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West Somerset Railway General Discussion

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

  1. ghost

    ghost Part of the furniture

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    Why would it result in the loss of volunteers ability to enjoy their hobby? Are you implying that by withdrawing their labour those volunteers would have their id cards removed?
    That would be an extremely foolish act by the PLC as I don't believe there is anyone on the planet who believes the WSR can be run with paid staff alone. Besides, in the absence of the ability to work on the WSR, those volunteers might just decide to take themselves off to the ESR or the L&B and find a very different kind of railway and volunteering experience...
     
  2. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I think the point being made (@Lineisclear can correct me if wrong) is that if the volunteers were to precipitate a course of action that caused the railway to fail, there would be no more volunteering opportunities available on the WSR - I didn't read it as a veiled threat to prevent them volunteering on the WSR if it continue to exist.

    If the WSR did collapse, for some volunteers they might take up opportunities at other lines; but that is not always easy. Some might be of an age where they feel starting afresh somewhere else isn't something they'd relish; some might be like the proverbial stick of rock with "WSR" right through and have a particular emotional attachment to the railway; some might find the logistics of the journey don't work elsewhere; or there may be many other reasons. Presumably for every volunteer at the WSR, they choose there because they feel it is optimal for them - so a change would necessarily feel sub-optimal for that specific person. For example, if you are a loco man - you might really enjoy the challenge of firing a large locomotive with a heavy train over twenty miles. If so, the L&B is going to be something entirely different. That's not to say anything bad against the L&B, simply to say that the specific challenge that motivates a volunteer to go to Line A may be absent from Line B. It isn't simply an easy calculation to say "if your volunteering opportunity dries up in one place, you can easily pick it up somewhere else".

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2022
  3. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    The sad thing is that I think we have been discussing some variant on that point for over ten years on this (and related) threads. The core governance structure of the railway is unfit for purpose - but that has been obvious for years. There is a lot currently being laid at the feet of one individual, but I am not convinced that were he to be removed, things would improve: it is the structure that is wrong. The railway has had at least ten years of Governance crises - those have drained energy out of the railway such that those running it have been distracted from their core function of ensuring the railway is financially and operationally viable, and keeps up with its maintenance backlog.

    (Here's a little brain teaser: without Googling it, how many years ago was the Coombes report published?)

    I'm bereft of ideas of what to do. All I see is a railway that, because of its length, is always going to be more challenging than most to operate successfully; which therefore needs high quality management even more than man other simpler and smaller lines; for which there is a general acknowledgement that the current structures don't work; and yet a complete impasse when it comes to doing anything about that. I don't see a big implosion, at least not imminently, but without some adults on the railway taking a dispassionate, strategic view of the problems and agreeing to be free of baggage in discussion, a death by a thousand cuts over the next few years.

    Tom
     
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  4. Lineisclear

    Lineisclear Member

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    Thanks James.

    That's exactly what I meant.

    Teaching those in charge a lesson by " going down fighting" implies that volunteers should accept possible closure of the railway rather than continue to sustain it despite their disatisfaction with those in charge. Withdrawing their support for a Gala ( as suggested) would be bound to inflict serious financial damage. I wonder how many would want to risk the consequences?
     
  5. martin1656

    martin1656 Nat Pres stalwart Friend

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    The railway needs change, but there are those who control levers of power, and who enjoy that power, any attempt to lessen that power ends up with people being thrown off the railway, there is a cosy relationship between the PLC, and the WSR heritage trust, That see's its shareholding used not for the benefit of its members, but the personal position of certain trustees, who just happen to also sit on the WSR PLC board.
     
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  6. Saint Austell

    Saint Austell New Member

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    Sad thing is we all know things aren't right,
    Way Washford was handled,44422,6695 being asked to leave the railway.

    Nothings going to change under the current regime,leadership of the railway.

    It seems to be safe from doom, not much point , losing sleep over it really.
     
  7. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator

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    I think the point is being missed re a withdrawal of labour . The action is not intended to cause the failure of the railway but to make it very clear to the management that their approach is not to the wishes of those whose labour sustains the railway . Now of course railway failure could be an unintended consequence or a deliberate ploy by the management to negate the volunteers actions .

    we are 2080 pages in , in an endless circle with no view either way of whether the WSR is in a position to survive or a position of peril .

    there is perhaps an interesting point and broader one . Rather like government those who become ministers generally don't demonstrate a lot of practical experience or qualification in the area they are minister of . The same perhaps could be argued for preserved railway , the running of which present unique challenges of running with very old equipment and methods in a modern safety environment with a mix of paid and volunteer staff all who have probably more emotional capital invested in the railway than an average person does in their place of work . A manager can be seen as too commercial, not heritage enough, not attentive to modern customer needs , not listening to volunteer wishes and all the while facing an endless stream of £££££ expenditure covered by £££ income . The pool of successful heritage line managers with the right levels of business acumen, heritage nous and volunteer leadership is probably short.

    it has been noticeable that some recent changes have led to a calmer WSR albeit the resurgence of discussion could be something afoot , or just not a lot else happening

    only time will tell if the doomsayers , myself included were wrong and the current leadership can take the railway forward . It may be the case we are right and one day , rather like Llangollen administrators will arrive , or of course it could bumble along managing to overcome moments of peril . For those who do not like the current regime and its action and given that pretty much everything else has so far failed to elicit change , what are you going to do ? Do you tolerate what you have (much like a number of tory MP's in the face of overwhelming and damning evidence against the leader ) or can you make a stand in sufficient number to be the catalyst for the change you desire ?
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2022
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  8. Piggy

    Piggy Member

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    If you don't fight ..... you can't win !
     
