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

Santa specials

Half way through October and we are already sold out on some trains!
Ticket sales this year are almost 50% up as at the same date last year. We must be doing something right! What is especially pleasing is the increase in the sales of the Toddington based DMU santas. If you remember, these started a few years ago to supplement our steam santas on extra busy days. Now we are finding that the more relaxed atmosphere with santa walking the train is proving attractive particularly to families where children are perhaps frightened of walking into a dark grotto.
Colin Fewell

Thursday, 5 October 2017

GWSR Board approves a significant Capital Expenditure programme for 2018

Dear supporters of the GWSR,

GWSR Board approves a significant Capital Expenditure programme for 2018 budget year

As the running season draws to a close (where did yet another year go?) I am pleased to tell you that the finances of our railway are in excellent shape. This is due to three factors;
Firstly, as you know, the share issue was over-subscribed to the tune of £80,000 and we have the privilege of having thousands of new shareholders from both near and far.
Secondly, the running season has again been a great success. Passenger numbers at this time are slightly ahead of last year and, as I believe I reported before, there has been a healthy rebalancing of passengers away from special events and on to normal service days.
Thirdly, we have enjoyed massive support from the Trust (GWRT) for both the extension to Broadway and the Tim Mitchell building, the latter now being very much a part of the landscape at Winchcombe.
Regarding the extension to Broadway, all is very much on track for the planned opening on Good Friday next year, 30th March 2018.
As you know, the railway’s funds, coming from the above sources, are used exclusively for investment in the railway and its infrastructure.
Taking the satisfactory nature of your railway’s finances together with the high degree of confidence that our Broadway project will be achieved on time, the Board met this week to review the current cash position and our projected cash inflows and from this information determine which capital projects should be undertaken in 2018.
In its deliberations, the board concluded that the Broadway station building would open for business in March with a functioning booking office and toilets, but that other expenditure at Broadway, however desirable, would be deferred in order that pressing projects relating to other aspects of the railway could move ahead expeditiously in 2018.
The projects the board approved are as follows;
1. Sufficient funding to allow the completion of the booking office and toilets at Broadway, prior to the opening on 30th March 2018
2. A 5 metre wide concrete roadway in Winchcombe yard, from the security gate to C&W – no need to explain to C&W volunteers why this is necessary!
3. Secure storage at Winchcombe primarily for Permanent Way Department stores and vehicles
4. Security cameras and associated equipment at vulnerable locations
5. A proposed new facility for the SLD at Toddington – this is easily the biggest of these projects at around £300,000 and may well not be completed in the calendar year
6. A 2 Road Carriage shed – subject to agreeing a location
7. A new facility for S&T at Winchcombe
8. Heritage wagon shelter at Winchcombe – this will be the Heritage group’s next project and reflects the Board’s confidence in this group following their excellent work on recreating Hayles Halt
Items 1, 2 and 7, by the way, have already been the subject of a quotation process and require no further approval – they are shovel ready!

I hope you will agree with me that the above makes exciting reading and reflects the confidence that we all share in this superb volunteer run enterprise!

All good wishes,
Chris
Chris Bristow

Finance Director

Monday, 4 September 2017

GWSR Financial results for the half year to 31 July 2017

Dear supporters of the GWSR,

It was in early May that I last wrote to you following the successful conclusion of the 'Broadway the last mile' share issue which generated £80,000 more than our original target to end at £1,330,000.

This coming week I am pleased to update you with the railway's commercial results for the first half year which, I am pleased to say,  have been good!

Overall passenger numbers at 46550 were up very slightly on 2016 with a measurable change towards more passengers on normal running days and away from special events. This is a good thing as the railway is, on some special event days, beginning to be constrained by capacity.

With generally good weather up until June all our special events did well, the race trains and the wartime weekend achieving new records, but our railway has now become a firm favourite with tour operators and this is a major driver of the move to busier ordinary running days.

