Thursday, 16 November 2017

From the GWRT Chairman

The latest edition of our house magazine, The Cornishman, is out today and GWRT members should receive their copy by early next week, apart from our furthest-flung overseas members who may have to wait a little longer! It's another cracking read so I hope that you will enjoy it. 

If you're not already a member, why not join GWRT? For your subscription, you will receive the quarterly magazine and one voucher per year for a day's free travel on GWR, excluding Santas, Special Events and Dining trains. Go to the GWSR Home page, click on Supporting the Railway, Membership and follow the links. 

A subscription also makes an ideal Christmas present for a friend or family member; if you enter their details online but wish to give them the membership pack yourself, e-mail me via the website with your name and address so that I can send the membership pack to you. Alternatively, you can print the form and send it to me at Toddington with your cheque and your details.

Glyn Cornish

Chairman, GWRT

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Broadway Station

At a Plc board meeting on Monday afternoon, we discussed recent events and correspondence surrounding our earlier decision to site a shop at Broadway. Having looked back through everything, it was difficult to understand how that decision did not apparently reach those of the Broadway group who are actually building the station, as it was clearly raised and mentioned on a number of occasions at various planning meetings with representatives of the Broadway team.

We also looked at the commercial considerations surrounding the potential alternative uses of this part the building, and felt clear that our original decision had been correct and remained fully justifiable based upon the facts as we have them. That decision was based in part on the potential unsuitability of this particular space for a café in that it is quite small.

Having made those points, we are also aware that we are dealing here not just with commercial reality, but also with nostalgia and emotion. It is clear from many of the emails received in the last week that many of our volunteers and supporters arriving at the station, would welcome the opportunity for coffee and refreshments from a small café and were expecting that.

We were encouraged by the fact that we have been assured by a large number of the Broadway volunteers, that they feel that there are sufficient numbers of them to be able to staff and resource a small café on all operating days.

With all that in mind we agreed to change our original decision, and accept a café being sited at Broadway station, with the following caveats.

Firstly, it would be necessary for the Broadway volunteers to convince us that they had a viable business plan, and that there were sufficient of them willing to staff it regularly to make it work. Secondly, if it turned out not to be viable after a couple of years, we would have to reserve the right to change the use of that particular space to a different use. Finally of course, the café would be operated under the auspices of our Railway Catering Services, and all new volunteers would need to be suitably trained, and qualified in food handling techniques.

We hope that this is a decision which will be generally welcomed. There has been a large outpouring of emotion over the last couple of weeks. Whilst we all welcome honest debate, some of the emails which have been sent to us have been objectionable; some have been unacceptably abusive.

We hope that on the basis of this decision, we can all move forward together and accept and understand what it is we are trying to achieve at Broadway.

Richard Johnson

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Broadway update

Further to the posting to this blog yesterday, a number of different and sometimes conflicting issues have been raised by various parties.

I can advise you that all the issues will be considered at the next Plc board meeting on Monday 13th November.

In view of the current position with the building works at Broadway, there is ample time to consider matters calmly, and reach a considered view.

As soon as there is something further to report, one of the directors will do so. Until we have had an opportunity to meet together and discuss things, it would be impractical for any one of us to comment further.

Richard Johnson
Company Secretary

Monday, 6 November 2017

Broadway Station

There appears to be a lot of interest in a comment made on one of our blogs recently, about the proposed facilities at Broadway Station.

More than two years ago, the board agreed that the retail space there would be more advantageously used as a shop, rather than a cafe. There has been no sudden change of plan as has been erroneously reported. All that happened was that a couple of weeks ago, a meeting was held at the station to determine the final positioning of electrical sockets, lights and radiators before the rooms were plastered.

The reasons for the decision more than two years ago, are as valid now as they were then. We want to increase the size of our retail estate, as both the shops at Toddington and Cheltenham are too small. We see great potential for expanding our retail sales, and overall retail profitability. Having a busy and vibrant shop at Broadway, will be  a very good attraction for all our future customers there.

There has been some negative comment about the proposed installation of a coffee machine. That was seen as being potentially beneficial, as at Cheltenham. It was not expected to be in any way controversial, but can always be reconsidered if it is seen as unnecessary.

We already have catering outlets at Toddington with the Flag & Whistle Cafe, and at Winchcombe with the Coffee Pot Cafe. We also have catering facilities on all our trains, and next year plan to include catering on the DMU. Plans for that have already been drawn up. With the growth in this aspect of our business this year, and anticipated further growth next year we believe that all passengers will be fully provided for.

It is a part of our business strategy for next year that we want our passengers to spend time with us, and not just travel from Broadway to Cheltenham and back. We want them to get of and sample the Flag & Whistle, or the Coffee Pot. That is one of the reasons why the new timetable has been structured as it has.

With the potential growth in all aspects of our Railway Catering Services, we shall need up to ten volunteer members of staff on each red timetabled day next year. Were we to build a cafe at Broadway, it would not only further increase the number of volunteer staff required on each operating day, but would have the potential to detrimentally dilute our overall catering services. We want people to arrive at Broadway station, join the train and sample either our on-board catering, or one of the other cafe's on our railway.

I hope that that clarifies any misunderstanding which may have been caused by the various recent blog postings, and why we made the decisions we did when we did.

Richard Johnson
Director & Company Secretary

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Passenger numbers at the end of October

With the main season now having come to an end it is worth having a look at passenger numbers so far this year. The picture is very encouraging. You will remember we had a 13% increase in 2016 and I said at the beginning of this year I thought that with Broadway on the horizon, people would be holding back from travelling with us this year. Well, that hasn't happened. Overall we are about 3% up on last year. What is particularly interesting is that it is our "normal days" that have seen the increase whereas, apart from our Wartime weekend, our special events have levelled off - the weather having played a major role here. During October we had several record days with trains very full - something new for us and something we may well have to manage carefully in the future.

Santa bookings are pouring in at a faster rate than ever before - some trains are already fully booked - so it looks as though final numbers at the end of the year will exceed 2016. This is of course provided winter doesn't provide any nasty surprises.

Finally, you will be interested to know that within a day of putting the sale of tickets on line for the Easter Broadway opening next year, we started to sell tickets. It looks like a busy year ahead!

Colin Fewell

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Food and drink fayre

If you didn't come to this, you missed something special! Almost 1800 visitors travelled on the trains over the 2 days - about 300 up on last year, plus of course the many hundreds of other people who just came to the fayre itself. So congratulations to John Mayell and his small team for all their hard work. The variety of stalls selling all kinds of local produce was amazing. And 46% proof gin as well! Even "Brian" couldn't dampen everyone's enthusiasm.
Colin Fewell

Friday, 13 October 2017

Passenger numbers

As at the end of September the number of visitors was up by about 4% on last year. Bearing in mind our increase of 13% last year, this is a fantastic achievement. What is particularly encouraging  is that we are seeing the largest increase on "normal" days rather than just at special events.

Our September Thomas event went smoothly as did the October diesel weekend although in both cases passenger numbers were slightly down on 2016. As always, the weather plays a significant part

Colin Fewell