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  9. ghost

    ghost Part of the furniture

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    That is undoubtedly true Tom, although I took the reference to withdrawal of volunteer labour as a one perhaps two off, certainly not a long term strategy. If the railway went under because of one event, the railway probably wasn't going to last much longer anyway. I would imagine that any withdrawal of labour would be well publicised in advance to allow the management to realise that they had to face up to the issues being raised.
    It's all hypothetical anyway, the WSR volunteer force is so fragmented nothing like this will ever happen!
     
  10. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    I said earlier that just because some people don't like the way that the railway does things is a fact of heritage life, I would suggest. But you really would be hard pushed to think of another set up that has been so unsettled for so long and with so many issues.

    The WSR is an employer. That is important for those it employs. Whether it is a good employer is for others to say. But if the WSR also relies on volunteer labour to exist then that is its weakness as without those people the deck of cards will fall.
    So actually, the future may lie more in the hands of volunteers than they might think. But a handful of discontented people saying as much on here will achieve little.
     
  11. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    But you are assuming that a sufficient majority want change. I don't know whether that's the case or not but I haven't seen much evidence of people being that discontented, other than a few posters on here.
     
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  12. Bayard

    Bayard Well-Known Member

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    Reform of the governance structure of the WSR is like voting reform: both have the problem that the people who would be implementing any reform are just fine with the way things are now.
     
  13. nanstallon

    nanstallon Part of the furniture

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    It really would be cutting off your nose to spite your face.
     
  14. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

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    It seems to me that the requirement for any organisation, heritage in particular is that you need a culture in which the management enjoy the confidence of all parties involved, so that when difficult, unpopular or occasionaly even wromg decisions are made then they can be accepted either as necessary or because the management get it right most of the time.

    The WSR sadly lacks this
     
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  15. martin1656

    martin1656 Nat Pres stalwart Friend

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    Sadly. talk of refusing to volunteer will only get ID cards removed such is the grip on the railway, that the cabal have, that its already a battle lost, every high profile dissenter, has now been kicked off the railway, or silenced, many others will think twice before supporting any plan to shake up things,

    The WSR, Is IMHO already doomed, Its not planning for the future, its to busy staying afloat and surviving day to day, plans to shake things up, have already been thrown into the long grass, because its for some a threat to their power, To these people, the railway isn't important, only the power it gives them, but all it will take is one unexpected problem, that cant be met, or a bill that they can't afford to pay,

    It will limp on, for a bit longer, patching things up, rattling the donations box, because fares do not cover the operating costs, and losses will increase year on year, but one day the house of cards must collapse in to its self, brought down by those people whose duty should be to ensure the right thing for the railway is done, not the thing that meets their own agenda, or because of personal hatreds.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2022
  16. Bayard

    Bayard Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure that showing evidence of being discontented is a good idea on the WSR at the moment. Here you can hide beneath a (slightly threadbare) cloak of anonymity.
     
  17. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Member

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    Excuse me asking; if the WSR is already doomed why do you invest so many words in doing it down ?

    What do you mean by operating costs ? Are these simply the marginal costs of running a service or are
    they both marginal and related fixed costs. If the latter I suggest few, if any, Heritage Railways achieve this.

    I remember when Dick Fearn stood down as Blubell Chairman he noted there was only an operating
    surplus in two of the previous seven years.

    Finally, although my role on the WSR is now limited to being a member of a specific station staff
    team, I am not aware of this apparent WSR silent majority who are so intimidated that they dare
    not speak out. As with any organisation heavily reliant on volunteers, there are the usual ( I suggest
    healthy) exchange of views betwixt volunteers, some less flattering than others, but overall
    the desire, nay excitement, to have services returning to Minehead is palpable.

    There will always be the gainsayers and the knockers, ( who in the 21st century inevitably
    find their way to websites such as this,) especially persistent critics who have not visited
    the WSR for years but despite this have detailed insights.

    I hope people will, irrespective of past unfortunate decisions ( yes I include the S&D issue
    in this ), first of be thankful that the WSR ( as a whole ) has survived the last few years and
    secondly support the 2022 programme.

    Michael Rowe
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2022
  18. Big Al

    Big Al Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator

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    At least on here it is possible to exchange views, both positive and negative, as happens on parallel threads for other railways.....when the circumstances merit it.

    And that's the point. The overriding message after years, yes years, of difficulty on the WSR is that the majority of volunteers continue to support the railway in spite of, rather than because of the activities of the PLC, it seems. That's a sorry state of affairs in my view.

    And yes I will almost certainly support the railway again through either a Gala or on a visiting charter, but no more than that.
     
  19. Maunsell907

    Maunsell907 Member

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    Thank you. Any visit is very welcome. I am sure the WSR diaspora will make you very welcome.
    I understand entirely why you say “no more than that “.

    It is to the purveyors of doom I would ask, please give us a break. Surely none of us want to
    see any Heritage Railway fail ! Continuous negative posts are like dripping water on a stone, ultimately
    the stone fails.

    Michael Rowe
     
  20. 61624

    61624 Part of the furniture

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    That only happens, though, if no-one notices and takes action to stop the water drip. Like most railways the WSR is already short of volunteers and the most important function of the management should be to address their concerns and issues and should cost nothing. Are there any signs of them making a serious effort to do that? From what we hear of lawyers fees spent on industrial tribunals and ID cards being withdrawn I have to say that the available (albeit possibly biased) evidence points in the opposite direction.
     

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