Monday, 29 February 2016

GWSR Accounts for year ending 31 January 2016 are audited - here is the accompanying Strategic Report

Dear Boardroom Blog follower,

In preparation for our upcoming share issue our Auditors, Ormerod Rutter, completed the annual accounts earlier than normal on 19 February and this is the Strategic Report from the Report and Financial Statements which will be published before the AGM in June.

I hope you will agree it makes good reading!





Fellow Shareholders,

On behalf of the Board of Directors I am pleased to report that our railway had a very significant year in the year to 31 January 2016, not only in its financial and operating performance, but in its strategic actions to secure a successful future.

Starting with operating performance, all key parameters were the highest yet achieved;

·         Passenger numbers a record at 88,500 (2015 83,500),

·         Turnover a record at £1,453,919 (2015 £1,314,671),

·         Operating profit a record at £242,154 (2015 £205,571) slightly ahead of the previous highest operating profit in 2014,

·         Volunteer numbers a record rising to around 850 (2015 800). Although strictly a GWRT matter, the success of the Volunteer Recruitment Fair in March 2015 saw a healthy increase in volunteer numbers so vital for our railway’s development.

During the year, the railway was honoured to receive the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award for voluntary service and this was celebrated by the volunteers at an award ceremony in Toddington in September.

I am pleased to report that all the railway’s special events proved as popular and financially successful as ever, starting with the charter trains for the Cheltenham Festival in March and ending with the Santa trains in December, where demand was such that we again served a record number of passengers, 9476. The charity Santa train was extremely popular this year and this service will be repeated in 2016. Again, progress was made at developing the smaller events, ones which bring passengers to the railway who might not ordinarily come and, overall passenger numbers for these events were marginally up at 10,700 (2015 10,500).

The other key part of our business model, operating the railway almost entirely by volunteers, continued throughout the year with our paid staff numbers remaining at 3 full time and 2 part time. This is surely unique for a major heritage railway and allows us to invest funds from operations and donations directly into the infrastructure of our railway.

Capital expenditure for the year totalled £407,839 (2015 £779,995 which included £530,000 spend on the 5 bridges which were the subject of the 2014 ‘Bridges to Broadway’ share appeal). It was always planned that this year would see us using our own funds and those granted to us by the GWRT in moving forward in our plan to open to Broadway in 2018, and this was successfully achieved. Great progress was made at the station itself with the platforms and signal box being substantially completed and the framework for the station building being erected. At the time of writing, 12 February, I can report that the two towers for the footbridge have been raised marking yet another milestone. Equally significant were activities on the extension north of Laverton; the whole lineside to Broadway has been cleared of vegetation, the significant failed culvert and landslip just north of Laverton were repaired as were other culverts, substantial amounts of new fencing was erected and bottom ballast laid as far as Peasebrook Farm (1 mile from Broadway) and rail laid to Little Buckland bridge.

Our visitors will have noticed significant improvements to the infrastructure on the running line. At Cheltenham race course platform 2 was substantially finished, at Winchcombe the Discovery coach was implemented as a new visitor attraction and the new floor and internal pits at the David Page loco shed were also substantially completed. In addition, work has started on Hayles Abbey Halt, the reinstatement of which was successfully proposed by our Heritage group, and this is anticipated to be open as a request stop in 2017.

Finally, on capital expenditure the Winchcombe model railway coach was purchased as were two BR MK 1 coaches to support the increase in services necessary when Broadway is once again open.

Steam locomotives are, of course, at the heart of heritage railways and this year significant actions were taken to rebalance the steam fleet between the needs of current and future operations. In 2014 it became clear that the current fleet of locomotives was too large for the number of steaming in the railway’s timetable resulting in the need for locomotives to operate at other railways. As a result, the Churchill 8F locomotive moved to another railway and, in addition, the partly restored NRM owned 4F left the railway. The success of the railway’s operations this year has lead to an increase in the number of steamings in the timetable  in the coming year and, together with time spent at other railways, will allow Foremarke Hall and Peninsular and Oriental to re-enter the steam fleet at around the time of the Steam Gala in May. Looking at future steam locomotive requirements, restoration agreements were entered into with the owners of GWR 2-8-0s 3850 and 2874 and conditional approval was given by your Board for the restoration of BR 2-6-0 76077, a long term resident in un-restored condition on the railway.

During the year the Board approved a sealed bid offer, above the guide price, for the site of the former Bishops Cleeve Royal British Legion club, itself part of the former station site at Bishops Cleeve. At the time of writing, no decision had been received by the railway on its offer.


Turning to the new operating season, the indicators for your railway’s performance are positive. As a result of increased passenger numbers this financial year the railway will operate on 15 more days including every Friday in August. Coach party bookings for normal running days are growing substantially year on year with the number of bookings for the year ahead, at the time of writing, standing at the same number as for the full year for the whole running season in 2014. Passenger numbers for the race trains will be a record and advanced bookings for Fish and Chip trains and Driver Experience courses are strong with Diesel Drive courses already sold out.

In order to complete the extension of your railway into Broadway by 2018, a new share issue entitled ‘Broadway – the last mile’ aimed at raising the necessary £1,250,000 will be commenced in early April 2016. Matters are well advanced in this respect. As in the successful ‘Bridges to Broadway’ share appeal in 2014 the share scheme is under the HMRC approved tax efficient Enterprise Investment Scheme.

