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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    But what IS the current 'volunteer support organisation' for the WSR - if indeed there is one?

    AIUI the responsibility for recruiting volunteers has now passed back to the Plc.

    The current (on their website) WSRA Articles give their Objects as ".... promote education in the heritage of the railway from Taunton to Minehead by restoring, preserving and displaying railway locomotives, carriages, wagons and other artefacts (including documents, drawings, photographs, recordings and films) of historical interest and the buildings connected therewith." Nothing specific in that about it being a (or the) support body for volunteers.
     
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  2. Lenny

    Lenny New Member

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    In 12 years of volunteering the need to join a volunteer support organisation has never been mentioned.
     
  3. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    Currently there is no need - but if, during those 12 years, you have never been invited and/or encouraged to join the Association, then IMHO that merely illustrates another example of a missed opportunity within the 'railway family'.
     
  4. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    Tom,
    I suggest the issues are not unique to the WSR. The best protection that any heritage railway volunteers have at the moment is a railway's need for them, There 's a lot of talk on here about reputation. That's critical both for retaining and attracting volunteers. There may not be a right to volunteer but there is a right not to.

    On structural change the PLC statement makes clear the Board's view that the time is not right. I understand that.

    I made my personal recommendations but at the end of the day what really matters is financial viability. Any structure has to address that issue. The pandemic has highlighted that for many railways, especially longer ones carrying a high annual burden of essential capital expenditure on assets and infrastructure, the assumption that membership income, supplemented by operating surpluses, will be enough to sustain the railway is flawed. The question is how any structure is going to bridge the funding gap between annual surplus and essential annual spend. There seems to be a consensus in the WSR's case that a very substantial extra amount is required every year. If the existing structure can deliver that great! Given that additional PLC share issues to new purchasers of any material volume must involve reliance on an Authorised Issuer and a Prospectus (both of which are expensive) without the benefit of Gift Aid, and that the WSRA, as principal fundraiser is restricted by its charitable objects on what it can raise funds for, I have my reservations. If those prove to be unfounded I will be delighted.
     
  5. Piggy

    Piggy Member

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    Therein lies the problem, the time will never be right for the board to change its selfish and aggressive stance whilst in the hands of the current, hopefully interim, chairperson.
     
  6. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    As I said, it is important, if you think occupying the moral high ground is important, otherwise it is counterproductive.
    The situation we have today is that the HRA is able to communicate with and maybe influence the WSR, because the two organisations ar still talking. After your preferred course of action, the HRA is no longer talking to the WSR and has no influence with them whatsoever. I fail to see how this is an improvement. No-one gives a damn what the HRA say about the WSR. Potential passengers don't care, they only care in what the railway has to offer in the way of a day out. Potential volunteers are much more likely to read Nat Pre sor talk to an existing volunteer, if they do any homework at all before turning up and volunteering their services. Potential donors are unlikely to be so lax as to be unaware that there is something of which they disapprove going on at the railway which they wouldn't have known about if it wasn't for the HRA "going public" about it.
     
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  7. nick813

    nick813 Well-Known Member Loco Owner

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    Unfortunately it is true.
     
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  8. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Part of the furniture

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    Worth making the point that the WSR is currently burning through £100000 a month just to stay alive and the second application for heritage funding, written by a single director, unlike the previous team effort was turned down.

    As has also been pointed out the K&ESR sadly made redundancies after looking at the likely traffic on 2021 & 2022, the WSR has not to date, good news for staff in the short term but not the long term.
     
  9. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    The problem that many of these organisations face is that people see them as set up to stop people doing things wrong, whereas they see their mission as to help people do things the right way. You have the majority of your members are doing things the right way, and you help and encourage the rest to do better. Sadly, that's not want people want. They want wrongdoers to be punished and cast into the outer darkness so that they learn the error of their ways before begging humbly to to be re-admitted into the light. It's no longer the C19th and the world doesn't work like this. All that happens is that the errant members leave the organisation and everything carries on exactly as before. The GMC has the force of law behind it, the HRA don't, so the two are not comparable.
     
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  10. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Others may correct me on this, but wasn't the WSRA originally supposed to be the volunteers' organisation? It seems to me that, in the decades of struggle between the Plc and the WSRA for control of the railway, that has been lost, as the WSRA changed under the influence of that aim, with the result that the WSR no longer has a volunteer support organisation. As a member of the WSRA, this is certainly something I would like to see them concentrate on.
     
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  11. Robin Moira White

    Robin Moira White Nat Pres stalwart

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    I don't.

