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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    The articles of the WSSRT are very clear in their language that the Companies Act does apply.
     
  2. irregulartrainman

    irregulartrainman New Member

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    I must confess I've sort of stumbled on this thread (and forum) accidentally while my father and I were looking at how best to support the railway financially over the winter period at the start of September. We are shareholders (referred to as "penny packets" some pages ago, although given the number we own collectively, quite a few pennies) and were both members of the WSRA until 2014, when we felt the members money was being misused and left, preferring to donate directly to the railway. We found the unofficial WSR site which referenced a "Bailey report", googling for that led to here by way of the fourth search result. For better or for worse over the past couple of weeks I've read several hundred pages of this "conversation" during the evenings with a growing feeling of bemusement, horror and disgust.

    I write this because I'm someone that wants to help the WSR, but has not been a volunteer yet, and just wants to see it be around for my children to enjoy in the future:
    • I admire the group of individuals who are standing for trustee of the WSSRT, their personal profiles detail a wealth of experience and commitment and show their passion for the railway. Many have faces I recognise from trips on the WSR over the years. Reading some of the comments on here about the reaction to your candidacy and the need to issue an FAQ on harassment is shocking, and to be honest highly off-putting of having anything to do with the railway.
    • Prospective trustees (an account on behalf of) dropping the link to register for the WSSRT into this thread and encouraging people to become members to express their views does straight up look like an infiltration particularly given the low numbers of supporters the WSSRT has and the statement that the number of applicants exceed the current number of members not very long after the announcement. I appreciate this probably isn't their intention, but the tension between the stated position of "It is an internal matter for the members to decide whether they are persuaded by our arguments about what is the best way forward for the WSSRT" while beating on the recruitment drums is one that has been poorly managed and given they seek to influence (and replace?) the PLC and its pretty abysmal PR efforts the optics of this are not awe-inspiring; instead feeling indicative that they felt they couldn't win over the existing membership on the strength of their ballot.
    • I can certainly empathise with the current trustees of the WSSRT who must feel somewhat trapped between a rock and a hard place; they are the trustees of a charity which to date has wanted to remain within its sphere of influence (the museums, restoring coaches and steam trains) and has ended up stuck in the middle of a tug of war essentially over the shares and presumably rather limited pot of money it controls. On the other hand, the WSSRT (as currently formed) expressing its views on the trustees standing in public and in the press as has been done is counter-productive and highly inappropriate. The correct response to people wanting to stand is to email your membership acknowledging the platform put forward by the prospective trustees and detail why you believe your leadership plan is the better choice. Once again an organisation on the WSR has behaved in a manner that simply makes me want to be able to put my money into a bank account that can be solely used for keeping the platforms together or turn the lights on at Blue Anchor.
    • I do believe that a united charity is probably the best vehicle for the railway, but this will matter little if it repeats the mistakes of the WRSA in the past in acting solely as a hostile pressure group within the WSR family and offering little in way of constructive assistance. This precise reason is why we (and I imagine others) shied away from the WRSA in 2014, and have spent the past 5 years providing funds directly to the appeals. There are several things from a public interaction perspective that the new charity (or indeed, the WSRA should do):
    1. The "Fundraising" page on the WSRA is confusing and myriad, a point the prospective Trustees well note (although a little confusing given some wear both hats). Regardless of if you are successful in merging, if there are to be 8 explicit fundraising appeals might I suggest you seek to categorise them appropriately - Urgent (COVID-19, Track), General (the WSR in non-COVID - the stations and alike), Restorative (Carriages, 4561).

    2. Likewise, you should probably engage in some sort of traffic shaping to raise your own website profile or seek to adopt the unofficial wsr.org website; it is ludicrous that my second search result on google is "an unofficial website featuring the WSR" over official websites.​
    • The PLC are a PR nightmare, and certainly my view of them has down a swift 180 degrees compared to before I found this board. Evicting the S&DRT was legally questionable and an unpleasant saga to read about; I was visiting my parents the last weekend it was open in Washford but must admit I mistook the abundance of cars there for people taking advantage of the nice weather. If it is / was necessary for the WSR to survive in the long term I will stomach the decision, which it seems many of you are unable to.