Inevitably, there are risks that the railway will not achieve its annual plan, and these centre largely around projected customer numbers, the weather and volunteer availability. As mentioned above, volunteer numbers rose during the year and advanced bookings are at record levels and, as such, our annual operating plan numbers look achievable. Finally, with the significant investment in infrastructure in recent years the possible business interruption due to weather has been mitigated as far as possible.

Come and ride the trains on your railway soon!


Christopher David Bristow – Director

12 February 2016

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Plc Directors IOSH Safety Management Course

Our Safety Manager Chris Webb proposed in December, that it would be appropriate for all Plc directors to attend an IOSH (Institute of Occupational Safety and Health) management training course. This would confirm and enhance our continuing commitment to the promotion of safe working practices on the railway.

We are extremely fortunate that Chris Webb is accredited to deliver such courses, and was both willing and able to do so. Thus, on 11th February Plc directors, together with three GWRT directors, and our Operations and Development managers attended the course.

The course lasted all day, and was extremely wide ranging and informative. It gave us all a new and better insight into what the law requires of us, and how we should apply it to our railway. Plans are now afoot for the lessons learned to be disseminated, and developed with Heads of Departments.

The course really emphasised that safe working practices on our railway are the responsibility of all of us, and not just something for directors or our safety manger to be concerned about. Any working volunteer who sees another doing something which is potentially unsafe has a duty to seek to stop it, and seek help from his departmental head to ensure that it does not reoccur.

At the end of the course there was a written examination, and we have been pleased and relieved to hear that we all passed. Thanks are due to Chris Webb for promoting and delivering the course.

Richard Johnson
Company Secretary
16th February 2016
Plc Board Meeting - January

There was a further meeting of the Board at the end of January, and the following is a summary of the matters which were discussed and dealt with.

Arrangements were made for a meeting with representatives of the Racecourse to deal with various outstanding issues relating to the use of our car park, and access across the railway on different occasions throughout the year; both during Race Week and otherwise

As a part of his report to the Board, our Safety Manager Chris Webb had expressed concern about unsuitable photos appearing in blogs, and we discussed how to monitor and avoid that happening. Chris Sparks, our Volunteer Liaison Director will take it up with representatives of the various departments.

Chris Webb had also proposed delivering an IOSH Safety Management course to all directors, to emphasise our continuing commitment to promoting safe working practices on the railway. It was agreed that it would be held in February, and that all Plc directors should attend if possible.

We reviewed the draft 2016 budget which had been circulated by our Finance Director Chris Bristow. It was approved after some discussion. The proposed budget requests made by a couple of departments had had to be trimmed back after discussion with them, and they were now in agreement with what was proposed.

We were told that the Race Trains in March this year were now full, with waiting lists. We expect to be asked to provide greater capacity next year, which is a nice problem to have. Richard Summers expressed concern at being able to fill all volunteer vacancies on all trains. We need up to 40 volunteers each day to act as stewards. It was agreed that we should make a further request for volunteers by issuing a Volunteer Announcement.

There was a discussion about the use currently being made of the booking hall at Winchcombe, as various volunteers and several members of the public had expressed disquiet about so many items being offered for sale; much of it not railway related. It was agreed that further discussions with the Friends of Winchcombe were necessary to resolve this.

We approved the proposed manner of construction of the new platform at Hailes Abbey Halt. We also approved the proposed layout of the station building at Broadway. There is insufficient room for both a shop and a cafe, and the proposal which we adopted was that there should be a shop with modest refreshments for sale. This is on the basis that OTC already provide refreshments on trains and at Winchcombe.

The eternal issue of the poor state of the yard at Winchcombe was discussed again, on the basis that we have been told previously that no permanent solution is currently viable for a number of reasons. We agreed to a temporary fix, which should at least improve it in the short term. That should be done by a contractor immediately the work in P2 is completed.

We were told that plans are in hand for the launch of the Share Issue in late March, by our president Pete Waterman. The actual date will depend on his availability, and we await further details of that.

We discussed the proposed agenda for the then forthcoming HOD's meeting, and suggested various changes to seek to make it more inclusive.

We were told that all work on the proposed re-laying of P2 at Winchcombe was going to plan and should be completed in time. We were told that the programme for funding the purchase of additional rail for Broadway is quite tight, and does not leave much leeway for the work to be completed in the proposed time frame. All depends upon the success of the Share Issue.

We had had a request from the Steam Gala organising committee to arrange for the surfacing of P2 at Cheltenham in time for the Steam Gala, but this was declined on the basis that funds are not currently available for this. Surfacing will have to deferred until the platform can be brought into operational use, and that very much depends upon the installation of a footbridge.

I hope that you find this brief summary of interest.

Richard Johnson
Company Secretary.

Monday, 8 February 2016

new website

A small group of volunteers are currently looking at a redesign of our website. We have to make changes as the current website is not smartphone friendly and the software is out of date. The redesign will take all the good points of the old website and hopefully make it even better. The new website should be launched mid year
Colin Fewell


We often get requests from TV and film companies. This is usually difficult to fit in as they want sole use of the station or a train on a normal running day. However we were able to accommodate a small company last weekend - Armistice Theatre - who wanted to use Toddington station platform to film a trailer to submit to TV companies. Their idea is a series of 6 films based around people during the first world war. If their pitch is accepted then hopefully they will be filming at the railway in the future.
Colin Fewell