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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. flying scotsman123

    flying scotsman123 Nat Pres stalwart

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    If you read the ORR guidance on the responsibility of directors I think they expect them to be a lot more than shareholder reps and deal with a lot more than just long term strategy.
     
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  2. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    does they have access to rather large pots of money then? It's most likely a dream, an wish, because if someone were to offer to buy the WSR if it did go under, It would not include the land, the council own that, so no chance of selling off bits to developers to pay for it, then theres the liabilities, And finally, if the present chair was to front it, given his links to Crossville who lost their licence, would he pass a fit and proper test to be a director in the first place, My bet is still that, if the worse were to happen, the council would chose to go down the best political for them locally route, and sound out NR/ HMGov, to take the line back into the network,
     
  3. Thompson1706

    Thompson1706 Well-Known Member

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    I can confirm from recent experience that having the same person in both roles doesn't work.

    Bob.
     
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  4. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    I would never advocate it, but much depends on both the individual wearing the hats, and the structures around them. No structure can work in the long term where power and authority are excessively centralised, and there is no ability for critical friends to function.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  5. andrewtoplis

    andrewtoplis Member

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    Yes, my post was describing the Victorian way, but perhaps didn't put it across well.
     
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  6. cav1975

    cav1975 Member

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    I can assure you that the directors of the Isle of Wight Railway take ALL their responsibilities very seriously. The real point is that the managers (& not the directors) are expected to manage the railway.

    Nick
     
  7. Vulcan Works

    Vulcan Works Member

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    I agree. Occasionally a talented person can fulfil a strategic and a managerial role especially if they have a good management team to support and guide them. Often though the tasks are too many and too complex for somebody to be an expert in everything.

    There are several examples of under-performing railways where the MD and General Manager are one and the same. Being charitable you could say that they are a victim of circumstances, ‘they’re doing their best’ and ‘they shouldn’t be held responsible for the railway’s mess’. I really struggle with that point of view. In fact I would say there are several examples of downright manipulative and incompetent behaviour but perhaps that’s true of all organisations and not something unique to heritage railways.
     
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  8. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Whilst agreeing with the sentiment (safe operation and strict adherence to statutory requirements are non-negotiable), there's a big difference between a line scooting a small diesel and brake van, or a bubble car up and down a mile or so of track every weekend during the summer and a full-blown daily multi-train operation, 6 months or more a year, over many miles. To that extent, horses for courses.
     
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  9. Bayard

    Bayard Part of the furniture

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    Traditionally, companies were run by a managing director, who is, essentially and traditionally, the general manager with a seat on the board. In the US, they prefer to have a chief executive officer, who has the same role, but without a seat on the board. The problem with the WSR is not that too much power is concentrated in too few hands, but that those hands are not the right hands. Historically, the British have a poor record when it comes to the role of GM/MD/CEO. We tend to suffer from delusions of feudal seigneurity, exacerbated by the poor interpersonal skills which are a national characteristic.
    The problem about having a board of directors who do anything other than keeping an eye on the performance of the GM/MD/CEO and making sure that he/she is doing a good job and, most vitally, replacing him/her if he/she isn't, is that either they are sufficiently detatched from the day-to-day management to be able to make strategic decisions, in which case they don't really know enough about the business to do that, or that they are sufficiently involved in the day to day running to be informed, in which case the danger is that they can't see the wood for the trees. The management of the company is appointed by the directors to run the company. It really doesn't help that person or persons to have a lot of back seat drivers telling them which turning to take all the time, just in case they might make a wrong turning.
     
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  10. Steve Edge

    Steve Edge Member

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    Best laugh of the week. And neatly sums up this thread :)

    Steve
    wsr.org.uk
     
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  11. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I must have missed the sterling job the front seat drivers at the WSR are doing.

    Two things strike me from the recent history of the WSR. Concentration of power in the hands of a few individuals but at the same time, the job that those individuals have been doing has been poor.

