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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. Andy Norman

    Andy Norman Part of the furniture

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    I think you have picked up on an important thing here in a wider context. As you will know the Volunteer Governor/Paid Headteacher relationship can also be fraught. As you say you are expected to become an educational expert as a Governor, you are also supported with compulsory Governor training in all areas and you have central, independent Governor Services department who both assist you, give you advice and have the power to either pull ‘rouge Governors’ into line (which I’m sure you are not) or ultimately remove them. Plus all of that is backed up by fully funded legal departments to ensure compliance, legal changes ongoing and fair play (not just suing others which is only a small part of their work) within both the Department for Education and all the Unions own funded teams.

    I come at this from my wife’s perspective, some here will recall her as the Local Headteacher who tried to hold the PLC to account under the Nolan Principals for their actions in cancelling the HPC Project activities. Some will welcome the news she has been promoted to Primary Lead of a Multi-Academy Trust (in effect managing Heads in a larger Group of Schools under a Trust) a promotion which her old schools and the MAT have been working on for the last year as a progression after bringing Crowcombe & Stogumber Schools back from the brink of closure up to their current level, and can now be spoken about seeing it’s taken place officially after a yearlong secondment alongside her old role as Head.

    She is also a School Governor of a separate Local Primary, a Union Rep for the National Association of Head Teachers and a Consultant who advises other schools on many aspects of management including governance. This means she gets a good all-round view of the paid operating Board / Volunteer governing Board model and how it works (or doesn’t sometimes).

    Her views are clear, Governors & Heads not understanding the operating/governing needs and not understanding the difference between operational & strategic alongside lack of awareness and training is all too common and the main thing that leads to failing schools, conflict, staff removals, bullying and resignations. As a Union Rep she sees the fallout and cost to this for all, it always ends in a schools performance going backward, sometimes to the point of failure, in addition to the costs in financial terms.

    The School model has worked for many, many years, today its racing to keep up with changes even with lots of support and professional outside input including the above plus each Head having a paid Mentor, Performance Coaches for all SLT and other people focusing on and supporting the in-school teams, plus of course a very clear set of guidelines on how to operate via Ofsted.

    In my Wife’s Consultancy role she works on a wider level and has just been asked by a national group of Headteachers to produce a Podcast on the differences between Operational & Strategic and the different roles Volunteer Governors and Professional Heads need to play to ensure they both add to the whole, not destroy it. It will have relevance to the way many heritage railways operate as well and will be available when it’s produced if anybody is interested.

    My point is I have sympathy for both the ORR & HRA, the WSR is a prime example of what can happen when you have nothing in place other than people who hate each other and who mostly lack any leaderships skills through no fault of their own because they haven’t been trained or received ongoing support and mentoring. They just got the job via a popular vote and think their way is the only way because in a different environment and context in their commercial lives it worked for them or worse only know railways and just love them and want the best for them, and whilst they will know how to insert a left-handed wiggetty spinney thing into a floppy dangle bracket on a lesser spotted West Somerset Pacific, Atlantic three wheeled Pannier better than anybody on earth they don’t have the skills to run a complex, heavy regulated public leisure attraction.

    I can see both the ORR & HRA starting a journey to re-structure the heritage railway environment because they have too, they need to, it’s now too big and faces all the same environmental challenges that Schools have in their structure with influencing input from loads of different directions including operating in a highly regulated environment where your customers don’t influence everything you have to do to operate, plus with many outside agencies directly bringing in their own needs to add to the complexity.

    However the ORR and the HRA do not have the infrastructure and centrally financed support Schools have in place. Their task is a massive one because if you look at the starting point which is the WSR they have nothing: No governance other than a few peoples own opinions, no accountability, no functioning structure, no checks and balances, nobody to call foul and worst of all nobody who can bring all together, provide leadership, take the strategic view and form a recovery plan others can buy into. The WSR currently only has an operational view, so whilst the current PLC Board maybe doing a good or a bad job depending on who you are talking to, there is no Strategic view at all, all are in the moment fighting to survive the day in a never ending battle of personalities, and nobody has the bigger picture remit and I don’t even think anybody currently in post has the ability let alone the time. Maybe the WSR is just the first of many ?

