Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust responds to Washford statement

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Kilmersdon at the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust Washford site
Credit: SDRT

The Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust has sent RailAdvent a statement regarding the ongoing issues with the West Somerset Railway and the Washford site.

The SDRT has confirmed that they have received a letter from the solicitors of the West Somerset Railway PLC to terminate the 50-year agreement for the SDRT’s site at Washford.

This is regardless of the fact that the WSR signed an extension of the tenancy with the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust in 2018.

The West Somerset Railway has said that the reason for this is that they wish to use the site for their own purposes.

The trust has also had its attention drawn to the West Somerset Railway’s News From The Board, on the 16th February 2020. The SDRT has said that the comments contained within this document regarding “The trust does not support the WSR” and “the SDRT has, itself given notice to leave” are inaccurate and untruthful.

The Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust has said that it has done everything within its power to support the WSR whilst continuing to work with its financial restrictions.

The document also states that the West Somerset Railway wish to pursue their own agenda. The agenda, says the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust, has always been to promote the memory of the old S&D through the museum at Washford, and exhibits include a restored S&D carriage and numerous wagons with S&D history.

The Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust has said that they had no contact with the West Somerset Railway prior to the letter being received, which was a ‘bolt out of blue’ moment.

The trust has also said that no formal discussions had taken place before the letter was received. The trust has also said that they have assisted the WSR through their recent financial crisis, to the extent that the proceeds from the 2019 Real Ale Festival at Washford mainly went to the West Somerset Railway.

Furthermore, the SDRT has also purchased items from the WSR to satisfy their urgent cash requirement. The SDRT has also said that they were unable to give the WSR any physical money due to the charity restrictions they have to deal with.

The Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust is currently seeking legal advice and will consider options when this has been received.

The site at Washford has been transformed by the SDRT since it moved into the derelict location in the mid-1970s

No further comment has been made about S&D 7F No. 53808, which is under a separate agreement with the WSR.

What did the officials say?

Ian Young, chairman of the SDRT, commented

“whatever the outcome might be, it will put the Trust under severe stress and cause a great deal of concern to our dedicated membership, if not the heritage movement generally.’’

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5 COMMENTS

  1. What on earth is going on? My impression that the people on the WSR were a decent bunch is rapidly being eroded; it sounds as if the S&DR are being horribly bullied. No doubt all the real facts will emerge eventually, but I can see two losers coming out of this sad situation.

  2. This is a truely sad situation between a PLC and a Registered Charity when financial incompetance in the PLC leads to this sort of dispute. Put simply the Charity has money in its bank and the PLC has none and feels the Charity should be obligated in handing off every last penny to the PLC regardless of the rules the Charity has to operate in with regard to its Charitable Status. Utimately the loser will be the WSR and athough the 7F operates under a different agreement I wouldn’t be suprised to read that the Charity has found a way to make the locomotive unavailable in the near future and it has left the railway.

  3. As an impartial observer and knowing little about any back-story here, the way in which this ‘dispute’ seems to be developing does untold harm to the whole of the heritage business. 2020 is going to be a difficult enough year for the world-wide tourism business and especially UK heritage railways without unhelpful news like this adding to the problem. If ever there was a time for the entire heritage movement to be seen to be pulling together, this is it. Jock Muir says (above) that there will be two losers here. I would suggest it could be a lot more than two.

  4. I am fast reaching the point where I hope that the WSR collapses – something I never thought I would feel about any heritage line. What a nasty, bullying organisation they appear to be. Perhaps the Trust should see about relocating to Midsomer Norton, taking every single thing that they added to the WSR with them and furthering the restoration of the S&D instead of offering further help to the WSR ingrates.

  5. As a former WSR shareholder and WSR member and volunteer, I am very concerned by what is happening here.

    It would be a great loss for everyone if S&D move from Washford.

    The biggest threat, as Richard says, is to heritage railways as a whole.

    I urge the two parties to get together as soon as possible (suggest by video conferencing) to sort this out.

    Keep well all.

    Graham

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