    • However, you have to incorporate / recognise that the PLC's current board are responsible for the survival of the railway as it is during late 2018 / 2019, and that ultimately they are bound by different considerations as directors than what may be deemed best by the enthusiastic observer. The true cost / balance of running trains during COVID given it would have involved unfurloughing staff is probably very tightly balanced, and if you are not guaranteed to make back the revenue of converting trains and unfurloughing staff then you can't run trains without breaching your fiduciary duties. I appreciate there are other lines that are open and have run, but one boot doesn't fit all, whether that concerns niche enterprises like heritage railways or global corporations.

    • I want a competently run railway that looks ahead to the next 20 years, and that I can donate to in safe in the knowledge it will be used and not frittered away on unnecessary legal expenses. I don't care whose name is on the door, I don't care if it is made up of half the current board, a quarter the WSRA and a quarter the WSSRT. Nobody seems to be able to put down their pitchfork long enough to achieve the foundations needed for this, even after the Government just handed over a lifeline and at a time that I've just read that all 3 organisations are actually working together to try and establish something in the next year. The new Chairman proposed by the partnership group to oversee combining the charities has a tough role ahead of them, and I suspect will make decisions that are necessary for the survival of the railway that will frustrate and infuriate many of you here. How long will you offer them to unravel the Gordian knot before you turn on them too, in much the same way many of you seemingly have on John Bailey.
    One of the prospective Trustees of the WSSRT asked what seems like several weeks ago where is the new blood for the line? My long-held plan of the past 30 years was to retire down to Exmoor and volunteer on the WSR, a process that barring COVID I would probably have kicked sooner rather than later. I must admit after reading the vitriol and scheming over the past few hundred pages if this is what I am going to be faced with I am severely put off and will likely make cash donations only after this year’s AGMs are concluded, and I suspect I will not be the only one. Your views are too available to a member of the interested public with a simple search for you to not reflect on the railway. Too many of you seem obsessed with personality over results (both on and off the board) on a railway that is by all accounts at deaths door, and I am frankly livid that the railway has even ended up in this position and needed life-saving treatment with seemingly no action taken to arrest the slide during the reign of previous incarnations of the PLC that have contributed massively to current issues.

    Never thought I'd use Shakespeare again after I left school, but a line from Romeo & Juliet seems appropriate - "A plague on both your houses".
     
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  3. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    By far the most sensible and erudite post in a very long time on this thread.
     
  4. Andy Moody

    Andy Moody New Member

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    +1
     
  5. gwilialan

    gwilialan Part of the furniture

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    First and foremost I'd like to say thank you for having the courage to respond - and I hope many others on here feel the same way as I do. (I think they all should)

    It is a sad reflection on the state of things that I have to talk about you having to have the 'courage' to respond. I know a lot of that is caused by this (anti?)social media that gives all and sundry (myself included) the chance to have their two pennyworth about almost anything. It is just a shame that some feel that from behind a keyboard they can be as aggressive or as contradictory as they like without having to worry about any consequences.

    I guess this mess is all about power and the Plc shares the WSSRT hold are considered power. I am among many that cannot understand why the WSSRT and the WSRA did not work together to pressure the Plc Board for answers relating to their recent actions - and then failed to explain their failure to do so or even state their own positions to their members. A very poor situation which reflects badly on both Boards

    I believe change is long overdue. Evolution has only allowed those in ivory towers to evolve themselves and their supporters into positions of power by ignoring all reasonable actions of others. The problem is now that they are so ensconced they are like Japanese Knot Weed. It cannot be trimmed or controlled, the only way to prevent it causing further damage is to remove it completely.

    So yes, I am afraid I do support drastic measures. Consultation has failed or been ignored, independent review suggestions are immediately twisted to give the benefit of the actions to the incumbents, good staff are treated with distain and valid queries are continually ignored. It is time for a change and if that has to be carried out in a confrontational manner then so be it. All groups management have had plenty of opportunities to change by agreement, they cannot complain now if the members are so frustrated that they take matters into their own hands.

