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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. Groks212

    Groks212 Member

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    Most relevant
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      Jonny Jjp Thank you for all you do for the wsr

      Great group of people!
    Dave B
     
  2. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    Perhaps of more relevance, this latest FB post from the WSSRT:-

    "Recently a report on the West Somerset Railway has been written by Mr John Bailey on the behalf of the Heritage Railway Association. The report addresses several important issues for the railway to consider.
    The Trust is grateful to John Bailey for the comprehensive report he has produced and the commendable speed with which it was produced. The WSR PLC response to the report is welcomed, and the Trust looks forward to participating in discussions on how best to take forward the ideas put forward by John Bailey on structural change.
    The Trust are grateful for Mr Bailey's kind comments in which, he says, (the Trust) “seems to have a well-defined sense of its public benefit role as enshrined in its Articles. Its focus on its core educational purpose is clear and its attitude to the PLC is collaborative without being subservient.”
    A copy of the West Somerset Railway PLC’s response which includes the John Bailey report in full can be read on the official WSR website
    https://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/news/
    See also the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust Web site http://www.wssrt.co.uk/"
     
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  3. mvpeters

    mvpeters Member

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    New coded Setright?
     
  4. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    It’s jolly useful. You type in gobbledegook and if you get the settings right, plain text emerges...

    Robin
     
  5. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    And if you don't, you get a Plc "press release"...

    (Sorry, couldn't resist)
     
  6. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Having thought a bit about the report, at least the redacted version available, while there is some to disagree with, my overriding thought is not to look a gift horse in the mouth. The plc has seen fit to endorse a document that calls for the existing plc to become dormant and be replaced by a new operating company that is a fully-owned subsidiary of a membership charity. That I would say is significant.

    My primary disagreement is that the report then suggests that the needs of the new company must be paramount. That is putting the cart before the horse. Heritage railways exist primarily for the benefit of their members: the fact that many have had to develop essentially tourism businesses should not distract from that point. So the primacy must be the membership body as the focal point for overall strategic direction; the new company is then essentially the executive body of the membership, charged with carrying out the wishes of the membership as well as possible, within the regulatory and financial constraints imposed by being a business.

    There is a significant opportunity to build a rejuvenated membership body: if the new body was constituted on formation that all WSRA members automatically had a year (or life, as appropriate) membership, as did all traceable individual shareholders, then even allowing for some overlap in those groups, the new body would have an enhanced membership both for governance and fundraising support, of a size that would be more nearly comparable with the 10,000+ membership bodies of other major heritage lines.

    Tom
     
  7. 60044

    60044 Member

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    If I'm correct and this report is written by NYMR Chairman John Bailey, I think that is exactly how he's going about turning the NYMR into a fully fledged tourist business with minimal appreciation of its heritage roots Volunteers are rapidly becoming little more than free supplementary labour and the Trust Board no more directs the PLC's actions than it does the traffic around Pickering marketplace. So, take greatcare over how the new body is constituted, would be my advice.
     
  8. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    Assuming the WSR survives it seems to be heading for a different type of WSR that most people are presently acquainted with. Volunteers will still be needed, it never has been strong enough to function without free labour, but many will find some radical changes that they have to accept or decline.
     
  9. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    Agreed! A point I have made in the past, that in the absence of leadership from SCC as the owner of the railway, the Plc is effectively free to go its own way regardless of the wishes of all those volunteers/WSRA members who surely are the raison d'etre that the line exists as a heritage railway today. The principle of an owning charity, and a subsidiary operating company working to their overall direction, works well elsewhere so why not on the WSR?
     
  10. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Noting the concerns above, which I've seen elsewhere too, given the HRA took it upon themselves to recommend some actions tor resolve the WSR's dysfunctional structure (and everyone at least agrees that something is wrong, even if they disagree as to what, why, and how to resolve it), why did it not think it necessary to examine any other heritage railway structures? Virtually every heritage railway seems to function better and more cohesively than the WSR, which surely gives a variety of options which might be considered improvements.

    And here, the report seems to be somewhat dismissive of what members actually want, especially with the recommendation that some directors should not be accountable to the membership, which makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. By all means appoint people on the basis of merit and skills to fill specific posts, but I don't see why that can't be done via co-option and confirmed at the next AGM, which under normal circumstances would be nodded through anyway.
     
  11. 60044

    60044 Member

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    .... describes John Bailey's stance in a nutshell, imho.
     
  12. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    That to me is where the dual structure comes in. The plc directors are appointed on the basis of their domain-specific knowledge to fill defined roles, but subject to “the approval of the membership” or some such wording. That approval is derived by virtue of their selection by the MemSoc trustees, who are selected by vote of the membership.

    Tom
     
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  13. Tom,

    Do you think it would be desirable to require all active volunteers to be in membership of any new overarching charity from outset, or might that be considered a step too far?
     
  14. 60044

    60044 Member

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    I would have thought that all active volunteers would have to be members of a body of some sort for insurance purposes.
     
  15. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    I too felt uncomfortable about that, as it seem to be taking power away from the membership, when surely the whole idea of the restructuring should be that they have a greater say in the direction and strategy of the railway. And yes, all volunteers should be required to be members of a that single over-arching body.
     
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  16. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Yes. It has long baffled me as to why one might wish to be a volunteer at an organisation yet not be a member of it. If NewSoc was the 100% owner of the NewCo, then I can't see any reason why you shouldn't require volunteers for NewCo to be members of NewSoc.

    Ultimately it is about Governance, and that Governance being clear. The structure of the greater-WSR has allowed the directors of the plc to run the show unchallenged because there is no clear strong governance from any other body. Making NewCo essentially an executive body charged with delivering a strategy that is owned and developed by NewSoc is the way to make that governance clear. Having volunteers as members of NewSoc is a way to ensure that the strategy remains within the bounds of the operationally and practically feasible.

    Tom
     
  17. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Mm, I take your point, but it still feels a little "distant" for my liking. I suppose it depends how high-level the strategy that is set by the MemSoc is. The more broad and general and unspecific the strategy, the more uncomfortable I'd be, if that makes sense?
    I guess at the end of the day no structure can eliminate the need for trust and good faith on all sides, something which is sorely lacking on the WSR.
     
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  18. pgbffest

    pgbffest Member

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    Depends what benefits being a member brings. If you can get those benefits as a volunteer and be more informed of what is going on than something that can be provided in a magazine which is already out of date by the time it gets to you - I can see why people do it. Most information on projects / operations etc can be found online, so even a magazine doesn't probably carry much weight behind it for being a member?
     
  19. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Generally the principle benefit of being a member, as far as a prospective volunteer is concerned, is the ability to volunteer!
     
  20. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Yes, but to me being a member of an organisation isn't primarily about material benefits: it is about the sense of shared belonging. Hence my bafflement about why you would wish to "work" for an organisation to which you didn't "belong". I couldn't imagine being a volunteer guide in a National Trust property and yet not being a member of the National Trust, for example.

    Tom
     
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