For the first 6 months, turnover was nearly £1 million and like gross profit was almost exactly on budget. With some cost reductions in our overheads our operating profit (which to all intents and purposes is our cash flow) came in at a healthy £225,000.

I like to say that 5 paid staff and 900 volunteers came together and in 6 months generated nearly a quarter of a million pounds in cash!

Receipts for the Santa trains have already started to come in, so I forecast our railway will have  another excellent year, our last in the current format before the opening to Broadway.

Finally, on operations, there was the no small matter of opening Hayles Abbey Halt which was a huge credit to the Heritage Group and, in particular, Jim Graham who lead the project.

Turning now to capital works, I can confirm all is on target to open Broadway station to the public on Good Friday, 30 March 2018. Although much remains to be done the embankment repairs at Broadway were completed in July and the heritage roof for the station, made by our steam loco department, was craned into position in May - see photo. In addition, good progress has been made with developing relationships with businesses and the community in Broadway which I am sure will be mutually beneficial.

At Winchcombe. the new visitor centre, for which we won the Aviva Community award, is nearing completion and will be first used for the Santa trains. See second photo. 

All in all, everything moves along at our railway very smoothly.
 
Kind regards,
 
Chris
 
Chris Bristow
GWSR Finance Director
 


 
 

Friday, 25 August 2017

Update on commercial activities

Passenger numbers to the end of July were just a little up on 2016 which was to be expected following last year's big increase and the odd weather we had this July. August is looking good with record Saturdays. The real ale weekend achieved such a record of over 1000 visitors on the Saturday.

Planning for 2018 continues of course with lots of positive discussions taking place with businesses in Broadway

The 2018 timetable is now at the second proof stage. This has been a major exercise taking into account Hayles Abbey Halt and Broadway and of course the complete change in train times. We all recognise that next year's timetable isn't going to be perfect as we have to consider not just the anticipated growth in passenger numbers but also limitations imposed upon us by the length of the line and working day, the need for lunch breaks, the demands being imposed on each operating department etc. etc. It will probably take about 3 years to get the ideal timetable in place. The detailed timetables are on HOPS and hopefully the printed timetable will be available in November.

And if you get a chance, have a look at Tripadvisor

Colin Fewell

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Diesel gala

An excellent weekend marred a little by the weather. Visitor numbers were down on last year's record number but still up quite a lot on 2015. Talking to people, they all seemed to be enjoying it and several blogs have commented on this being the best diesel gala around. Congratulations to all who were involved in the organisation.
Colin Fewell

Friday, 21 July 2017

Visitor numbers

After last year's  13% increase in passengers, we are assuming in all our planning that this year, numbers will not increase any further  before the expected surge in 2018. In actual fact, numbers are continuing to rise  although at a much slower pace. For instance in June we were 3% up and for the year so far about 2%.

One area where growth seems to continue unabated is in our group bookings which so far this year are about 15% up.

The classic vehicle day attracted almost 1000 people some of which just came to admire the cars.
Colin Fewell










Tour of Britain cycle race

 On Saturday September 9th, cyclists will be racing past our railway resulting in road closures etc.
 The information I have is as follows:
 TODDINGTON
At about 13:45 the Stow Road from the Toddington roundabout will be closed so there will be no entry or exit from the station.
Cyclists will ride though from 14:18 until about 15:00 when the road will be re-opened.
 WINCHCOMBE
At about 14:00 the road outside the station entrance will be closed so there will be no entry or exit from the station entrance.
Cyclists will ride through from 14:31 until about 15:10 and the road will be re-opened about 5 minutes later
 CHELTENHAM RACECOURSE
At about 14:20 the A 435 will be closed into town and there will be no entry or exit from the racecourse roundabout

Cyclists will ride through from 14:51 until 15:32 when progressively the road will be re-opened.

