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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. RichardBrum

    RichardBrum Member

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    The problem is the timing;

    WSRA sold stuff to the plc by the 9/12/2019

    13/3/2020, the plc were planning to run services as normal
    17/3/2020, postpones first services

    31/3/2020, the plc are holding £100k pending the acquisition of shop & cafe (but dated 1/6/20, so actually written at some point in May (?))


    So there's 3 months when the plc could/should(?) have been making payment.
    If the plc found themselves unable to make the payment, then they should have informed the WSRA & negotiated with them at the point in time when they knew that.



    (edit to add)
    https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/news/detail/news-from-the-board-room
    Published: 16th February 2020
    " Arrangements for the transfer of Bishops Lydeard Shop to the Company are complete. Transfer of the Swindon Shed back to the Company is also underway."
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
  2. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Nothing to be proved wrong about. I think I have written a version of what follows at least 3 times previously on Nat Pres. N.B., what follows is not a comment on the present position or a current case on the WSR or anywhere else.

    Volunteers are neither 'employees' or 'workers' - the two categories protected by employment law. I acted in one of a number of cases which demonstrated that, relating to volunteer advisors at a Citizen's Advice Bureau who were being badly treated by their manager.

    Long, long ago, when I was an ex-BR manager (well trained on employment process by BR) and a law student, I worked with Mark Smith (then WSR MD) to write the WSR plc procedures. Our starting point was that volunteers should be treated at least as favourably as employees should they get into 'trouble' and should have at least as effective a grievance procedure available to them. There are plainly differences in that a volunteer isnt at risk of losing their livlihood and a period of suspension for a 3-4 days a week volunteer is clearly different for a 1-day a month-er. However, if an engine crew does something stupid, it shouldnt matter which of the driver and firemen are employees or volunteers when it comes to the process they are exposed to.

    It is important for 'management' to be seen to follow fair process no matter who is being dealt with, no matter how clear the facts seem or how junior (or senior or influential) the person under the magifying glass is.

    A fair process, run by someone able to maintain a degree of distance, fairness and objectivity, reduces the chances of bad / hasty decisions (on either side) and allows time for mature reflection. Matters are rarely 'black and white'.

    The rules of 'natural justice' are important. (Homework: look them up if you arent clear what they are - there are 3.) And asking 'how would I like to be treated?' is a useful lode star if you are running a process.

    Since the far off days when I worked through this with Mark S, I have advised hundreds of times in the heritage railway world on internal processes. I have supported organisations to follow a fair procedure and individuals to be treated fairly (or 'fess up when they have screwed up - usually the route to merciful treatment) and my advice has always been along the lines above.

    Good advice, of course, isnt always followed...

    Robin
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
  3. D1039

    D1039 Well-Known Member

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    All noted. The WSRA is reporting the transfer (sale and purchase?) went through in stages, although not complete at 16/2/20. It has said the money was due in February.

    The PLC however reports at 31/3/20 holding £100k pending the acquisition of shop & cafe and at 1/6/20 the sale "was never concluded within a normal commercial agreement". It'll be interesting what the accounts say when published some months hence. I'm not sure if the PLC is saying the sale was not completed and so the money wasn't due before 31/3/20, or at 1/6/20, or something else. I'm not the first person to say the 'clarification' isn't one.

    Notwithstanding, the PLC has admitted an obligation for the money at 1/6/20, whenever it was in fact due.

    Patrick
     
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  4. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    If it is a simple as that related in the previous post, then why did the WSRA have to make a Serious Incident Report to The Charity Commission?
     
  5. simon

    simon Part of the furniture

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    There is no reason to suppose otherwise until that time.
     
  6. D1039

    D1039 Well-Known Member

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    Simple it isn't! There are discrepancies (see #26399)

    The WSRA thread of events is fairly straightforward, a debt due in February for transferred assets is unpaid and unsecured and accordingly they must notify the Commission.

    The PLC acknowledges the obligation but (a) it casts doubt on the completion of the transfer agreement and (b) its timings are different.

    Patrick
     
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  7. twr12

    twr12 Member

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    I wonder what the man on the Clapham Omnibus would make of the latest in the WSR saga?
     
  8. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    Agreed - give to the plc, and they could use the money on legal costs of evicting the S&DRT, which puts me off donating or buying more shares.
     