    Robin
     
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  12. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I struggle to see any evidence of the HRA having any positive impact on the WSR PLC. Unless you consider a 6 month extension for a society that couldn't move out because of lockdown to be a victory.

    Acting as fig leaf for the PLC 'Look the HRA approve of what we are doing' is I'd argue even more counter-productive than speaking out.

    Let's flip it around, what is the point of talking to the PLC if you have no influence over them anyway?
     
  13. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Totally agree about financial viability. To refresh my memory, I went back to reread the Bailey Proposal, archived here. In section 4 you are quite trenchant in your criticism of the existing structure as holding the railway back from the kind of fund-raising performance and flexibility you suggest is required. In section 5, you propose an alternative, in particular a membership charity that owns the assets and has an operating subsidiary company: as I recall from other discussion, an advantage of that proposal was the possibility of benefiting from Gift Aid on fares, a considerable bonus on a line where fare income is into seven figures.

    Given all that, you might forgive my confusion about the relatively sanguine view you seem to be taking about the plc kicking reform into the long grass. The railway as a whole appears to have had two opportunities in the last five or six years in which a critical external eye has been cast over it and made wide reaching recommendations about governance: for the second time, it looks like the railway is about to flunk the opportunity it has been given by what might be described - being charitable - as an organisational paralysis favouring retention of the status quo.

    Tom
     
  14. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    The HRA would like every heritage railway and associated organisations to be its members. I’m fairly certain that so would the ORR. Expelling an organisation would be contrary to that aim.
     
  15. ghost

    ghost Part of the furniture

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    If that is the case, how does the HRA "discipline" a member who is not following its rules?
     
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  16. ghost

    ghost Part of the furniture

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    @Lineisclear any comment on my post above please?
     
  17. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    I get all that, and I agree with the sentiment that there is little point in the HRA chucking the WSR out, I'm fairly comfortable not advocating that. But at the moment the WSR's actions are seen to being given tacit approval by the HRA. If the HRA had expressed disapproval at the S&DRT being thrown out, for example, would the WSR have felt emboldened enough to take this latest action? Of course we'll never know. I don't mind the HRA not taking any kind of formal action, but I do mind them seemingly accepting the Plc board's version of events at face value, time and again, reinforcing the ORR flim-flammery that the Plc board keep putting forward as an excuse, and taking a very, very narrow legal view on what's right and wrong. Sure, the HRA can't do anything directly, but if they came out and expressed dissatisfaction, it might just open the eyes of enough WSR supporters to make a difference.

    Speaking of making a difference, does anyone know how many shares that 4.7% of shareholder responders actually represent? @aldfort , as (one of) the largest shareholders in the Plc did the WSRA give a response to this survey? I recall the WSRA official view was quite enthusiastic about structural change?
     
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  18. jma1009

    jma1009 Well-Known Member

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    Now the 'cat is out of the bag' as to withdrawal of ID cards...

    I suggest attention is focused on the WSR plc board.

    And with no HR grievance policy in place, since Andy Norman's example.

    To expell volunteers post Andy, for standing as Trustees of the then WSSRT, with no explusion from the WSSRT as was, but now from a separate entity namely the WSR plc board, is frankly 'nuts' and perverse, and the WSR plc board acting way beyond what would be regarded as acceptable behaviour.

    Those who stood as new Trustees for the WSSRT and were members of same, and have not been subject to any sanction by that body, should not then be subjected to sanction by the WSR plc board, which is a separate legal entity.
     
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  19. The Dainton Banker

    The Dainton Banker Well-Known Member

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    There is a concept in law of "Natural Justice". This is defined as: The right to a fair hearing requires that individuals should not be penalized by decisions affecting their rights or legitimate expectations unless they have been given prior notice of the case, a fair opportunity to answer it, and the opportunity to present their own case. The mere fact that a decision affects rights or interests is sufficient to subject the decision to the procedures required by natural justice.
    Note that even where there is no legal employment protection for a volunteer, as explained by @Lineisclear , the volunteer still has legitimate expectations (of continuing their volunteering) and, therefore cannot be dismissed without the proper procedures being followed. Failure to do so makes the dismissal invalid and could result in legal action against the Company/Board/ Directors concerned.
     
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  20. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    It is pretty clear that the HRA is a waste of space.

    The people who should be called into question are the PLC board. They are the ones who initiated this move against the four. With the WSSRT now under the PLC's control, it is clear that there are no potential checks or balances on the PLC board and no mechanism by which the shareholders can call the board to account.

    All the meanwhile, the WSR isn't running, is burning through cash and Seaward Way is still not finished.

    It appears that the PLC board has learnt nothing, or at least whatever it has learnt from the last couple of years has been the wrong thing.
     

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