Colin Fewell

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Bus Rally

Another successful event with a record number of over 700 visitors. Thanks to all who were involved in the tremendous organisation
Colin Fewell

Friday, 7 July 2017

Thomas

I realise nor everyone loves Thomas the Tank Engine, but his popularity seems to remain at a high level amongst young families. The event a couple of weeks ago was as successful as in the past with almost 2500 paying visitors. The actual number was only a few  down on the 2016 record. Interestingly about 70% of these bought tickets in advance on line through the Thomas website. Everyone seemed to have a great time and apart from a minor problem with the loco on Sunday morning, it all went well. Thanks as always to all who participated.
Colin Fewell

Monday, 3 July 2017

Some points from my presentation at the AGM

For those unable to make the AGM I thought I would summarise some of what I said in my presentation.

2016
We had the best year ever making it two years in a row with record passenger numbers. In 2016 we saw just over 100,000 visitors which was 13% up on 2015. Note however we ran on 9% more days. This increase in days running was deliberately to get us into position for 2018.
Every event was successful and record breaking except for the September Thomas which unfortunately fell on the day of the Cheltenham half marathon which clogged up all the approach roads. That won't happen this year as this has been put back a week following our request.
It is important to recognise that every special attraction last year was successful and not just the main events so congratulations to all the organisers. Of special mention was the new Food and Drink fayre which will be repeated this autumn.
It is also worth saying that numbers of visitors on "ordinary" days increased

2017
This year is looking good with photo charters and more recently the BBC filming a whole episode of Father Brown at Toddington and Gotherington stations. I think it is important to say that we aren't expecting any dramatic increase in passenger numbers this year but are budgeting on the same number as 2016. Numbers can't keep increasing and  we hear from lots of people "see you in 2018"
Another great achievement this year has of course been the opening of Hayles Abbey Halt which has co-incidentally come in the same month as the opening of Hailes Abbey museum. It is interesting to see how many passengers are buying tickets to the Halt. (And what railway can boast they opened two railway stations within the period of 1 year?)
Last but not least of course we have the new Tim Mitchell building at Winchcombe which will be used for various exhibitions, and  for our special events and of course it will be available for volunteer training.

And 2018!
A reminder - if any was necessary - that we open to Broadway on Good Friday 30th March. We will run service trains the preceding three weekends from Toddington to Cheltenham Race Course.
There will be two train timetables - one for 2 trains (whether they be 1 steam and 1 DMU or 1 steam, 1 diesel or 2 steam) and one for 3 trains.
We have volunteers currently working on a new guide book and a second book of walks - concentrating on Broadway and Hayles Abbey Halt - and hopefully we will have a new DVD or two available.
We are also working on special trains during March for our working volunteers but more of that anon.
Colin Fewell

Sunday, 4 June 2017

GWSR hosts visit from NRM leaders on Friday 2 June

Dear GWSR Supporters,

I am pleased to advise you that the NRM's Director, Paul Kirkman, and the Head Curator, Andrew McLean, visited our railway on Friday.

Ably assisted by Glyn Cornish and Maxine Barton-Hawkins and volunteers at each station, I escorted them from Cheltenham CRC via Winchcombe, where they could admire Foremarke Hall on the Fire and Drive experience day, through Hayles Abbey to Toddington and finally on to Broadway.

I think we all explained our railway's values and objectives and I believe they were impressed by what a largely volunteer run railway can achieve.

The photos speak for themselves! Thanks to all the volunteers who helped to make this day a success.





Saturday, 6 May 2017

GWSR ‘Broadway the last mile’ share issue closes with great success on 30 April 2017!

GWSR ‘Broadway the last mile’ share issue closes with great success on 30 April 2017!

Dear Supporters of the GWSR,

I am delighted to be able to tell you that, with the final share applications counted and the last donations to the Trust (GWRT) banked, the share issue closed at £1,330,000!

Yes! That’s £80,000 over the £1,250,000 we were seeking!

A huge THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTED US!

This extra cash will be very welcome because, as you are aware, the Broadway embankment is going to cost about 4 times what we estimated when publishing the Share Issue Document. But with this extra money and the normal generous support from the Trust we are in good shape to keep our commitment to all our supporters to open to Broadway on 30 March 2018!