    As to the future of the WSSRT, I (and I am a member) would like to see it in some way like the DPEG, doing it's own thing for its members and therefore also for the benefit of the railway. Without worrying about politics and personalities. Whether that is as a small, independent charity or as a department of whatever new managing charity I don't really care as I'd hope any new managing charity would have all the fund raising and grant application skills centralised and available to every group on the railway and, even if all were combined into a single charity, then that charity would hold each groups funds in strictly ring fenced accounts anyway so individual fund raising efforts would not be 'lost' in the big bag.

    This is just my opinion and, amazingly, I really don't mind if other people disagree with me - so long as we can agree to disagree politely.

    Now how on earth can we teach all the management to do that too?
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2020
  6. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    Firstly, thank you for the post and welcome.

    I agree entirely on this point.

    My counter argument would be this. There are 1600+ pages to this thread because there are a lot of people who care about the WSR. If people didn't care it would be like the TVR thread and people would shrug their shoulders and say: Not my clowns, not my circus. People want the line to survive.

    However, that so many do care goes back to your first point about wanting the line to be there for future generations. Now, by recruiting people, the WSSRT 10 have been quite open about their objectives, no one is forcing anyone to cough up the money. It is not as if they are giving out forms on Minehead seafront to people to join, there were no inducements, sweeteners or bribes. Now, those people who have joined have done so because they care about the WSR and they believe that the WSR is currently going in the wrong direction and that the WSSRT candidates offer a different path and one that is worth supporting.

    It is I think disingenuous to claim that those who have joined are infiltrators. Are we really saying that the 10 have managed to find a 100 odd people on here to join the WSSRT who have no interest in the line and have done so as some kind of massive troll exercise? If people have joined it is because they want to make a difference and believe in the 10.

    Moreover, even if the 10 succeed at the WSSRT level they would still have to convince the WRSA membership as well which is a much bigger organisation, so hence they would have to convince that membership.

    I agree entirely with this.

    Here I disagree because I have yet to see the evidence to support three claims.

    i) That it is necessary to evict the S&DRT. As far as I am aware, there is no such evidence showing that the survival of the WSR depends on evicting the S&DRT.
    ii) The claim that the PLC saved the railway. This is often claimed but the evidence again seems scant, a little bit like someone claiming to be wealthy or poor but never showing their tax returns.
    iii) The non-running of trains this year. The bigger issue seems to have been the Seaward Crossing which meant that even without covid it would have been impossible to run for longer period. So blaming Covid is a bit of a red herring.
    iv) This ties into your earlier point about PR. They claimed it was because they only had TSOs rather than being honest and open about the decision making process. It took WSR volunteers all of 5 minutes to show why that argument was invalid. It is hard for people to have confidence in a board that they cannot trust to be transparent (about why they are not running and why they are evicting the S&DRT)

    I don't think that there is anyone who does not want a well run, harmonious WSR.

    However, it is only right that any changes that are made to the WSR and how it is organised are robustly scrutinised and discussed, whether that is in AGMs, emails or on discussion boards such as this. It is too important to put through on the nod.

    Bailey has proposed one route, one form, the WSSRT 10 have proposed another. Ultimately, it should be for the volunteers, supporters, donors etc to decide what the direction should be. A line is nothing without them.

    That this debate has to happen, and the way in which it is happening shows just how bad things are in Somerset and exactly why things must change.

    Sadly, I think the personalised nature of disputes at the WSR is a function of the culture and something that has to change. That people see what is a debate about how a railway should be organised in terms of personalities shows just how messed up things are.

    To continue on the Shakespeare theme, I fear that for the WSR 'Tis the time's plague when madmen lead the blind."
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
  7. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    John Bailey would have done well to have considered Proverbs 26:17.
     
  8. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    @irregulartrainman, welcome and thank you for your posts, which sums things up very well.

    May I suggest that there are, to summarise issues about 'Confidence' in those who run the WSR family, and possibly following on from this, a situation where those who might have run things if not better, differently have either left or been driven out resulting in the situation we have today?
     
  9. snappertim

    snappertim Member

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    My thanks to all those who have responded to my earlier post 33227. I will not reply to each and every one, and this will be my last posting on the subject.

