Sunday, 30 August 2015

Plc Board Meeting - Friday 21st August 2015

At our most recent board meeting, it was agreed that I should post a summary of each meeting on the Boardroom Blog. This is a continuing part of our effort to try and ensure that you all have as much information as possible about what is happening. You will appreciate that there are certain things relating to individuals or to commercial contracts, which have to remain confidential.

The board is constituted on the basis that each director has a specific area of responsibility. Each director is required to submit a written report before each meeting, explaining what issues he has dealt with since the last meeting, and what issues require consideration and a decision.

This is a summary of the last meeting:

It was agreed that our Chairman Alan Bielby would set up a programme of quarterly meetings with our Safety Manager Chris Webb, to keep this very important aspect of our operation under review.

Detailed plans for the forthcoming OVA award were presented to us, and were approved. The Lord Lieutenant will arrive at Winchcombe, where she will inspect and then formally unveil a plaque to open the Discovery Coach. All guests will then travel to Toddington, where after refreshments and a visit to the Loco Department she will make the award from the footplate of P&O.

The GWRT has a number of artifacts which have been donated to the railway, and it has been suggested that we should crate a museum in a coach at Toddington for them to be displayed. It was agreed to put the plan on hold, pending discussions with RATS as to how that would interrelate with their current displays.

We continued to consider what is required for the proposed opening to Broadway. We agreed not to proceed further at this stage with the idea of eight coach trains. We approved  a plan to obtain professional assistance with the clearance of the remaining trackbed. This will allow us to understand what damage there is to the formation, and what repairs may be necessary. Arrangements are in hand to take advice upon the damage to the embankment between Evesham Road and Childswickham Road, so that detailed plans for the proposed car park can be drawn up.

The reviewed our current financial position. (Chris Bristow has already posted details on the blog). Passenger numbers so far this year are good, and we are on course to exceed our planned profit this year, although there have been some unplanned expenditures. We agreed to pursue the suggestion that TTI's should be able to sell tickets on trains, to try and avoid delays at stations when intending passengers arrive at the last minute. Discussions with the Guards Department are planned to progress this.

We reviewed the proposed new share issue planned for next year, to raise sufficient funds to get us to Broadway. There is a very considerable amount to be done to get it all together, and work is well under way. We need a snappy title; something like, "Broadway - the last mile".

We received the sad news of the death of Ron Brislin, and arranged for a letter of condolence to be sent to Cynthia. Arrangements have been made to cover his position in the interim until a permanent appointment can be made in due course. It was confirmed to us that plans remain in hand for the roadway at Winchcombe to be repaired before the winter, and that work should start soon.

Lee Alibone advised that the culvert at Bishops Cleeve is in a poor condition, and that remedial works will probably be necessary during the winter shut down. This will necessitate lifting a part of the welded track section. This work will be added to the busy schedule that P/way already have planned for that period.

We agreed to a suggestion to reconstitute the group that had previously considered a future plan for the Winchcombe site, but with a smaller number, to give greater focus. There will be no funds of any great significance available until after we open to Broadway, but it may well be possible for smaller projects to be undertaken there.

It was agreed that we should hold another Volunteers Meeting, and the next one will be at 2.30pm on Saturday 7th November at Toddington Village Hall.

I hope that this summary has given an indication of the matters we are currently dealing with. Our next meeting is in early October.

Richard Johnson
Company Secretary & Director

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

GWSR PLC half-year financial results at 31 July 2015

Dear followers of the Boardroom Blog,

I am pleased to tell you that our railway has had a very good first half of the financial year. We are on course to have our third excellent financial year since the line was reconnected in October 2012.

In summary the unaudited P&L numbers are as follows;

£000                                         Actual to 31/07/15                    Budget to 31/07/15
Turnover                                        836                                            793

Net Profit/(Loss)                            84                                              (20)

This better than budget performance has been driven by the success of all our major special events starting with the Cheltenham Festival in March through to the Bus Rally in July. Although this has not been a great summer, we have been lucky with the weather at all the events except the Diesel Gala ,where the organisers had to endure atrocious weather on two of the three days. Despite that they managed to put on a great show and actually increased visitor numbers!

