for the last 45 years.

    It is only just under 2 years ago that Ian Coleby as WSR PLC Chairman signed a new lease for the SDRT for Washford for a further 50 years.

    What happened last month was a kick in the teeth to the SDRT, with no warning whatsoever. No 'pre-action letter'. Nothing.

    The PDG needs to be urgently reconvened to consider all this.

    Cheers,

    Julian
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2020
  2. Steamage

    Steamage Well-Known Member

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    Good old West Somerset Railway, eh? Got themselves a front page headline and a 2-page spread for more nastiness between groups of enthusiasts.

    Who benefits? At first sight, no one. Obviously not the S&D Trust. Even if they get to stay, it will only be after prolonged stress and (probably) costs. The trust and good will may take many years to repair. How does the WSR plc benefit? I don't see how. They are strapped for cash. Kicking out a small but regular payer that also maintains a small part of the infrastructure for free and provides a small extra attraction is not going to bring them in any more cash. It will cost them cash. And by the way, besides handing over the Beer Festival money, the SDRT bought wagons from the PLC when the company was desperately selling off assets to provide a bit of ready cash. They may seem like small sums to the PLC but I bet they didn't look so small from the Trust's point-of-view.

    Why now? Even if there's a longer-term plan for something that will generate significant income (though there's no hint of such a plan), right now there's no cash to develop it. Now is not a good time to kick off new capital projects. Except - someone mentioned earlier that the current lease expires, and the new one starts, on 1st April this year. Maybe it will be much harder to get rid of SDRT later? [Edit: Sorry, this is a red herring! @mvpeters got his dates muddled. This is the real situation: "The S&DRT is almost into the third year of the legally-binding, cast-in-concrete & etched-in-stone 50-year lease signed by the Plc in April 2018."]

    The Steam Railway article quotes "a WSR volunteer, who wished not to be named" who describes a disagreement between SDRT and the plc over WSR ID cards and stock movements on the site, saying "don't forget the WSR has been under the ORR's spotlight". I'm slightly surprised no one has mentioned this already. You can understand why the PLC might be super-cautious about SMS problems and a lax operating culture. Or is this just a smear attempt? SDRT director Nigel Davis responded by asserting that the group abides by the PLC's SMS procedures.

    Whether or not there's good reasons for what the PLC is doing, the "optics" (as the Americans would put it) are appalingly bad. It looks like the aggressive PLC board is bullying a smaller, weaker group to give up their land after 45 years of hard work and loving care, for no discernable reason, and probably to the PLC's significant cost. That sort of thing always prompts conspiricy theories, and a high-profile character like JJP is cut out to be a target for such things.

    Although several people have said this isn't at all like the WSRA Ex6 fiasco, it sure looks like it!
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2020
  3. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    This bit is interesting. On the GWSR any affiliate groups like loco owning groups have to be GWSR volunteers to work on their locos at Toddington. And only qualified people who have regularly passed exams are allowed to act as shunter. And irrespective of who actually owns the track it is all operated by the GWSR and considered part of the railway, the same as any other siding or yard.
    If that isn't the case at Washford it sounds like yet another effect of the lack of "one railway" - you can belong to any number of organisations to work on the railway without having to belong to an overarching organisation that everyone working on the railway is part of.
     
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  4. mvpeters

    mvpeters Member

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    Steamage - That was me & I was in error! My apologies.
    The S&DRT is almost into the third year of the legally-binding, cast-in-concrete & etched-in-stone 50-year lease signed by the Plc in April 2018.

    The rest of your post is interesting. Perhaps it is the shunting up & down in Washford yard, that attracts so much attention from the public, that is one of the unspecified 'other concerns' behind the Plc letter. I would have thought that this could be easily addressed by amicable discussion.

    & in an earlier post, the Plc was reported as saying it could not guarantee the restoration costs for 88 - what are the legal & financial ramifications for that?
     