    I was trying to put myself in the shoes of the present WSSRT Trustees [heaven forbid ] when presented with an application for 10 new Trustees, out of the blue, without warning or discussion. The Trustees have managed the small charity very well over the last few years: transformed a hotchpotch museum at BL into a much clearer and focused visitor experience: developed a comprehensive data base of artifacts which are catalogued and photographed with a much more coherent acquisitions policy: worked hard to obtain substantial grants to continue their work: encouraged and supervised new teenage members via the model railway: outreached to schools and colleges: with a handful of volunteers restored coach 6705 to a very high standard: provided stewarding at BL & BA museums and by way of a bonus the chairman was responsible for negotiating with GWR to bring the TN -BL shuttle to WSR.

    So what would you do in those circumstances? Fight or flight? Roll over or defend the work you have done in the best legal way you can?

    The truth is that the substantial shareholding is becoming a curse to the Trust, whose remit is largely about very dry subjects and not at all "sexy". I don't see any similar attempts being made on DEPG, or Friends of Minehead station!

    Some posters have widened the issue to say because the WSSRT Trustees have not distanced themselves in public from some of the actions of the PLC board. I don't know and I doubt if anyone posting knows what pressure the Trust have tried to apply to the PLC board. It may be none, there may have been furious rows, but social media is not the platform for this to be played out, for sure.

    Whatever the outcome of the AGM there will be collateral damage of that there is absolutely no doubt. Does the action of the "10" justify the outcome? Time only will tell.

    As I have said I will not be posting on this subject again but happy to continue by way of PM should anyone care to do so.
     
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  10. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    You say that no pressure has been applied to the DEPG and Minehead, however we have the treatment of the S&DRT and 169 by the PLC which I think has set the tone.

    Could you not substitute the word S&DRT for WSSRT in terms of describing their activity and place in the WSR family?
     
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  11. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    >>>...by way of a bonus the chairman was responsible for negotiating with GWR to bring the TN -BL shuttle to WSR....

    Without wishing to denigrate that excellent effort in anyway, can someone please explain why such an initiative fell to the WSSRT rather than the Plc or WSRA? Of the 3 WSR organisations, IMHO the WSSRT would seem to be the one least likely to be involved with a commercial train operation.
     
  12. ross

    ross Well-Known Member

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    I think we might all have benefited from minding those words. Certainly I would be better off if I'd never heard of the railway, but the Flockton Flyer was televised when I was at an impressionable age
     
  13. Ian Monkton

    Ian Monkton Member

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    I don't think he was acting in his capacity as WSSRT chairman in that initiative, so it was not the WSSRT organising the shuttles.
     
  14. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    Good to read a post from someone connected with the WSSRT for some while rather than a few weeks. You have realised that you are on a 'hiding to nothing' here, but thank you for an alternative view point..
     
  15. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Plenty of questions, but no answers, the action of the 10 in standing, has been described as un helpful, to a trojan horse, a hostile take over bid, so why do some people view it as such, are they scared of losing their cosy bit of power? Those people as members, and longstanding members of the railway, has as much right to stand as anyone, sounds to me like those people currently running the charities, and PLC, seem to have lost sight of the fact that they only hold those positions because people put them there, and the members of the charities, and shareholders in the PLC can also remove them.
     
  16. Roger Thompson

    Roger Thompson Well-Known Member

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    I think it was more a question of who had the better personal contacts with the "big railway", not the brief of the organisation within the WSR family that they happened to represent.
     
  17. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    I think you may well be right. In fact, it has seemed to me recently that the 'public face' of the WSR in media coverage has tended to be more that of Chris Austen rather than either of the other chairman. Some here may think that a good thing...:)
     
  18. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    I think that's a bit unfair, many of us here have a history with the WSR that goes back much more than a few weeks, some as many as 40 Years (6 years for me). I don't think anybody is on a "hiding to nothing" for giving an alternative view here at all. What we have are many people looking for logical, consistent and factual reasons why the few in power on the WSR are doing the things they are doing.

