1. If you register, you can do a lot more. And become an active part of our growing community. You'll have access to hidden forums, and enjoy the ability of replying and starting conversations.

West Somerset Railway developments

Discussion in 'Heritage railways & Centres in the Uk' started by gwr4090, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Trident63

    Trident63 New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2013
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    14
    Occupation:
    Yes
    Location:
    Some where in the Bristol Channel...
    I agree with Macko's comments - very nasty, very sticky. Plus, what Sidmouth left off/couldn't include in his post was that the key statement re the LRO is highlighted in BOLD on the WSR plc's website - its like a two fingered Harvey Smith-esque salute. Pathetic!

    What the WSR plc seem to have forgotten, is that SCC bought the land originally to turn it into a dual-carriageway for improved access to Minehead, and to stop developers turning Minehead station into another Tesco et al. So what happens if WSR plc gets into trouble in the future, or goes under? The Administrators won't give a so and so re the LRO, they'll just sell to the highest bidder. Hence why the WSRA in their statements re the land have said openly that they would insert a clause in their statute to hand the land instantly back to SCC, which a charity can do over a plc. There are technical legal problems with either side winning the bidding war.

    There is still a long, long way to go re this, but personally what is most worrying is not the land sale (which will occur, possibly to a third party), but the obviously quickly de-gradating relationship between the two bodies.
     
    Macko likes this.
  2. philw2

    philw2 Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2011
    Messages:
    287
    Likes Received:
    31
    Wouldn't future administrators have to seek an abandonment order from the DoT to nullify the TWO so they could sell it on to developers? If there was much objection to this, they would have to offer it as a railway..
     
  3. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Messages:
    6,212
    Likes Received:
    2,994
    Location:
    21C102
    Also, presumably the relevant local planning authorities (i.e. the District Councils) would have clauses in their local plans protecting the land as a rail route, which in the event of any hypothetical future bankruptcy by the owner, would make it harder to sell for any use other than as a rail route.

    Tom
     
    philw2 likes this.
  4. Trident63

    Trident63 New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2013
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    14
    Occupation:
    Yes
    Location:
    Some where in the Bristol Channel...
    Chop-off Minehead station for redevelopment (the largest property asset in the whole package), then get a pre-sale done to Barratt's et al to put 100 new chicken coops at Norton Fitzwarren and/or Bishops Lydeard (the only other part that could be developed), and finally give the rest (95% of the entire length) away as a railway - all LRO problems solved for any administrator/developer. There are no plans or agreements that can protect the land as a railway (that's Act's of Parliament level legal protection, and as they didn't exist post-closure that's why SCC bought it in the first place. Without that any developer could argue their case upto the Home Secretary), so its really which set of legal barriers can be best overcome to give the seller SCC what they want/best value
     
  5. Fred Kerr

    Fred Kerr Well-Known Member Friend

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2006
    Messages:
    3,620
    Likes Received:
    400
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Freelance photo - journalist
    Location:
    Southport

    It appears from this statement - and reading between the lines - that both parties (WSR / WSRA) are at loggerheads because of differences of view asto how the future of the line should be secured. Whilst not entirely relevant the heavy snow storms of the 1970s cut off many communities within the line's catchment area and it was only the railway that was able to keep the transport going - including distribution of food supplies to the more isolated areas. This made SCC appreciate the value of the railway to the community - notwithstanding its importance in attracting visitors and income to the area - and Somerset CC has got to be very careful about whom it sells to in order to protect its own interests of maintaining transport links.
     
  6. rodders154

    rodders154 Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2005
    Messages:
    378
    Likes Received:
    172
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Yeovil
    There is a site for the volunteers who hold a WSR staff id card to regester their support for the PLC bid at www.wsror.com

    This is a site set up by volunteers and is in no way affiliated to the WSR PLC. We believe that the only way forward is to support the PLC bid. The SCC has put out a document http://www1.somerset.gov.uk/council...f proposed West Somerset Railway decision.pdf that states
    on page 4 that the LRO cannot be transferred and a new one cannot be issued until the freehold has been transferred. This is a document that is independent of the WSRA or the PLC. It states that the council has had discussions with the ORR so I cannot see how this information cannot factual. It is to be noted that as yet the WSRA have yet to comment although it has been nearly a week since the PLC statement.

    Rodders
     
  7. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2013
    Messages:
    2,012
    Likes Received:
    573
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    C+W volunteer @ Winchcombe, GWSR
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Forgive the sudden intrusion by an ignorant soul, but why exactly are the WSRA putting a bid in for the trackbed if it causes considerable disruption to their railway? it seems fairly common sense that the plc own it, as they have all the rights. Not being "in" on these things, I have very little idea about relations between the WSRA and the plc other than they're not great, but surely they both want a railway to run? It seems utter madness to me...
     
