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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    The individual who drove the amazing effort to fund 4110 voiced his opinion and was removed. The Dear Leader does not tolerate anyone who does not comply with groupthink.
     
  2. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    When I say that the decisions on 4110 & 44422 were reasonable, I meant that of all the options available, and given the financial situation, what they did wasnt outside the bounds of what any board in that situation might have done. I would probably not have done it that way myself and feel that they were regrettable, but I am not in charge.
     
  3. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I think the distinction between "what" was decided, and "how" those decisions were implemented is critical. I also have my doubts about whether, viewed with hindsight and in conjunction with later decisions, whether those "reasonable" decisions were really reasonable, or were in fact forewarning of a movement away from "reasonable" decision making. I'm sure that in due course those decisions will be picked over.
     
  4. Wriggley

    Wriggley Member

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    Yes technically you are correct. The Board did indeed have options and perhaps we should have given them the benefit of the doubt. Realising the asking price by selling 4110 to the band of home-grown volunteers who could have restored this historically and operationally-appropriate locomotive, fostering greater volunteer involvement along the way, and securing for the railway a very useful piece of kit, was only one of those options. Selling it off the railway to the dismay and disappointment of everybody who had contributed to those fundraising efforts and then, as a reward for his endeavours, excluding the person who had spearheaded the fundraising drive....was another option. Indeed, scrapping it could have been yet another option. Maybe turning it into a massive floral display. Sinking it into Watchet harbour as a diving attraction perhaps. A Board of Directors is compelled to explore all the options I suppose. It must have been a tricky one....

    (with apologies for the sarcasm, it's nothing personal!)
     
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  5. Wriggley

    Wriggley Member

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    "Mein luftkissenfahrzeug ist voller aale"
    Ah sorry, that's not relevant!
     
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  6. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    Vielleicht. Aber da Ihr Zug in Flammen steht, werden die Aale gut gekocht.

    Robin
     
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  7. Snifter

    Snifter Part of the furniture

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    I don't believe that the volunteers were asked to match a higher bid for 4110. A reasonable board would have moved mountains to allow it to happen. I don't think the group would have subsequently refused to pay, blaming it on a fiscal technicality.
     
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  8. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Even if he did "save the WSR from liquidation", something for which we really have only the word of the saviour and his supporters, it increasingly looks liked he avoided Scylla only to fall into Charybdis.
     
  9. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    I wonder what the alternative course of action to SAVE the WSR would have been? Interested to know!!
     
  10. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Perhaps it is the mechanism chosen - after all, if you have two six-figure offers on the table to purchase a locomotive, either might result in the same cash injection but it doesn't mean that there isn't a valid choice between them. The fact that someone claims to have "saved" the railway doesn't automatically mean that anyone who disagrees with the chosen course of action necessarily wishes not to save the railway. It isn't binary like that.

    Tom
     
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  11. D1039

    D1039 Well-Known Member

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    Other railways with a similar PLC / independent charity set up have raised funds and maintained structures. The proposed revised structure may indeed make the WSR better in every way but IMO it's a mistake to say underinvestment was due to structure - I'll go as far as 'may have contributed to' :)

    The public version includes the issue that the fundraising group had promises of cash equal to the lower amount from their supporters, but not the folding stuff in their pocket at that moment. The PLC Board needed cash more quickly to ensure it was trading solvently and legally. Even if it had offered it to the group at the higher price they would not have had the cash when the PLC needed it, ergo the board took a reasonable step in accepting the higher external bid with cash on the table. Their alternative option was insolvency. I'm not in a position to gainsay that version. The sale process that lead to this point and PLC's views on who should own locos are also open to debate. Fair?

    Patrick
     
  12. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    It's not as if the process of turning the WSR round was particularly radical. It mainly amounted to leveraging or selling the assets of the company and running an appeal. I suspect it is what our US cousins would call Company Turnaround 101. Unfortunately, the "turnaround" seems to have been largely illusory, with even before COVID-19 struck, the company showing signs of being very short of cash indeed, despite the £300K profit shown in the accounts, and after a company financial year that included two summers and one winter.
    OK, yes he did it, and the old board had not shown any signs of going down that road by the time they were booted out, but your gratitude to someone who saves you from drowning is somewhat reduced if they then manage to put their own boat on the rocks by a combination of bad navigation and poor seamanship. Not only that, but it is impossible to say how the old board would have reacted, when push came to shove. It is impossible to say that they wouldn't have taken the steps that were taken by their successors, but perfectly feasible to suggest that they would have avoided their successors' mistakes, as enumerated by @jma1009 above.
     