Passenger numbers for scheduled services are up around 7%, and group bookings have already exceeded those of the whole of last year which itself was a record. Fish and Chip trains are as popular as ever and Fire & Drive and Diesel Drive are sold out.

With a steady stream of income from operations and very good grant support from the GWRT we have had the funds to push on strongly on all aspects of getting to Broadway. Line side clearance, fencing and drainage work have proceeded steadily,  Civil Engineering have finished the repair of the culvert and slip at Laverton, and Permanent Way have purchased and laid the track ballast as far as Little Buckland to which point the rail we bought towards the end of last year can shortly be laid.  In the second half we hope to have the funds to clear all of the line side so that Civil Engineering can identify whether any significant slips exist and, hopefully, enough funds to ballast the track bed as far as Peasebrook Farm.

Meanwhile, as I'm sure you know, the station comes on apace with the platforms and signal box nearing completion, and with the exciting event this month of the completion of the foundations for the station building itself. The steel frame for the building has been ordered as have most, if not all, of the bricks, including some very expensive bricks for the door and window surrounds to ensure a truly heritage station. There are interesting developments on the footbridge, and we are planning to spend enough on it so that the hopefully towers (only) can be in place this financial year.

While, for an enterprise of our size, all of this is about as good as it gets, nevertheless, the sobering truth is that we still need more than a million pounds to get to Broadway. As we are intent on doing so as planned for 2018 we will have a follow up tax efficient share issue next Easter (2016), building on our success with the 'Bridges to Broadway' appeal.

Before I finish I must point out that the railway is not only focussed on Broadway and capital has been spent, for example, on bringing the platform 2 at CRC almost to a finished state. In addition, the newly repainted model railway coach was purchased by the railway earlier in the year, and we have also bought a Mk 1 TSO carriage and, most  recently, a Mk1 BG. Finally, the concreting of the David Page loco shed proceeds at a measured pace and will , on completion, be a superb facility.

That's about it, don't hesitate to contact me directly if there's anything I can help with.

Chris Bristow
GWSR PLC Finance Director

Monday, 24 August 2015

Plc Away-day Meeting

 A couple of weeks ago on Saturday 9th August 2015, the Plc Board held its annual all day board meeting. This is an opportunity for the Board to get together and spend as long as is necessary discussing some of the more pressing issues facing the railway. This is something which is simply not available at a normal Friday evening Board Meeting, when so much other business has to be dealt with.

The principal matter for discussion at this meeting, was to seek to agree upon a plan of all that remains necessary to open the railway to Broadway in the Spring of 2018; now less than three years away.

A huge amount has already been done, but here is still a tremendous amount to do. It was agreed that we should now work to a five year plan of opening within three years, to be followed by two years of consolidation.

The greatest difficulty we have in planning for the opening, is in being able to predict with any degree of certainty how many extra passengers we are likely to have to provide for. We also need to consider their travel patterns. Will they want to travel from one end of the line to the other, or will they want to break their journeys? That has a significant impact on a proposed timetable. It also impacts on the facilities we have to offer at each intermediate station.

After much discussion, we came to the decision that however it is finally structured, for normal services the timetable will potentially be two seven coach steam trains each day, with a DMU running over part of the line. So, similar to how the timetable is now, but expanded and reorganised.

Obviously, we would prefer it if people broke their journey; spent more time on the railway and sampled all we have to offer in the way of entertainment. For that reason, we are considering the possibility of terminating one of the steam services at Toddington to create the potential for passengers to change to another train to complete their journey to Broadway. It is still in the planning stage, and no final decisions have yet been made.

We considered volunteer resources required for running an expanded railway with a more intensive timetable; at least in mid week. We have had a significant number of new volunteers recently in various departments, but those who have gone to operational departments will take time to be trained and feed through to actually filling rosters. We have to ensure that as far as possible, we have enough staff to actually operate the trains we timetable. Our mid week trains are already getting busier, and we need to plan to continue to resource them.