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  5. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    If, of course a genuine safety issue exists then that would be a much better pretext for ending the lease than the S&DRT being a 'Cuckoo in the nest' but with that statement the WSR has made its true motivation very clear
     
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  6. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I have a great affection for the WSR, going back to spending two summers camping above Watchet while my now wife did geology fieldwork on the beach between Watchet and Blue Anchor. It is a lovely branch, and the WSR employees and volunteers have done a superb job in getting it to where it is now.

    I find it a great shame that, for whatever reason, there is something in the culture that sets up confrontational relationships - especially when, as the working volunteers on here are keen to remind us, people on the ground work well together. It was sad and a shock to find that there were significant issues with the infrastructure and SMS, which led to the extended winter closure a year ago. I also recognise that, given the scale of those challenges, some tough and focused decisions had to be taken, and that they would not have endeared themselves to all. As someone said, to make an omelette, you have to break eggs.

    However, in amongst that, there is a persistent undercurrent of something very different. HR processes being withdrawn. Volunteers being squeezed out, for seemingly no good operational reason. Stepping back from engagement with external funders who could be of use to the railway. And now the manner of notice to the S&DRT. And, lest it be thought that I'm concerned about cost cutting alone, I also note that events like the spring gala continue to work on a high cost model, bringing in locomotives from afar.

    I do not know the past or present chair of the WSR plc, nor the past or present GM, and have no views on the personalities. Nor do my connections with the Minehead branch go much beyond an annual meander down the A358 and A39 with a trip added when time permits. But, taking the reporting on here including what has been said publically by the plc management in print, I see something that makes me very uncomfortable indeed.

    I note that the WSR plc - rightly IMHO - have pushed back on the attempts to get the Minehead branch reinstated as part of the national network, reiterating the reasons that have been debated on here many times. Yet from a distance, I am concerned that the behaviours and approach of the plc will be every bit as damaging to the future of the Minehead branch as a preserved railway as the MRLG's plans would be.

    These are topics, whatever the axes to grind of some on here (from both "pro" and "anti" sides, I suggest), that are genuinely worthy of discussion from people with an interest in the WSR.
     
  7. Steamage

    Steamage Well-Known Member

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    Thanks - I'll edit my post accordingly
     
  8. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I understand the emotion, and have at times wondered if that "pied piper" has allowed personal feelings at his treatment to become something more, and unjustified.

    However, I find it very interesting - and revealing - that the responses to his comments are generally vague and dismissive, and frequently quite partisan - as though people are having to choose one side or another. And perhaps they are. But that consistency of story, clearly articulated and argued, carries significant weight in my mind - and is itself consistent with what is happening about Washford. My emotion in this is stunned disbelief combined with grave disappointment. My reaction - "boycott" would be to put it far too strongly - is simply that this is a way of doing business that I can't be doing with, and doesn't deserve my support.

    The irony is that this is in the context of a site that has never done anything in particular for me, and where I have not been inclined to call in since my visit back in 1995. That's not a dig at the S&DRT, and their work, but a reflection on what appeals to and interests me - and is why I have not signed up with them as others have.
     
  9. Steamage

    Steamage Well-Known Member

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    The SDRT spokesman, quoted in SR, says they all have WSR ID cards and follow the saftey rules written for them by the company, so in that respect they are just like all other WSR workers. I presume that also means they follow they same programme of rules and competence re-tests as everyone else. If so, there should be no more problem with them moving stock around their "private sidings" than the coach restorers moving vehicles at Williton. Even if they're not sticking to the required good practices, there are better ways of dealing with the problem than sending solicitors' letters and calling the group "cuckoos in the nest" in press releases.
     
  10. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Thanks, that clears that up then, and completely agree on your last sentence.
     
