Monday, 28 December 2015

Santa Specials

I'm just surfacing again after a hectic month so can at last let you know how it went. There really isn't any bad news! We had another record santa season with almost 9500 visitors - up over 10% in two years -  and interestingly 38% were children - is exactly the same percentage as the past three years.  We gave each child 2 presents so you can work out how many presents we handed out in total, and of course added to that were hundreds of baby presents.

Because our toy supplier needs approximate numbers now for 2016 (as he is flying off to China and India in the early new year to place orders), we have already made a provisional order for a further increased number as allowing for the  calendar it looks as if we are in store for another record year.
Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves with (so far) only one e mail of complaint and lots of "thank you" emails, letters and cards. Have a look at Tripadvisor for more comments. Thanks to everyone for their enthusiastic support

Colin Fewell

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Plc December Board Meeting

The latest meeting of the Plc Board took place earlier this month. As usual, there were a wide variety of issues to be considered and dealt with.

We were advised that after many years of service in the post, Kevin Bartolf had decided to stand down as Head of the Guards department. We should like to thank Kevin for all that he has done, and are very pleased to note that he continues as a volunteer with us. Neil Carr is taking steps to appoint a new Head of that department

We also heard that unfortunately Darren Fairley had decided to stand down as the Civil Engineering Director. Darren lives a long way away in Peterborough and it is to his credit that he was able to make such a contribution over so many years. I have written to Darren to thank him for his service.

We discussed the continuing proposal to seek to purchase the old station site at Bishops Cleeve. We had already made a written offer, and decided to increase it to offer a figure over the guide price but at the same time were conscious of the fact that we were competing with property developers. We do not have unlimited funds, and had a to take a sensible decision about this. Alan Bielby has gathered together a number of letters of support from various parts of the local community, and hopefully this will significantly strengthen our bid. We await a decision after 23rd January.

We all felt that it was very important that all our volunteers were told about this as soon as possible, so we decided to put out a Volunteer Announcement about it.

We approved new and updated policies on Asbestos Management, use of PPE by volunteers and public access to working areas. They have already been circulated to all relevant departments to be brought to the attention of all volunteers.

We have been conscious for some time of the number of matters that Alan Bielby is dealing with as Projects Director, as well as dealing with all issues in his capacity as Chairman. We decided that we should seek an assistant for him; particularly in relation to the proposed Winchcombe projects, and it was agreed that we would circulate a Volunteer Announcement seeking one.

The Heritage Group had previously submitted a proposal to rebuild Hayles Abbey Halt, as a replica of the original Halt that was there. We unanimously approved this and agreed to the funding proposal. We shall ask the GWRT to consider a grant to cover the cost of this work. A start is imminent, early in 2016.

The replacement of the 'Elf Centre' at Winchcombe is high on our list of priorities, and if plans proceed as hoped, then it should be in place for the end of next year. The GWRT has ring-fenced legacies to cover much of the costs, but additional funding will be needed. We were updated by Alan about the current position.

Chris Bristow took time to go through the plans he is working up for the proposed Share Offer next year, to seek to raise sufficient funds to get us to Broadway. A photographer was engaged to take a number of photos from a helicopter, and they are very impressive. Because of the timetable for this Share Offer, our accounts will have to be signed off very shortly after the end of the financial year so Chris is taking steps to ensure that there is no unforeseen expenditure in January which will delay this. we agreed to his proposals and all Head of department have been circulated.

Colin Fewell reported that all steam Santa trains were fully booked, and that there were just a very few seats available on the DMU. They were subsequently sold very quickly.

There is a proposal to convert a redundant coach the Plc owns, to a shop for use at Winchcombe; very much along the lines of the successful Discovery Coach. It was agreed that we should investigate this further, in view of the fact that Winchcombe is becoming an ever more busy station. A retail outlet there would add considerably to it. If this is done, it could be a very useful use for what is currently a redundant asset,

In the absence of Darren Fairley, his deputy Peter Muir provided us with details of the necessary work required on culvert 39A at Bishops Cleeve. This can only be done when trains are not running as the track will have to be lifted out, so a manageable solution needs to be found quickly.

One of the things we agreed at our last meeting, was that we would actively take steps to improve communication with the volunteer groups who do such a good job in looking after our stations. Richard Summers had agreed to head this up, and we were very pleased to hear that there there had been a number of meetings, and good progress was being made. Good communication so often resolves potential difficulties.

This is just a brief summary of what we covered, and I hope that you find it interesting.

There is currently a vacancy on the board, and we should like to widen the areas of expertise we have. If you think that you would like to offer to join the Board, please write to me either at our registered office, or by email to

We would particularly welcome applications from ladies and our younger volunteers.

All directors will join with me both in thanking you all for your hard work and commitment in 2015, and in offering our good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Richard G. Johnson, LL.B, Solicitor
Company Secretary