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  13. toplight

    toplight Member

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    I think selling 4110 has been a good thing. The WSR has got money that they needed, and the Engine itself has now gone to the East Somerset to be restored, a group with a great track record of turning around Barry wrecks in record time and getting them running again. It is a happy outcome for the Engine, better than it just siting there on the sea front at Minehead with nothing much happening. The ESR and WSR are close by too so any volunteers who want to can no doubt get involved at its new temporary home. If it hadn't been sold, it would probably still there where it was.
     
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  14. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    It is claimed that the chairman saved the railway from liquidation, but did he? the published accounts from that time, have shown some improvements, but this was because other costs had been deferred, and some even removed when they are still potentially liable for them ( loco overhauls) so the financial picture may not have been an accurate one , Especially if there are hidden costs that have not been taken into account, it could be possible that the actual true profit was less than stated, and when all those costs are added, the company may have been on a knife edge between making a trading loss, and just scraping by.
     
  15. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    That's another reason why the WSR needs to get its house in order, There is also an Manor, sitting in Steam,( out of steam) and as far as i know, no plan to fund raise and start its overhaul, there is on the face of it no joined up thinking, on what engine comes after the next one, and a funding program, to ensure money is ready to fund it, relying on the plc to fund overhauls clearly isn't viable, anymore, where as steaming fees, paid over on a regular date and a matched funding push by members should be, because the owning group will have that money in a bank, and it's safe , ideally what should happen is for any PLC, loco's to be transferred into a trust , along with WSRA'S own engines, and protected against being sold to anyone outside of the Railway body.
     
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  16. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    the line that was spun was to maximise value for the shareholders . Now I suspect the WSR shareholders are the volunteers and supporters , local residents , many of who were behind the plans to buy the engine . Preserved railways whilst managed under a PLC are not an amazon or sports direct . Value is not pure cash , its goodwill , its volunteers giving up their time and money to keep the railway going . people who feel engaged and connected are more likely to keep volunteering and donating and visiting . Goodwill is incredibly easily lost and perhaps manifests itself in the fund raising efforts .
     
  17. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    Quite wrong I'm afraid.
    WSRA has plans to raise the funds for its overhaul.
    WSRA would have probably started fundraising by now had we not paused to support the return to traffic of 9351 to the tune of £40k last year. That also set back the programe for 4561 which has been further set back by covid-19.
    However we are moving forward again now.
     
  18. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    A nice bit of speculation there. :rolleyes: I don't see the point of any of what you have said when the recent newsletter explains the problem about as clearly as it is possible to, in my view.

    The PLC is saying that they need the money they have to keep the staff they have without losing even more staff to other employers. Apparently the permanent way gang is depleted and that seems to me like a big problem. They have also calculated, it seems, that the income they might get over the rest of this season with reduced capacity will not balance the cost of restarting the railway in whatever version of their normal operations is envisaged.

    The only things that confuse me somewhat are two fold:
    1. The cost of getting the railway fit to operate now will presumably be the same as getting it fit for trains over Christmas as is planned.
    2. In terms of the Covid factors affecting uptake now, they will be broadly the same at Christmas.
    So if it's not ok now to restart, what will be different at Christmas to make it possible then?

    What seems clear is that nearly all other heritage lines have taken a step forward with almost certainly an equal concern over how much income they can recover under reduced capacity arrangements. The WSR hasn't felt it could do the same. I can only assume that this is because the income/expenditure calculation is far more complicated. Costs must be high enough to mean that a full operating season at capacity is needed to begin to rebalance the books. And we know from the newsletter that passenger numbers and income have been on decline whilst costs were much the same.

    To my mind the PLC has finally and bravely laid bare the problems it has - i.e. a line that is barely viable and where the pandemic and lockdown may well have been the last straw. Everyone can spend the next umpteen pages on here talking about why that might be but it's not going to help all that much by doing so. It really is not a good situation. Time to break eggs and make an omelette. Something has to give it seems and I don't personally think an appeal for money will do more than just stave off something far more significant....and that's for the WSR 'family' to face up to and agree on.
     
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  19. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    I think it is simpler . They potentially do not have the resource nor expertise to complete the stopped track work. Costs to complete will be much higher as contractors/recruited staff needed . Money that potentially is not in the bank

    I presume consultation of redundancy has concluded , can anyone share the outcome ?

    If you are planning a Christmas opening Winter Flu season and suggestions that colder conditions allow Covid to flourish feels like an interesting game of russian roulette

    we come back to the $1m point

    The railways needs money to open
    the well documented issues evidenced through official channels mean that support is not forthcoming and people do not trust the existing management

    something has to give
     
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  20. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    So, no doubt, was Colston once...:)
     

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