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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I do think culture matters a lot.

    I am lucky enough that I have done my job in the US, Europe and the UK. What has been interesting to me is how similarly structured organisations have behaved differently. Fundamentally this is the same job being done by the same people. There is nothing radically different about how any of the places I have worked at have been formally structured.

    What has been radically different is the culture within that structure and how that has impacted on the way the organisations have functioned, how people are treated in those organisations, and how individuals behave in those organisations. This in turn has impacted upon the performance of those organisations with some doing better than others.

    We often talk about culture shock, this has certainly been where I have seen it up close.

    What has been striking is how negative elements of the culture re-enforce themselves. I mentioned the pile on culture at the line where I worked. I noticed that a number of people would join in with the bullying (in the various forms it took - from outright abuse, to exclusion, to whispering campaigns, to constant belittling) who were fine individually. When challenged they would mumble an excuse, but really it was about fitting in. You fit in to avoid being singled out. It is understandable but it is also how behaviour is re-enforced.

    I remember once talking to a colleague about how she was treating her junior colleagues. I said that I didn't think it was acceptable to treat them in the way in which she was treating them. Her response was that she had been treated that way when she was junior so what was the problem. My response was and is, just because you were treated badly it doesn't make it ok. But how we are treated often then embeds itself in how we treat others.

    What I've seen is how toxic behaviour becomes considered to be normal 'this is just how it is'. Whether this is the senior guy who in 2020 is recreating his own formative junior experience for those lower down the food chain, or the young colleague who has taken away that the way to get ahead is to be like her former boss and intimidate her colleagues.

    The problem is that when you are within a system you can not see its flaws and think that they are normal. When I worked in the US hierarchies were constantly formally and informally being re-enforced, only by coming from a less hierarchical environment can you see what utter BS a lot of it is. Only by working outside the UK or in different places in the UK can you see that certain things 'don't have to be this way'. Moreover, what I've noticed over the years is that it takes a lot of time and effort to change a culture and it needs to be proactive, it needs to be meaningful and it needs to walk the walk because there will be a lot of resistance. The resistance will be because often the foundations of the power that some people hold is based on the culture that surrounds them, pull away the foundations of bullying and the way it intimidates people and that actor is no longer someone to be in awe of.

    Now, what pleases me about the @WSSRTcandidates is that it is very clear in their use of language, their commitment to democracy, their openness and willingness to engage, they represent a culture shift. It takes action to move behaviour. It isn't instant but it takes time.

    What disappoints me about @Lineisclear is that we see no evidence of culture shift, we see the same top down structures, the same like it or lump it attitude, the same culture of imposition, the same hostility towards being challenged, the cynic might say that John Bailey has been already consumed by the toxic WSR culture that means that when someone disagrees with you then you attack them in the local press and call them names (Trojan Horse etc).

    To me, when I look at not just the 'what' is being proposed, but the 'way' in which change is being proposed in Somerset, I do see more evidence of positive culture change in the WSSRT candidates whereas with Bailey I see more of the same old same old WSR way.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2020
  2. misspentyouth62

    misspentyouth62 Well-Known Member

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    Without this thread deviating into another livery debate, I'd have to respectfully disagree with your take on the colour of the locomotives influencing where people travel to for Heritage Railway travel.
    I last visited WSR in 2018 behind 35028 Clan Line which had taken our train from London through to Minehead. There'e not much choice of colour for a rebuilt Merchant Navy but it's paint was a shiny BR Green as was the two GWR 4-6-0s visible on the line. There were two 7Fs in BR black but I wonder how many non-enthusiasts on the excursion even noticed them?
    As other's have said, non-enthusiasts don't weigh up what era of paintwork is on offer before deciding which gala or heritage line to visit. I'd say that they have taken their family to that part of the country anyway and decide to take a ride on the local, friendly & value-for-money steam railway. In terms of the WSR and it's now reduced fleet, what colours (other than the existing Green and/or Black) would you think would be appropriate to attract more visitors?
     
  3. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Surely the first pre-requisite in “how do we get more people to ride the trains?” is “start running some trains”. It may be touch and go as to whether running a train makes a profit, but not running a train is guaranteed not to do so.

