Sunday, 15 January 2017

Board Update


FROM THE BOARDROOM

There have been another couple of board meetings recently; one in December and one in January. There are a whole range of issues which continue to arise which need to be dealt with to support our future plans and progress.

In December, as is normal we received written reports from all directors about matters they had been individually dealing with. Safety plays a big part in all we do. We had a report from Chris Webb our Safety Director summarising some recent - relatively minor - accidents, and we also had to review and approve the new Safety Management System (SMS) document which had been re-written by Neil Carr.

A further safety issue to be considered was the proposal to acquire a number of new portable ramps for accessing our carriages by disabled passengers. The existing ramps are very heavy and awkward to use. We need to have ramps which can accommodate both un-powered and powered wheelchairs, and mobility scooters. Again, this is not so straightforward as might be thought. Where they are used has safety implications, as there needs to be enough clearance at the end of the ramp for wheelchairs and scooters to avoid conflict with station furniture. That in turn impacts upon where our accessible carriages stop.

One of the major aspects of the meeting was considering a further report from  Alan Bielby about the problems with the embankment between Broadway Evesham Road bridge, and Childswickham bridge. At that stage, efforts were still on-going to establish both what the extent of the problems were, and what could be done to remedy it (and the cost!). We were promised more information after Christmas - see below.

We also debated what to do about the current position regarding the proposed car park at Broadway. It appeared that it could become much more of a challenge and much more expensive to create a car park than was first expected. Arrangements were made for a small delegation to meet with local councillors and council officials as soon as possible to see how best this could be progressed.

Following on from this, Lee Alibone reported to us that whilst all was going very well with building the extension, there was no slack in the programme if we were to meet the anticipated opening date in spring 2018.

We considered and approved the arrangements for demolition of the Elf Centre after Christmas. The contract for the new building has been let and work should start in mid-January.

In early January, we settled down for another meeting after the excitement and exertion of Christmas and the New Year. We were very pleased to be told that our passenger figures had exceeded 100,000 for the first time ever - just. Very well done to everybody.

The start of the meeting was delayed for a very good reason, as a team from Aviva arrived unexpectedly to tell us that we had been successful in our bid for £25,000 for the new Tim Mitchell Centre (the Elf Centre). It was a pure coincidence that they arrived just as the board meeting was about to start. If only all board meetings started like that!

There were two main issues we had to deal with. Firstly, Alan Bielby reported that the on-going deliberations about the above mentioned embankment had reached a conclusion. We were advised that there was no alternative but that the embankment had to be stabilised and made safe before trains could run over it. The best and most cost effective option was to reduce the profile of the embankment by narrowing it at the top, and then soil nailing it. That would inevitably reduce the width so that only a single line could be laid. We were told that that option would cost an estimated £387,000.

If we decided to keep the double track option, the cost would increase by at least a further £200,000. As a decision was required so that a contract could be let, we accepted the first option. The intention is that the work will run for 12 weeks from April-June.

That impacts on the originally expected P/way track laying programme. So, the programme has been revised with track laying ceasing at Childswickham in the Spring. P/way will then move to the north end of Broadway, and begin laying track through the station heading south. That way hopefully, the target date will still be met.

Secondly, Chris Bristow presented us with a draft budget for 2018. It is a sign of the size of our expanded business that the income targets, and expenditure expectations get ever larger. As matters stand, with just over three months to go, our share appeal is still about £250,000 short of target. We have received nearly £1m which is amazing, but we need still more if we are going to meet the cost of building to Broadway.

There was a long debate over how we balance income with expenditure. Understandably, some were keen to retain our traditional model of not seeking any external funding, whilst others felt that that was the only realistic alternative. We are very fortunate to have the unremitting support of GWRT, and as they have a planned board meeting later in January at which their ability to assist financially will be discussed, it was decided to adjourn this matter to a special board meeting at the end of the month, for a decision to be made.

Whilst every possible effort is made to keep costs to a minimum, we have no control over the cost of most capital items. If we want it, we  have to find a way of paying for it.

After this fairly lengthy debate about matters financial, the rest of the meeting passed without any great controversy. Chris Sparks explained the plans he had made for a special meeting between directors & Head of departments in late January. This will enable HOD's to tell us what they think about the various currently live topics.

We were also told that the anticipated timetable for 2018 onwards will potentially require more signalmen (and women) than we currently have available, so initially at least the new signal box at Broadway will not be opened, and working will be by way of a ground frame worked by loco crews. Efforts are being made to recruit and train more signalmen, and the position should begin to ease in subsequent years.

Perhaps I can end by asking that if you have not yet contributed to our share appeal and are thinking of doing so, now is an ideal time. Let's try and get to the £1.25m that we set out to achieve.

Richard Johnson
Company secretary
15th January 2017


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

AVIVA COMMUNITY AWARDS - WE ARE WINNERS!

Dear GWSR Supporters,

Happy New Year everyone!

I am delighted to be able to tell you that it was announced today that we have won an AVIVA community award towards the Elf centre replacement building at Winchcombe which will be constructed this year. These funds will be used to fit out and furnish the building. Details from AVIVA are below.

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you who took the time to vote for our project.

Also, we all need to thank Maxine Barton-Hawkins, the railway's admin. manager, whose idea to enter this competition it was and who worked so hard to get us through the thousands of projects entered to being finalists and then from being one of 12 finalists to being WINNERS.

What a nice start to the NEW Year!