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  9. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    I would guess not much, he, or she would have far more important, to them matters to contend with, such as, What do I have for tea tonight, or, damn, I'm going to be late , unless they just happen to be interested in the heritage railway sector , I doubt they would have even heard of the West Somerset Railway, Unless its found its way onto the pages of the metro.
     
  10. Bayard

    Bayard Well-Known Member

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    Well quite, but it was the Plc who equated cash leaving the business (the Plc) with cash leaving the railway (the WSR).
     
  11. nine elms fan

    nine elms fan Member

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    In those old days it would most likely be wheres Somerset!
     
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  12. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    Maybe one of the commercial tv production companies could make it into a soap opera - it has many of the hallmarks of one. I would read a wider audience. :D
     
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  13. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    And to be bluntly Honest, donating any funds, unless they are ring fenced for any particular project, could be used by the PLC to evict any group they consider to be troublesome , even one of the support charities have to be careful, as donating funds in exchange for shares, unless there are strings attached, could if its general funds, could be used in what ever way the plc ,or more to the point , the chairman so wished, i would say that in return for the WSRA / WSSRT bailing out the PLC, the strings should be that the Chairman step down, and a new chairman , who is seen as being a steady hand take over, that 3 new directors are elected to the board, or are appointed from the two organisations, the eviction is rescinded and talks start to address the problems, the PLC, will have to publicly apologise to those who the previous chairman offended, and rescind all membership removals, , than and only then, can the talks to have a new company and single supporting group start.
    That is the only way the railway can be saved, the chairman, as being the head of the board has to fall on his sword, and new people appointed, its either that or await the inevitable crash, as the WSR hits the buffers, and hope something can be salvaged after the vultures have picked it clean, the company appears to have used much of the stock it owns, as collateral to the banks to secure loans so any new start up will have to be from a very low base, most likily with no company owned loco's, only stock that isn't owned by the PLC.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
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  14. Miff

    Miff Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure I can't be the only contributor here who occasionally posts from the top deck of the no. 88
     
  15. D1039

    D1039 Well-Known Member

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    S&D No 88? ;-)

    Patrick
     
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  16. mvpeters

    mvpeters Member

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    .... or the lower deck of the no. 28, presumably!

    It is hard to tell by the way the various statements are written.
    Am I right in thinking that the BL shop & stock, cafe & maybe the Swindon Shed have been transferred to & are now 'owned' or controlled by the Plc?
    But not paid for?
     
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  17. Romsey

    Romsey Member

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    Then combine with this concept ....
    https://xkcd.com/1945/

    Cheers, Neil
     
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  18. acourtrail

    acourtrail New Member

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    To sum things up for people who don't have the time to read through 1321 pages of posts.

    There are two factions at the WSR, the PLC and the WSRA, and they have never got on and never will. This has dragged both volunteers at the railway as well as people on here into taking sides and bickering over it non stop. Due to the sides not getting on - the railway has been mis-managed and has ended up in the mire. A new man (JJP) has been put in charge with the job of bringing the railway back from the abyss. Due to the job JJP has to do - he has to put his neck out and make executive decisions (whether they are good or bad decisions, I will reserve judgement) in order to try and save the railway. The problem is that a lot of people on here and at the railway are hell bent on stopping him doing his job (one of the big issues is that the S&D people are being kicked out of Washford, IMHO there must be a good reason (but what reason I don't know) for JJP doing this, I highly doubt he would do it for the sake of doing it).

    IMHO - constant bickering on here isn't going to solve the problem. People with issues with how the WSR is run need to actually take action rather than simply argue on here like a broken record. The people with the issues have three practical options IMHO. They can either:-

    Support another railway where things are done more to their liking. If the WSR is really that bad, why waste their time with it, there are plenty of other railways.

    Put their money where their mouths are, take control of the railway and fix the mess (assuming that they can actually put things right).

    Put up and shut up. Constant arguing on here isn't going to get anyone anywhere positive. It just gets monotonous reading the same arguments day in day out with nothing actually being done to sort out the problems.