    I have a very strong feeling that however bad 2020 has been for heritage railways, 2021 will be worse, since the operating constraints from Covid will highly likely be the same, but the one-off sources of revenue support available (either Government e.g. furlough payments; lottery or from supporters via appeals) will be either much reduced or non-existent. The only difference is that there will likely be a full season possible, rather than a curtailed season.

    Tom
     
  4. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    Just to support your views, anybody who has a long memory and has been reading posts here for a long time will recall I’ve talked often in the past about the Culture being the main true issue the WSR has, and in my opinion what needs to be changed along the lines you mention. You are right that the toxic culture has invaded every corner of the WSR Management and some of it has been in place for a long period of time, however in the last 2 years it has really come to the surface in a major way because as you rightly say it’s been ‘normalised’.

    Regarding the WSSRT 10, I can’t speak about them all because I don’t know all, but I do know some very well having worked with them closely in my time on the WSR. My opinion would be that the ones I know have the right cultural attitudes to help the WSR heal itself, to name names of those I know well I would pick out Dave Horton, Jeff Price, Brian Fraser & James Price as all understanding the importance of positive culture and having it as their default mind set and all have seen the issues first hand.

    I know less about Barrie, Dee & Nigel but have only ever heard good things from others. I can’t comment on the rest but that doesn’t mean they are not good people so that should not distract from them at all in anyway.

    Of the original WSSRT 14, 5 of whom backed out after alleged harassment I also know Chris Ruddick and Robin Wichard well and would ask them to re-consider and re-engage because they also have the right mind set. I don’t know Seb, Martin & Colin much at all, but again I have only heard good things about them from others.

    I also think these people will work well together as a balanced team, all coming from different backgrounds and all have mutual respect for others. As has been said, it needs a team working together to sort this, not what we appear to have now.

    We should also remember the other people (who again I have worked with so feel I can comment on) who I would consider share the ability for positive cultural engagement and have the correct management skills, in Ben Greillier, Alan Nicholson, Richard Maw, Mark Hill and last but not least Alex Groves. Some were volunteers and some paid staff but all were positive influences on the WSR in recent times and in my opinion their leaving has been a great loss to the WSR.

    There are the people out there to turn this around, and who have the other skills as well to rebuild the WSR without borrowing millions of pounds just so they can throw more money at the problems in a hope of curing it. I just don’t buy into this “you have to follow us as we are the only game in town and if you don’t the WSR will close and it will be your fault” negativity, of over 1,000 active volunteers and several thousand inactive ones you can’t tell me there is nobody with the right mind set and skills out there?

    It’s one of the reasons I’ve said the structure is not the problem (but needs changing) and a clean sweep is needed to sweep the toxic culture away. Or of course just all carry on doing what they are doing and see if you get a different result from what’s happened so far.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2020
  5. nanstallon

    nanstallon Well-Known Member

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    All very well, as long as the acquisition of the freehold does actually lead to the survival of the Railway. The treatment of fellow (?) enthusiasts such as the S&DRT guys, and the lack of interest in running trains during 2020, has made me feel that a very close eye needs to be kept on this idea.
     
  6. Paulthehitch

    Paulthehitch Member

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    "Up to a point Lord Copper"! 2020 receipts could have been worse than they have been on certain railways. Some places seem to have realised more than others that there was likely to be a pent up demand and opened for business promptly. The Lakeside and Haverthwaite opened very quickly, despite having little in the way of compartment stock. A number of places seemed considerably more casual, despite this being the peak season. They will need to be a bit less casual next year.
    Tripadvisor can be an uncertain guide but a glance will shows that both "normals" and enthusiasts currently are concerned with the efficiency of social distancing arrangements rather than how many galas there may be.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2020
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  7. bluetrain

    bluetrain Member

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    No need for apologies. I too was puzzled by how low the number had fallen in comparison with previous years. So the next WSR PLC Annual Report will be interesting to compare.