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  11. MellishR

    MellishR Part of the furniture Friend

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    I have not seen a single post here from anyone indicating that they "have taken some pleasure from the current situation". All of us deeply regret what is going on; both the unavoidable issues including the backlog of infrastructure maintenance and the risk of reduced income because of the pandemic, and the toxic politics.
    As for the breaking of eggs; I don't think we have ever seen an entirely convincing explanation of why 4110 was sold away from the WSR despite the willingness of WSR-based volunteers to raise enough cash. Nor for the PLC wishing to evict the S&D Trust. Nor for the way notice to quit was given. And the cancellation of all HR policies cannot possibly be justified: some revision, perhaps, to take account of unforeseen circumstances, but not total cancellation.
     
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  12. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Resident of Nat Pres

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    A volunteer who did not want to be named, what a load of stirring nonsense from SR!!
     
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  13. The Dainton Banker

    The Dainton Banker Well-Known Member

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    You seem to have been especially privileged and one might wonder why ! However, it is pleasing to hear that there was such a compelling reason. What a pity that neither the PLC nor the Association executives felt able to share that "‘utterly convincing explanation" with their members/shareholders/volunteers or supporters, even at this late stage. Their handling of that situation left a bad taste but they appear as oblivious of the consequences as they are in their handling of the S&D Trust.
    I don't want to go over old ground again, and several highly experienced and respected posters on here have spelt out the issues better than I can, but, for the sake of everybody who cares about the WSR, the PLC Board needs to start communicating properly and explaining its actions.
     
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  14. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I've seen enough alluded to on here to have a view on what that "compelling reason" is which, taken with what @aldfort has said about responding to WSRA members direct rather than on NP, I'm inclined to respect. However, I have no sense of anything as "compelling" behind the Washford eviction, or the other concerning behaviours of the plc in the last 18 months or so.
     
  15. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Like a lot of things, one may not be happy about the way things are done, and there may be legitimate reasons for actions, but it seems to me that the situation with the S&DRT at Washford, in particular the wording of the press release clearly brings any doubts to a head. To call the trust 'A cuckoo in the nest' - publicly turns doubts into facts. I find it hard to see how any organisation that has any pretense to professionalism could have put such a statement into the public domain, simultaneously demeaning itself and undermining its own case.
     
  16. Kempenfelt 82e

    Kempenfelt 82e Member

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    Indeed! In the absence of any convincing explanation behind several recent decisions then it's not hard to see how speculation surrounding these actions can grow legs. Unless this is addressed as a matter of urgency then you'd be hard pressed to defend the suggestion that the removal of several privately owned loco's works to the advantage of justifying bringing in loco's which benefit those in a position of power, or that any potential buildings left behind (due to the significant cost of removal) at Washford would make ideal additional loco accommodation that the WSR could make use of.

    I suggest that the PLC needs to provide a clearly defined justification, at the very least to their shareholders but ideally publicly, to explain their actions or it will continue to face reputational damage which could otherwise be avoided. It would also be beneficial to explain why notice was served without any prior warning or notice, the expected route would be to formally raise attention to any issues and a time period given to rectify or advise that measures may be escalated.

    I have had many enjoyable trips to both the WSR and S&DRT and do not want to see either fail, however unless the WSR PLC a.tively seek to repair their public relations then I cannot continue to support such an organisation in its current form and I do not believe the number of other people feeling this way is immaterial,
     
  17. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Please can anybody then come up with a justification for removing the S&DRT from Washford, in particular can it address the financial impact on the PLC of a court case to do so, bearing in mind the potential costs were it to lose.

    I would suggest that the response needs to cover the wording in the PLC's press release.
     
  18. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    So enlighten us all with the facts that show why it is necessary to kick out the S&D and why they are 'cuckoos in the nest'?
     
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  19. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    Or perhaps more aptly this, seen at last year's August Rally :) DSCN5128.JPG

    Better go this year, it may be your last chance to see it on the WSR !
     
  20. Keith Sims

    Keith Sims Member

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    That's exactly why I would encourage everyone who disagrees with the plc's actions or press statements to write to the board members at Minehead and express your concern, only then might they take notice, no amount of vitriol and speculation on this thread will make any difference.
     

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