Following discussions on the organisation behind the operation on the West Somerset Railway (WSR), the WSR PLC’s Board has decided against further work into the possible establishment of a new charity-led organisation.
In May 2020, the WSR was presented with a report by John Bailey on the future development of the WSR.
David Morgan, President of WSR PLC, has a great wealth of knowledge on heritage railways, in particular the best structures for lines from his former role as Chairman of the Heritage Railway Association (HRA). This is further backed up by his profession as a lawyer.
The proposal has been sided line for the time being for a number of reasons:
- Focus on re-opening – COVID-19 has had a major impact on heritage railways, with all efforts now turned to re-opening and running passenger trains once again. The PLC Board feel efforts should be made towards reopening currently
- Financial situation – WSR had financial issues before COVID-19, which the line is still recovering from, with a large scale change of operation could increase the risk
- Low shareholder response – only 4.7% of shareholders responded to a questionnaire regarding the Bailey report
WSR PLC President David Morgan comments: “The WSR plc Board considered these matters very carefully when we met and, given the present circumstances, I consider that this was the right decision to make.
“It is crucial for the successful development of the railway that the Board, together with all the WSR partners, now devote their full energy to ensuring the successful commercial re-development of the railway itself post Covid lockdown.
“At this point, a reorganisation would only serve to divert energy away from our main purpose of getting the railway running again, and, if there is to be a reorganisation, a great deal more work – and expenditure – would be necessary to establish the benefits of any proposed change.”
WSR PLC Chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt comments: “The plc Board have spent some time considering the Bailey proposals and we are very grateful to all those who have brought them forward. We are also very grateful for the sage counsel from our very experienced President, David Morgan.
“The plc Board took into account the low level of response from shareholders, and so we agreed unanimously that this was not the time to take the investigations further.
“We realise and recognise that some of those who have worked on this initial feasibility investigation will be disappointed by our decision, but we believe that this is the time that all the members of the railway family really need to work together and focus on getting our wonderful railway back in action first and foremost.
“It is going to be challenging for us to succeed in a difficult marketplace over the next year or so, and this is where the Board, staff and volunteers need to put their effort.
“This is exactly what I and the plc Board will be doing and – subject, as ever, to government guidelines – we look forward to seeing our trains running again soon.
“There will be a difficult journey ahead for us, but I am certain that when we pull together, we will succeed. We have come through challenging times in the past and we can again! I look forward to seeing you on the railway in the next few months.”
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