  8. West Somerset Wizard

    West Somerset Wizard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Messages:
    2,490
    Likes Received:
    255
    Occupation:
    Cartographer
    Location:
    200 miles from Somerset
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Buying the freehold is the perfect way for the WSRA to give the very best support for the railway by owning the very land and structures on which it is able to operate (the charitable status of the WSRA limits the financial support it can give to the Plc) Ownership of the freehold provides the best possible security for the railway, and the Plc, to build upon. Ownership of the freehold by the WSRA does not create any issues whatsoever for the Plc who will continue to run it as they always have. Some people are making a very big thing of the LRO transfer but no-one has given any evidence that a smooth transfer cannot be effected. We know from the SCC statement that no disruption to the service will be allowed during the transfer of ownership. The recent scaremongering over this is nothing short of disgraceful

    Anyone who takes an interest in the WSR will note the need for loadsamoney for loadsaprojects. If the Plc have enough spare cash for the freehold then how come the Plc, and other groups along the line, are so desperate for money for maintenance and improvements? The clear answer to me is to support the WSRA's freehold bid and thus release all that money for the outstanding works.

    If folks wish to support the Plc's bid, then fine. But I'd rather not have all the eggs in one basket and everything controlled by an unelected board. "One railway" will indeed be what it will become - a railway run entirely under the control of one body.

    Those reading message #506 should note that that initiative has been set up by some volunteers and note there is no group on the WSR who represents volunteers. Also, it is quite wrong to state that the WSRA have made no statement "since the Plc statement". Anyone closely watching will have noted the WSRA Chairman's comment in the West Somerset Free Press "WSRA chairman David Williams said he did not want to comment on the sale at this time, preferring not to expand on the council’s statement." which seems a perfectly mature stance given the detailed discussions under way.

    My comments above are purely my personal take on matters.

    Steve
    WSR volunteer since 1977
     
    jnc and Premier.Prairie like this.
  9. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2013
    Messages:
    2,012
    Likes Received:
    573
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    C+W volunteer @ Winchcombe, GWSR
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Thanks Steve, having only glanced at this thread I was a little unsure of the position. It seems a bit odd that there is no one representing volunteers, I assumed that was what the trust did, comparing it to the gwsr the trust is the charity which recruits volunteers. the trust then supplies them to the plc who make the money etc. Is this not how the trust works then? what organisation are volunteers members of then, a (multiple - eg each loco owning group) third party? thanks for summing things up, I'm trying to build up a picture in my head of the position here from very little knowledge, out of personal curiosity and don't really want to read through the past 27 pages etc.
     
  10. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Messages:
    6,212
    Likes Received:
    2,994
    Location:
    21C102

    FS123 - we had a thread a year or two ago about different ownership models in Heritage Railways. Suffice to say, there are many different models in which the operational and financial control of the assets can be achieved. Those different models have different pros and cons when it comes to taxation (around VAT and Gift Aid, to name but two); the level of risk that charitable bodies can assume, the level of democratic oversight (and democracy's awkward bedfellow, the ability to "JFDI"!) etc etc. To take a few examples, the Bluebell, SVR, WSR and KESR all have very different structural models that could all be seen as different solutions to the same problem (how best to structure a heritage railway) but which have all grown up because of different starting points and motivations. There certainly isn't a "one size fits all" solution.

    Coming off the fence: I can see significant problems if the WSR plc assume total control, effectively disenfranchising the membership body - not least because, as Steve alludes to, it cuts you off from a long-term significant source of external fundraising. Which would require the plc to be able to stand on its own two feet financially in the long term - which I am not sure any heritage railway can really achieve, certainly not one that is 20 miles long with ten stations and all the associated bridges etc.

    Tom
     
    jnc likes this.
  11. West Somerset Wizard

    West Somerset Wizard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Messages:
    2,490
    Likes Received:
    255
    Occupation:
    Cartographer
    Location:
    200 miles from Somerset
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    The WSRA used to recruit volunteers but for a few years now, that role has been undertaken by the Plc who wish to control all activities, rightly or wrongly.

    It has never been mandatory for WSR volunteers to belong to the WSRA or any other organisation (that said, volunteers who actually work on the line will require a staff id which is, properly, administered by the operating authority, the Plc). This arrangement may seem odd but it stems from the beginning of the moves to reopen the line in the early 1970s as a public service (supported by a limited summer steam service). In those early days almost all volunteers joined the WSRA. Many still do of course. History shows how that initial vision changed.

    I believe the Plc has recognised that, with today's heavily regulated railways, they needed to have more control over the management of activities. I don't disagree with that idea at all. Sadly it has chosen to remove any involvement of the WSRA from the Plc's management structure and the Plc has embarked on its "one railway" mission which is not so much a "united nations" but more a "single member security council". The draft Plc's ten year plan pays scant regard to the aspirations of the other organisations on the line, quite alien to what you'd think "one railway" as an all-embracing mission.