    So we have a short list of recent WSR management failures

    • the failed bid for funding
    • Seaward Way delays
    • the farce of the SOS fund raising appeal
    • the loss of the S&DRT - and the comments from the S&DRT about protracted periods of silence from the PLC.
    • repeated issues with ORR
    • failure to run last year/slow reopening
    • the rejection of Bailey reforms
    • exclusion of members of the 10
    You can read this in two ways both of which point to incompetence. The generous interpretation is that the few individuals are being over-stretched in taking on multiple roles. For example - if it takes you two weeks to develop a detailed response to ORR that is two weeks where you aren't responding to say the S&DRT, if you are spending 3 weeks on Seaward Way that is 3 weeks you aren't developing your funding appeal, etc etc. But on the other hand it is the job of managers to delegate, so either there is a failure to delegate, or there is a management culture where even if things are delegated there is an unwillingness or inability for people lower down the food chain to make decisions. Which ever way you cut it, the PLC's record has been one of consistent failure.

    It is notable that when things were delegated ie the team who led the first bid for covid funding, they were successful.
     
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  12. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    Maybe they simply do not have enough suitable people to whom they can delegate all the tasks anyway?
    Many years ago I lead a small 2-person team. One went off on long-term sick-leave (never to come back), the other got married and moved away. Neither post was re-filled for at least 6 months. Suddenly I was trying to do the work of 3 people - some things had to be 'left until later'. It happens.....
     
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  13. JBTEvans

    JBTEvans Member

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    It's a bit like my work now, somebody is leaving and somebody is going off for a few months due to an operation within a fortnight of one another.
     
  14. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    The WSR is not a two person team. I find it hard to imagine that on a heritage line such as the WSR there are not enough suitable people. If it were a small line running half a mile with a brake van and a shunter then maybe.

    What you have indirectly pointed out are the consequences of high staff turnover and what we can say about the WSR is that there has been a very high rate of turnover, and the question has to be asked why and what role does management culture play in that.

    Plus, the proof is in the pudding. The one thing that has been done well and was successful was the first CRF bid and that was delegated.

    I just want to go back to this because the funding appeal (like the one for D1010) is a text book example of a well constructed funding appeal

    https://www.alnvalleyrailway.co.uk/index.php/support-us/cawledge-viaduct-appeal

    So the page tells us exactly what needs to be done, how it will be done, when the work will be done. It tells us about why we should care about this bridge, it has clear visuals and it sets out very clearly how you can support with a nice visible link to donating straight away.

    Now, if a relatively new line that doesn't run very far, doesn't have a big reputation, can organise a successful appeal for critical works, why can't a 'premier league' line like the WSR?
     
  15. RailWest

    RailWest Part of the furniture

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    No, but there may be certain 'departments' within it that do not have many staff. Then you are faced with either giving the task to someone else possibly less well qualified, or simply putting the job on the 'back burner' until.....when?.....
     
  16. Monkey Magic

    Monkey Magic Part of the furniture

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    I gave a list of recent management failures - how many of those do you think couldn't have been delegated? ORR and Seaward Way maybe. Bailey was delegated and then promptly kicked into the long grass.

    And if you are correct and the management team is small and things can not be delegated, then why have they decided to divide their time and energies on unnecessary activities such as the S&DRT eviction, legal threats against locals, action against volunteers etc etc? If management teams with limited resources are adding unnecessary extra work for themselves then that is incompetence and mismanagement.

    Whichever way you cut it the SM at the WSR is incompetent.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2021
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  17. 60044

    60044 Member

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    The Chairman's previous difficulties with his bus company's operating licence do not suggest a high level of managerial competence either.
     
  18. FrankC

    FrankC Well-Known Member

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    I guess then in your part of Kent one or more of your fellow directors are keeping an eye on other matters, on your behalf, which is not really how it is meant to work. A key role is accountability, both for safety and for financial probity. The HRA Guidance on the role of directors is useful for anyone with an interest:
    https://static1.squarespace.com/sta...-+Duties+&++Roles+of+the+Board+&+Chairman.pdf
     
  19. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    Actually Frank, the KESR, I'm assuming you are referring to, that railway, seems to have everyone pulling together, and unity now, It wasn't always so, A Certain, now departed GM upset a lot of people, caused a lot of strife, and when i looked in recently, the new GM, actually talks to people, listens, and works to improve the team, so I would say its a lesson on how the WSR Could be.
     
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  20. Downline

    Downline Member

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    Well that guidance document does not represent the current WSR Plc structure... Actually, it does a bit, the bit at the beginning where the ORR are critical of railway governance.
     

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