    The ironic thing is that the WSR is toast anyway. People are failing to see the elephant in the room. That is that the passengers are not going to come back in any real numbers (and I don't mean because of COVID19, although the consequences of if will add to the main problem). The simple fact is that the WSR is in the wrong location to attract decent numbers of visitors in the 21st century. To thrive in the 21st century, IMHO a preserved railway needs to have at least one of the following:-

    Near to to and easy to get to from a very large city. A big source of income is families. As it is, only a small percentage of families are going to visit a preserved railways (not that many children are into steam trains, especially when there are plenty of other hobbies and activities to attract them). Of the families who are into steam trains, they will only visit a preserved railway if they can easily get to it. Because of this, a preserved railway need a very large population centre (like Birmingham, London or Manchester etc) nearby. Railways that are virtually in a big city like the East Lancs (practically in Manchester and you can pretty much get there on the Metrolink trams), Epping Ongar (as good as in London, catch a tube and you are nearly there) obviously have an advantage. Other railways in a fairly good position regarding easy access from a very large city are ones like the Severn Valley (several trains an hour, and it's only 40 minutes from Birmingham Moor Street) or the Bluebell and Mid Hants (both are just over a hour by train from central London with trains every 1/2 half). The WSR doesn't have this luxury. The roads in the area are not good at all and public transport is appalling (I live in Yeovil, and if I want to visit the WSR, I have to go by train via Exeter (there are few buses between Yeovil and Taunton, and they start too late and finish too early to give me a reasonable amount of time at the WSR).

    In a very "touristy" area. Railways like the Bodmin & Wenford, the Paignton & Dartmouth and the South Devon have this taken care of, because they are in Devon and Cornwall, and each summer (except this one, for obvious reasons) vast numbers of tourists fill up the B&Bs and holiday let cottages, and need to find things to do each day (and those sort of holiday makers are more likely to appreciate steam railways). Now, before people say "the WSR has Butlins", that's not enough. What people have to bear in mind, is that a Butlins type of resort (where the resort provides everything for you, such as food and entertainment) is not like the B&Bs (where you have to go out for the day and entertain yourselves). A Butlins type resort won't yield a large number of visitors to the railway. The average family who go to Butlins will stay the entire time within the resort. They don't need to leave the resort because everything (food, entertainment etc) is sorted out for them, which is why they go there. Those families will mostly fall into two groups (those who just want a holiday without the hassle of working out what to do each day, or those who are on a tight budget, and therefore can't afford to go off and do other things outside of the resort).

    Near to more "middle class" tourist attractions (the middle classes are more likely to have a bit more money to fund trips to steam railways, and they seem more likely to be interested in educational attractions like museums, art gallaries and of course, steam railways). A railway like the Gloucester, Warwickshire has the advantage of being near to cities that tend to be more popular with middle class tourists, for example Cheltenham and Gloucester (Bath and Oxford are also popular with middle class tourists and are fairly near by too). While the WSR has nice towns like Taunton and Wells nearby, they don't attract enough of the middle class tourists to really help the railway's numbers.

    The cold reality is that even if the WSR didn't have the PLC and WSRA fighting all the time, the railway would still be in ruin, because the passenger numbers are drying up no matter what, and the WSR specifically can't attract the the tourists of the 21st century. While the WSR used to do well, that was in the 1990s, and tourism was different back then. While the demand for steam railways is still there, the railways that will do best in the 21st century are not always going to be the ones that used to do well).
     
  19. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    The fundamental problem - as people have observed many times before - is that the same people will one day state the WSR is a single happy family all dedicated to one cause, and the next state it is a cluster of entirely unrelated organisations who have nothing in common besides proximity.

    This is what leads to the PLC saying on the one hand that as the railway is a Single Happy Family the SDRT must hand over its life savings or be written out of the family will evicted; and at the same time that the PLC can't possibly be expected to fulfil its side of a contract because that would be handing over money to a stranger.

    If I ever miss paying a bill in future I'm going to try saying "yes but that's technically just an accounting issue" and see how far it gets me.
     
  20. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    There is a lot you have said I can agree with - and some that I cannot.

    The obvious one being that two of the countries largest heritage railways, the North Yorkshire Moors and Ffestiniog/Welsh Highland are both in fairly remote areas

    The second one, and one that was made earlier is that flowing from the structure of the railway the board in effect isnt accountable, there is no single shareholder, or group of shareholders, in this case the WSRA/WSSRT who can hold the board to account, while the bulk of the shares are held in 'penny packets' by individual shareholders, many of whom have died/forgotten about them.

    As you say, quite rightly many lines in the 'Post Coronavirus' period may well be toast BUT it doesnt stop those that love the line from wanting to try to save it
     
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