    The Heritage Railway Industry would do well to look at how Schools function in the UK, there are large and relevant parallels and many lessons could be learned from Education because they have had many more years to work through the problems that passionate volunteers and paid professional working together in a diverse, focused and regulated organisation made up of many different parts and groups that nobody really owns brings.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2020
  2. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    I would observe that under this model, in theory who the Plc directors are is of less consequence for supporters, because they ought to have less say in strategic "vision" type decisions, they being the responsibility of the directly accountable parent Trust.
     
  3. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    The suggestion of disenfanchisement is very wide of the mark. All the Directors/Trustees on the NYMR Charity Board are elected by the NYMR membership. In turn all the Directors on the PLC operating company board are subject to approval by the Trust Board. So the membership retain a direct influence. Guidance from the Charity Commission is very clear. Trustees should be recruited on the basis of their ability to run the Charity effectively and to achieve its charitable pubic benefit purposes. On a heritage railway charity there is a need to ensure there are those on its board that can represent the vital interests and concerns of members and volunteers. However there needs to be a balance with those having the skills, experience and qualifications to run what may be a multi million pound business. Increasingly the tendency is for boards to identify what they need from its volunteer directors because the alternative is to buy in that resource, often at great cost.
    It's not just the Charity Commission who have a view about the make up of heritage railway charity boards. The interview with the ORR's Ian Prosser in this months Steam Railway is very instructive. Essentially the ORR expect demonstrable competence and stability measured against its RM3 Management Maturity Model. The privilege of carrying members of the public on our railways comes at a price......the requirement for professional standards of business management. That is bound to affect nomination and election based solely on popularity or performance as a working member.
     
  4. City of truro fan

    City of truro fan New Member

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    To save money they could close several stations for a little while so no one has to be paid to go there and the trains could just go through with the signals pulled off as if it’s one line. There are several stations that could be closed as this is an emergency. Like stogumber
     
  5. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    I may be wrong, but I don't think station staff are paid on the WSR? Or at least, not at the smaller intermediate stations.
     
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  6. City of truro fan

    City of truro fan New Member

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    In that case my idea won’t work. But it would be good to see trains run again as the pictures on the internet’s are all weeds
     
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  7. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I agree with you on the importance of professional skills within organisations, and how the appointment of senior leaders needs to be skills based. However, I share the concerns of @60044 about disenfranchisement of ordinary members, working and armchair. As a lay member of both the NYMR and of the Bluebell, the process by which elected officers become directors isn’t entirely clear, and the separation of steps feels to me like a significant weakness in a volunteer and membership based organisation. While things are good, this is academic, but feels to me like a brittle model, that would be very vulnerable to sudden shocks, and which would be ill suited to managing significant change if required.

    In this discussion, comment has been made about the quality of members’ decisions about who might be good for a role, with the suggestion that popularity is a poor qualification. My own view is that those making this case need to look a bit harder at themselves before pressing it too hard. The typical 2-300 word nomination flyer is rarely informative about why the candidate would be good for a particular role, and frequently relies on “I’m a jolly good chap” comments, without linking that history to why that makes them a good candidate. Some rather better editing of those flyers for relevance would go a long way to enfranchsing the remote voter.

    Given all of this, my personal preference would be for a move to selection followed by popular ratification of directors in a two tier structure.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
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  8. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Er, no it couldn't, because the "bright sparks" all said that they weren't going to stand.
    Are you referring to the current board, most of who, AFAIK, have been co-opted rater than elected? If so, the answer is, I'd certainly prefer to see elcted directors to unelected ones.
    Years, surely.
    So the crossing wasn't renewed in 2018 becasue of the County Council? That's a bit of information we didn't have before. Shouldn't they be paying the railway compensation?
    So who installed the original crossing? If it wasn't the WSR, shouldn't they be the ones doing it this time?
    So it's OK to point the finger at a certain member of the WSSRT as causing problems by collecting too many coaches to restore, but not to ask who was responsible for not progressing Seaward Way crossing when they had the opportunity.
    That doesn't sound like good news, given that it is already difficult to find people who want to be directors of companies and trustees of charities in the sector. A further shrinking of the pool from which these people might be drawn is not going to make it any easier.
    @Lineisclear , whilst you are back on this thread, please could you let us know how you envisaged the shares in the current Plc being transferred to the new proposed charity as outlined in your restructuring plan as the details are a little obscure. and as a shareholder, I'd quite like to know.
     
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  9. aldfort

    aldfort Part of the furniture

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    I see that debate and endless speculation is alive and well on NP. I popped in to suggest a few things.