    If the WSR continues (assuming resumption post-pandemic) to attract fewer customers, then that will require fewer and shorter trains, which I think was what the railway had been planning anyway. That may of course also be dictated by reduced numbers of people to operate them. The WSR will probably have to make do with fewer paid staff as a result of its financial position, while the number of volunteers could also be reduced, partly due to the fall-out from the pandemic and partly because some will have been alienated by the recent controversies. So I would expect fewer operating days, shorter trains with smaller engines, plus more diesels. If any galas are held, small tank locos would be the preferred visitors. But none of this will get the WSR back to the passenger number levels of 10-15 years ago, unless possibly "staycations " remain more popular post-pandemic.
     
  8. 5944

    5944 Part of the furniture

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    Didn't they change it from number of passenger journeys to number of tickets sold?
     
  9. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    That reminds me of a master at my school, who was always at pains to impress on us to put down something, anything, if we were faced in an exam with a question, the answer to which we had not a clue about. "There is one answer that is guaranteed to get you no marks, and that is no answer."
    I very much doubt that it would, but the Plc think that that's the way to go. I think it would be bonkers to load the railway up with more debt, but that's the way people think in business these days. "It's all about leverage".
     
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  10. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I'm not sure all people in business do. And as for leverage, tell that to the shareholders in firms like the AA or Debenhams - sound business made to carry more debt than they could realistically sustain.
     
  11. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    It's very much the zeitgeist and the shareholders in AA or Debenhams weren't the ones making the decision to load up the business with debt, not were they the ones benefiting from it. ISTM that all organisations end up getting run to the benefit of their senior management.
     
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  12. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    Hopefully appearing on public website soon, the WSR Plc has just issued a notice about the appointment of an Interim Operations Manager.

    Part of the text reads:-

    upload_2020-10-5_15-7-33.png

    Now, maybe it is just a sloppy use of words, or perhaps I am reading too much into it, but....if there is a "new and emerging" safety culture on the railway as a whole, is that not an implicit admission that there has not been one previously? Or that somehow any previous one was deficient?
     

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  13. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    Actually, the then shareholders were - they were the owners who then flogged their businesses on for others to lose money on.

    As for zeitgeist, I think that’s debatable - and if it’s being quoted, one wonders whether changes in fashion in London have necessarily made it down to Somerset.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  14. jnc

    jnc Well-Known Member

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    Safety has been an area of changing standards in the rail world just about since they started; and the changes continue to this day, on lines everywhere. So I'm not sure there is anything exceptional there.

    Noel
     
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  15. Announcements of the various management appointments are to be welcomed, albeit they are 6 month interim arrangements. I note all are familiar faces with sound knowledge and long WSR experience in these roles.

    Does the Whizzer awaketh per chance?
     
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  16. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    Not much change then as Paul has sort of been in that or a very similar role for a long time in any case from everything I've ever seen, perhaps this just makes it official.

    For those who don’t know him, Paul is a long time stalwart and one of the existing long term staff of the WSR, he knows most if not all things about the WSR operationally, he is great working with others in my view, has a can do attitude and to boot is a really lovely guy who I’ve enjoyed talking to every time we have met.

    He is one of a small band with others I could mention who, year in year out have kept the wheels turning on the ground despite everything others throw at them from above and below and through thick and thin. He’s the sort of guy who can’t ever be lost to the WSR for a number of reasons so I’m glad to see that his future on the WSR is secured for both him and the WSR.
     
  17. gwilialan

    gwilialan Part of the furniture

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    More details now on WSR.org - http://wsr.org.uk/news.htm#2186
     
  18. 6026 King John

    6026 King John Member

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    Received an email today about Santa Expresses. Could it be they are actually going to start running some trains? Surely not!
    Well if they are it's great news although Santa trains are not my thing at all. However if it's a sign of things to come it's to be welcomed.
     
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  19. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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    It is my understanding that SCC are under a Legal Obligation to Secure Maximum Value for its Assets should they Sell them

    The longer all this goes on the more wonderful the decision by SCC was to pay £245,000 yes £245,000 for the line in 1974. Had they not done so either the then WSR Ltd would have not raised the money or they would have gone bust many times over trying to finance it!
     
  20. Triumph 2500S

    Triumph 2500S Member

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