Chris B

                                    ---------------------0--------------------

Congratulations!

We’re delighted to share with you that your project GWSR New Visitor Centre at Winchcombe Station 2017 has been chosen as a winner in the Aviva Community Fund and have been awarded £25,000.

Our judges scored your entry highly against some very strong competition.  The full list of winners will be published on the Aviva Community Fund website at 2pm today.

We want to make sure that as many people as possible hear about the good work that your project does and your well-deserved win.  To help you share your good news we’ve pulled together some tips on how you could use your digital and social channels to celebrate your win – please see the attached document and folder.

Well done from all at Aviva.

Deborah, Debbie & Sarah


Aviva Community Fund Team

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Visitor numbers for 2016

I am very pleased to report that we reached the magical figure of 100,000 visitors in 2016. This is a massive increase of over 13% on last year's total which itself was a record, and reflects the tremendous hard work all volunteers put in to make our railway truly the "Friendly Line in the Cotswolds". Thanks to everyone for making this happen.
Colin Fewell

Monday, 26 December 2016

Santa specials

Now everything is starting to calm down, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped in any way to make this santa special season the biggest and best on record.  We saw an increase of 13% in visitor numbers, partly of course due to running more more trains on the first weekend and increasing the number of DMU trains from Toddington. However even taking this into account, we still filled nearly every train and this increase is staggering. We are now up to our maximum!
Lots of happy families and good wishes from people with many of the comments focussing on the friendliness and helpfulness of everyone.
A great success - thanks so much for your hard work
Colin Fewell

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all our Supporters!

Dear Supporters of the GWSR

The following letter was posted to GWSR PLC Shareholders this week - too everybody reading this we extend our best wishes for Christmas and the New Year!


December 2016

Dear Fellow Shareholder,

This letter is from the volunteers on the GWSR to thank you for your generous support in the year now drawing to a conclusion and to wish you and your families all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year!
It has been another record year on the railway which you own and a number of important milestones have been passed!

All the railway’s special events this year attracted more visitors and the normal operating days were also busier. In the annual report which accompanied last year’s financial statements I reported that our passenger numbers were 88,500 (for the year ended 31 January 2016). At the end of October this year we had carried more than 80,000 passengers (69,000 at the same time last year) and, with Santa bookings strongly up, and the normal busy services between Christmas and the New Year, I would not be surprised if passenger numbers for the year exceed the magical six figures for the first time ever!

The other highlights of this year’s operations were a return to traffic of both Foremarke Hall and P&O, the latter after a 31 year restoration. Both locos looked magnificent as all of you who visited the railway will know and are a huge credit to their owning groups and our steam loco department.

We added one new event this year, the Food and Drink Fayre, and this was enormously popular with travellers and traders alike and will be repeated next October - but in a bigger format!

Turning to next year, the 2017 timetable is out (see gwsr.com) and we are adding one new event to our programme of special events being a Lego Bricks and Trains weekend in May. The chartered race trains for the Cheltenham Festival are proving so popular that an extra coach is being added in March to both trains. Wartime in the Cotswolds  in April was so popular last year that reinforcements are being called in for this year, and so it goes on! 2017, our last full year before the opening of Broadway station to the public on Good Friday 2018 is going to be a busy one on the running line.

But so too will it be on the extension to Broadway as the time for opening draws ever nearer!
The share issue ‘Broadway – the last mile’ has gone very well with some £925,000 of the £1,250,000 appeal raised at the time of writing. As soon as we reach the £1,000,000 point I think we will be able to see the end in sight but we will need all of the rest of the cash by the close of the appeal on 30 April 2017.

The funds raised have been put to good use as you are probably well aware. The Permanent Way gang now have the rail laid as far as Peasebrook Farm and will commence work on the station site in the New Year. 

Recent picture from railhead looking north - yes! That's Broadway goods shed in the middle distance less than 1/2 mile away!


The Broadway construction team have pushed on with the station dramatically in the last 12 months. The footbridge is in place and the brickwork of the station building has risen to above window level with all the specialist bricks we paid so dearly for looking marvellously authentic and worth every penny!

It is remarkable what volunteers can achieve!

Again, all good wishes to you and yours for the festive season and visit the railway as often as you can in 2017!
Chris
Chris Bristow

GWSR PLC Finance Director

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Santa specials

The santa specials started last weekend and right from the start, were almost full! Ticket sales have been buoyant this year at about 10% above last year's record number so we must be doing something right! This is a very labour intensive event with about 60 volunteers on duty per day. And once we start running the DMU santas next weekend, this number will swell to about 80. We run santa specials over 11 days, so you can see the number of volunteers needed to make this event so successful.
On Sunday, we were pleased to welcome Zara Tindall and family on the train. No-one really recognised them and  they appeared to be having a great time.
Colin Fewell

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

AVIVA COMMUNITY AWARDS - WE'VE GOT TO THE FINALS!

Aviva Awards

Thank you to all those who voted for the Elf Centre replacement building - we achieved over 4,000 votes which is enough to take us through to the finals phase next month.  The awards will be announced early January so fingers crossed!

FYI, the total cost of the project is £300,000. If all goes according to plan, we will be supported financially by the GWRT who received a legacy from a member, Tim Mitchell, which will be used for this purpose and the building will be named in his honour.

Anyway thanks again for all your support - that's what makes this a great railway!

All good wishes,

Chris

Chris Bristow
GWSR PLC Finance Director