    Firstly we've now had 2 out of the 3 AGMs of note on the WSR.
    I'll leave the NP massif to compare and contrast how that went.

    Consensus and co-operation as mentioned by John Bailey is the only way forward.

    WSRA will be launching a members consultation on restructuring and will be guided by our members views.

    While I always find the comments here interesting I'd prefer to have conversations about practical help Some, like John, do offer this and it is very welcome. Those who would insist that it's their way or nothing need not apply. Consensus builders with the sorts of skill sets John has mentioned will be welcome. I am easy to contact via the WSRA.
     
  10. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    good post , however my observation is the HRA is a trade association not a governing body to hold its members to account . The fact the HRA continues to be a mouthpiece for the views of the PLC in its social media channels makes it more a puppet than the puppeteer .

    If preservation is to have a future long term upskilling of many boards and managements will be needed
     
  11. City of truro fan

    City of truro fan New Member

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    Even if they did sort the managers out and get someone proper to run it I have heard there track is no good anyway and needs a lot more fixing work. And it is all covered in weeds now anyway.
     
  12. 60044

    60044 Member

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    The thing is, a heritage railway is not a conventional business. The clue is there in the catch-all title. Unlike a conventional TOC , for example, the NYMR is heavily staffed by volunteers, who turn up because they want to, not because they have to. They are the ones who turn what would be a heavily loss-making enterprise into one that can at least survive. The full time management are there to lead and assist them in both this and operating the railway safely, but it should be the volunteers and other supporters who provide the long term vision and plan for what is required. Packing the Trust Board with people with particular management expertise is pointless and brings with it the problem of them trying to micromanage. I don't believe the NYMR has ever really had a long term plan prepared by the Trust Board, for example, and that to me is a glaring omission, along with the lack of a heritage plan. Many ordinary members will have thoughts but will the get the opportunity to promulgate them if they are not a bank manager or architect? And how is trying to restrict Trust Board membership to those with professional qualifications not disenfranchising those without them or possessing not necessarily relevant ones?
     
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  13. smithersmark600

    smithersmark600 New Member

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    Get a grip will you. No one was pressured into voting as they did. More and more speculatory rubbish on here. Not at all surprised really. Ah well.
     
  14. smithersmark600

    smithersmark600 New Member

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    I suggest that before you start making such ridiculous statements that you actually get your facts straight. Yes some track needs work as it does on any railway and the funding is there to do this, and as for saying its covered in weeds now anyway, thats a real smack in the face t all those people who have given up MANY hours of their time to hand weed the railway. We didnt see you rolling your sleeves up at any point! I think you owe them an apology but I wont hold my breath!
     
  15. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    Two posts suggesting that the result of Saturday's AGM be respected, that those disappointed by the result live with it, and that speculation on here will be of limited use. One that builds respect in a difficult process, and one that, well, I'd probably better not express my view.
     
  16. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    pausing for reflection we remain in a battle for the control and the future of the WSR

    roll back to the Ex6 days and the attempt to own the freehold . A charity owning the assets and an operating PLC beholden to it ... sound familiar

    the pretence was one railway approach and cooperation but fast forward and the factions still squabble and control is key factor . Same end goal but different route

    so what next .... crystal ball time

    was the WSRA enthusiasm for Bailey rooted in the successful merger with the WSRRT which enabled them to control the process ?
    Where does this now leave the recommendations for the bailey report . Was the PLC enthusiasm down to the threat the WSRA merger with the WSRRT posed and with that now off the table there is no compelling need to dilute or change the current structure
    What now for the WSRA ? has this episode devalued / marginalised it ?
    Will it be willing or able to try to hold the PLC to account
     
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  17. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Indeed, @aldfort 's comments here and elsewhere are encouraging. A shame he finds himself in disagreement with Plc directors in that area.
     
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  18. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    Whilst other railways were running trains the volunteers were on their hands and needs weeding the length of the WSR
     
  19. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    just imagine a world where those supportive of the current regime actually engaged in a meaningful way , built confidence that the current steps were for the greater long term good of the railway and that all the concerns were treated with a modicum of respect and answered constructively . The WSR is discussed so much due to the actions taken by the railway .
     
  20. smithersmark600

    smithersmark600 New Member

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    Yet again you spout absolute rubbish! Staff at the ststaions are all VOLUNTEERS and like the others Stogumber is staffed by these people who give up their time totally unpaid.
     

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