    If I may say a little more about the WSRA. It has moved (or has been moved) from a position of providing management and supply of volunteers for almost all WSR departments to a limited role (but the remaining activities generate considerable revenue for the Plc). I believe if the WSRA gets the freehold (or even if not) it should negotiate new arrangements for many of these remaining activities, some of which should transfer to the Plc. The WSRA is not for competing with the Plc, it merely wishes to support the Plc. It would seem the Plc have no desire of support from the WSRA.

    Again, the above is just my personal take.

    Steve
     
    jnc likes this.
  12. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2013
    Messages:
    2,012
    Likes Received:
    573
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    C+W volunteer @ Winchcombe, GWSR
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Thanks for that summary, I understand the situation a little more. I was aware railways were structured differently, just not how.
     
  13. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Well-Known Member Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2005
    Messages:
    5,959
    Likes Received:
    360
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Alderan !
    The issue is that the PLC and WSRA seem to be at loggerheads with both sides playing political games. Did the WSRA not go behind the plc's back to acquire the freehold ? Given that I am led to understand a further lease extension to 2135 was on the table why the line should wish to acquire the freehold of a trackbed full of quite frightening liabilities (Watchet ! and coastal erosion) is slightly beyond me . Whilst normally I'd advocate a line being master of its own destiny in this instance it maybe the one occasion Council ownership offers a benefit
     
  14. West Somerset Wizard

    West Somerset Wizard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Messages:
    2,490
    Likes Received:
    255
    Occupation:
    Cartographer
    Location:
    200 miles from Somerset
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    The answer to your first question is it depends who you believe!

    The answer to your second point is that the Council seem hell bent on selling it - and I'd rather it was is the care of a trusted, long serving supporter of the railway.

    Steve
     
  15. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2006
    Messages:
    1,802
    Likes Received:
    92
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Gentleman
    Location:
    1029
    That assumes that the council would fund those liabilities - given the cuts that local authorities are currently facing together with demographic issues and the costs of caring for an increasing number of elderly people, I'd suggest that they would have little/no money for WSR liabilities in the future - that's why they're very happy to have 2 groups competing to give them cash to relieve them of their liabilities
     
  16. 1472

    1472 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2008
    Messages:
    751
    Likes Received:
    136
    Well over 100 working members have signed in support of PLC acquisition - 2 days after the poll started & including some pretty prominent names.
     
  17. West Somerset Wizard

    West Somerset Wizard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Messages:
    2,490
    Likes Received:
    255
    Occupation:
    Cartographer
    Location:
    200 miles from Somerset
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Yes that's true. And many of my chums are on that list. But I'm sure not one of them will let this matter break that friendship or break the spirit of the all the people who support the railway and help make it the fab place it is.

    Steve
     
    rodders154 likes this.
  18. Greenway

    Greenway Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2008
    Messages:
    378
    Likes Received:
    143
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    South Hams
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    If the WSRA exists to support the Plc. why are they undermining the company in their wish to own the right of way?
    If the reported, here, 100 working members are fully supportive of the Plc. surely that says that those who are actually involved with the 'hands on' support of the railway that seems to be an important factor in the debate.
     
  19. Steve

    Steve Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2006
    Messages:
    6,058
    Likes Received:
    612
    Occupation:
    Gentleman of leisure, nowadays
    Location:
    Near Leeds
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    I don't know the intricacies of the WSR set-up and the inter-relationships but I can imagine the outcry if the NYMR plc decided to ignore the NYMR Trust and go its own way, which is what seems to be happening down in Somerset. Who actually owns WSR plc?
     
  20. West Somerset Wizard

    West Somerset Wizard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Messages:
    2,490
    Likes Received:
    255
    Occupation:
    Cartographer
    Location:
    200 miles from Somerset
    Heritage Railway Volunteer:
    Yes I am an active volunteer
    Fair question. Just because the Plc wish to do something does not make support automatic. It has to be the right thing to do for the good of the railway.

    The Plc has a long list of projects needing cash. The WSRA is limited, by charity law, in the way that it can help the Plc financially. I reckon the WSRA's purchase of the freehold can really support the Plc because the Plc will be able to use the monies that they clearly have at their disposal for the freehold, for other priority projects which are currently on hold due to lack of cash.

    Whereas the WSRA can invest in the future of the railway and secure the railway for the Plc as well as the local community and beyond.

    The railway is not just the Plc and if the WSRA get the freehold it will secure the future for all WSR supporters.

    If I may comment on your last point, there may well be many working members who support the Plc. That is their choice. Other working members have a different view. But none of the working members (and I'm one of them) can settle this one.

    Steve
     
    jnc likes this.

Share This Page