Facilities at Broadway have to be considered. There is provision in the proposed new building for either a shop or a cafe; but not room for both.It was felt that a waiting room and shop with tea / coffee facilities might offer more, and be easier to manage. With the new EPOS system installed, a single till could cover all facilities. Decisions need to be made, to match the construction and fitting out.

Obviously all this expansion has to be paid for, and it is no secret that we have felt for some time that we need to plan another share issue, to seek to raise sufficient to cover the cost. If we cannot raise enough money, we shall not be able to open. It is as simple as that. Much of the preparatory work for this share issue has already been done by our Financial Director Chris Bristow, and he will be working hard at completing it in time for Easter next year when it will be launched. The success of this share issue is crucial; the anticipated profit on our day-to-day operations over the next three years, will not on its own be enough to pay for the proposed extension.

You will note that I have not mentioned actual tracklaying. Provision has of course been made for that, but just clearing and repairing the formation; dealing with fencing, drainage, signalling, cabling and building a basic track layout from Laverton into the station will cost in excess of £750,000.That is not including the construction of a car park at Broadway, which is of course essential to an opening there.

Please also bear in mind that whilst so much remains to be spent on the extension to Broadway, there are necessarily only limited funds available for work elsewhere on the railway. We have to continue to manage, fund and operate a very successful heritage railway whilst all this expansion continues.

I hope that this summary gives you a little flavour of all that is going on, and how much effort is going into working to bring this expansion in our railway to a successful conclusion.

Richard Johnson
Director & Company Secretary.

Saturday, 22 August 2015


Just in case you have not seen this elsewhere, last week loco 35006, 'P&O', which has been slowly coming closer to the completion of its restoration, moved for the first time under its own power. The loco is owned by the 35006 Locomotive Company Ltd, which was specially created for the purpose of enlarging ownership of the loco and so raise funds for the restoration work - it is also supported by the 35006 Locomotive Society. Congratulations go to both in achieving this major milestone. Whilst its initial run was made using only the outside two of its three cylinders as some white-metalling remains before the inside motion can be completed, it was a very impressive sight to see this magificent loco moving so easily.

Not quite so well recorded, but still deserving of congratulations, was the award received by the Dinmore Manor Group of  'Engine of the Year Award 2014' from the Everything GWR website.

We look forward to seeing both engines operating together very soon.

Alan Bielby

Friday, 21 August 2015

New BG Arrival

If you have ridden the railway recently you may have noticed a newly arrived modified BG in Winchcombe yard. This is an ex-RES high security BG obtained for eventual use by the Permanent Way Dept - after a suitable spruce up and repaint. It is fitted with roller shutters and will be a very useful addition with its easy access doors and spacious interior. It was obtained at a very good price.

The big surprise came when it was opened for inspection on its arrival. It revealed an extensive collection of crockery, cutlery, glassware and cooking utensils. Clearly a restaurant car stock had been cleared and stored in this vehicle without the owner realising that it was about to make the journey to the GWR, We are currently contacting the owner to see if they would like it back. We rather hope not as it would be a very useful addition to our OTC needs for the third rake of coaches when we open to Broadway!

Alan Bielby

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Catering on the railway

Although we have faith in our food hygiene systems and methods I think the something most OTC volunteers dread is the unannounced visit by the Environmental Health Inspector. This happens every couple of years and involves a very thorough inspection of the premises (what about this dust on the freezer vents) including the furniture and fittings, a check on our record keeping systems and of course a few questions to the staff on what we do and why we do it.  We had just such an inspection recently in the Coffeepot cafe.  The 3 volunteers on duty ably answered all of the questions, produced the records we are required to keep and demonstrated a good knowledge of the many food safety rules.  The result was just a minor bit of repair work required to the furniture in the kitchen, which has now been done, and a continuation of our 5 star status for the cafe.  Well done team.
We are now expecting a visit to the buffet car.
Richard Summers

Railway Catering Services 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Discovery coach

 Good to see the new Discovery Coach at Winchcombe is open and getting top marks from visitors