    Whilst its fair to say we all care perhaps too much and do somethings get emotional in our wordings I do think there is a welcome place here for anybody who can give some reasoned fact based argument in defence of actions being taken by some, so perhaps 'the hiding to nothing' is that there is no reasoned argument forthcoming and most actions, statements and press releases justifying and attacking have been markedly 'evidence free' at best and a lot more aggressive and damaging at worst. The issue is, to date any reasoning just doesn't stand any level of scrutiny against the facts for more than a very short period of time and that can come across as a one sided view on here. But that doesn't make this a bad place to debate two sides of an argument, I think we would all welcome more debate as long as its informed.

    Its a pity @snappertim has decided not to post anymore, and I would ask him to continue. I'm sure we would all welcome some reasoned debate to support his views, he was right in his post when he said "Jaw Jaw not War War".

    So could we start as a simple debate without the politics, as just one of the many questions as the most recent in a long line: Why do the WSSRT Board feel its OK to ignore due process and their own Articles in the actions they have taken? The current reasoning of 'because we don't feel its right for 'those people' to stand for election before asking us or discussing it with us first to see if we OK it' just doesn't cut it, the Articles are clear on that, they don't need to, they are Members and they can stand for election if they wish. The only other reason I have seen is that its not what the current Board would like to happen, because they have said they just want to be left alone to carry on doing the same a before (I have sympathy here of course), but whilst also at the same time changing the name and articles so not continuing to do as they have done before but deciding on a big change without asking their members first, whilst saying they don't want to change? Does that sound like a WSSRT Board ensuring correct Due Process or protecting their own position and doing what a few want to do?

    So taken to the next logical step would it not be better for the people of the current WSSRT Board to leave the WSSRT and form their own group (as has been said, like the DEPG) and leave the WSSRT to its Members to continue, shareholdings and all? After all the WSR is large enough for another group of dedicated volunteers who want to do their own thing and be left in peace (which I support), the new group could carry on with their Coaches and staffing the museum without the 'baggage' of the WSSRT, I'm sure the new WSSRT Board would agree with that happening ?

    I would welcome your & @snappertim views on that.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
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  19. Greenway

    Greenway Part of the furniture

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    Andy you are too sensitive, most probably because of how you feel in respect of your recent history with the WSR. I know and so do most posters here, who is a new Member of the WSSRT and those, like your self, who have been involved for a long time.
    But those who post a pro PLC or alternative viewpoint to the majority of posters here do not usually continue with their postings and that is quite noticeable. In conformity with the usual WSR politics it does seem that dissenters seem to get drowned out. (Did not a recent post mention a calamitous AGM?). It is therefore quite difficult to get a reasonable debate, as you and many would probably welcome, however, there is often a harsh interpretation of events.
    Noticeable is that quite a few posters are lying low at present and are avoiding any discussions. You are, I guess outside the pale at present, so can make good contributions.
    Whether or not the WSSRT current board and Members would form a new group is a possibility. I think they might. but it would depend on the legal ownership of their assets as far as I can see. The suggestion that the WSSRT and WSRA have the same objectives may be so, however, having been the recipients of a HLF Grant for a specific WSSRT purpose I do wonder how that fits in with a substantive change which is what seems to be an aim for some - even if others deny it.

    I have mentioned the self inflicted acrimony, along with a large number of posters, by the PLC. I think that is mellowing but at the end of the day they are the operators of the line and whatever other folk think should be done, it is the PLC that ultimately 'carries the can'. The PLC, I am certain, are aware of who and from where the strife originates, but sadly, as so often happens, the innocent get hurt, whereas the perpetrators are shrewd enough to cover their tracks.
     
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  20. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Or just divest themselves of their shareholding and with it any connection to the Plc except as sub-leaseholders. Then they really would be in the same position as the DEPG. If the Bailey Plan is proceeded with, then the shareholding will expire anyway. As @snappertim says, it has become a curse.
    On that point, AFAICS, the new charity is not intended to own any assets, apart from the Plc, so, whether the merger goes ahead to form a new charity which will be the new overarching charity, or whether a standalone charity is formed which takes over much of the functions of the WSRA, there will still need to be another group who will own the assets of the existing charity(ies), which would probably have to be a charity themselves, so why not this be either the WSSRT or a merged WSRA/WSSRT?
     

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