You will doubtless be pleased to know that the Broadway embankment remedial work is now in process and likely to last 12 weeks. The successful contractor in our bidding process was George Law Limited who, as you will remember, was the prime contractor for the bridges in 2014 – that seems a very long time ago, so much positive has happened since then!

Meanwhile the Permanent Way team are busy laying track northwards, and the Station group are busy with the many tasks needed to be completed before opening. The heritage station roof being constructed by our own Steam Loco department is nearly completed and ready for trial assembly at Toddington, after which it will be shipped to Broadway where the station building is almost ready to accept it.

These are exciting times and there is no slack in our volunteers’ construction timetables but thanks to your generous support they have the means to get the job done.

Do please use your shareholder ticket vouchers and visit the railway soon.

Finally, we will now go back to HMRC and seek their confirmation that our share issue is, as they advised us at the outset and then rescinded, acceptable for Enterprise Investment Scheme tax relief – watch this space! I am not giving up on this.

All good wishes,

Chris
Chris Bristow

GWSR PLC Finance Director

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Numbers

It's always difficult to compare visitor numbers at this time of year as Easter can have a marked effect. We have found in the past that we benefit from an early Easter as presumably the public is at last glad to get out of the house. Easter in April however seems to have the opposite effect.

So, looking at our visitor numbers, on our "normal days" we are ever so slightly down on last year. However the Wartime weekend was a tremendous success. Over last weekend we saw 1600 paying visitors on the Saturday and 1400 on the Sunday. When you add to that the 250 re-enactors (who also pay but at a lower rate) then the final total is on a day to day basis in excess of our traditionally biggest special event - the steam gala. And from all I heard at the weekend it is set to grow again next year with lots of positive comments. Thanks to the organising group for all their hard work - it was well worth while.
Colin Fewell

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Broadway - the last mile share issue exceeds £1,250,000 target on 4th April 2017

Broadway – the last mile share issue reaches £1,250,000 target on Tuesday 4th April 2017!

Dear supporters of the GWSR,

I am delighted to tell you all that, including donations to the GWRT, the share issue has today exceeded our target  of £1,250,000 with 25 days to go before the offer closes on 30 April 2017.

A huge THANK YOU to everybody who has subscribed for shares or made a donation to the Trust (or both!). Without your support reaching Broadway would still be a dream.

If you are still thinking about buying shares or making a donation then I would encourage you to do so, as the embankment repair in Broadway is going to cost at least £300,000 and we had only estimated £80,000 at the time of preparing the share issue document .

We have to make up this shortfall from somewhere.

Anyway, get ready for that opening on 30 March 2018!

Thanks again,

Chris

Chris Bristow


GWSR PLC Finance Director

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Broadway share issue passes the £1,150,000 mark on 10 March!

Dear supporters of the GWSR,

I am delighted to be able to tell you that the railway's share issue reached £1,158,000 on Friday 10/03.

That's about £150,000 more than my last Blog posting  just over a month ago, and is directly related to the terrific response we have received to my letter to shareholders and the recent Broadway edition of The Cornishman, our members and volunteers magazine.

The only 'fly in the ointment' is the potential cost of rebuilding the embankment between the two bridges in Broadway. At the time of writing the share issue document (late 2015) I had used an estimate of £80,000 for this but our design consultants have recently indicated £400,000 is more realistic.

So, we shall need every penny of the £1,250,000 requested and for anyone still considering buying shares, the share offer remains open until 30 April 2017. The share issue document and application form are available on the website, GWSR.com, from the development office at Toddington 01242 621405 or email: development@gwsr.com.

If you wish to make a donation to the GWRT please send a cheque payable to the GWRT to;
GWRT Chairman, The Railway Station, Toddington, GL54 5DT and if you wish to claim gift aid request a form with your donation. Alternatively call 01242 621405.

Please make a contribution now and be part of this great project to restore trains to Broadway for the first time since 1960!

All good wishes,

Chris

Chris Bristow

GWSR PLC Finance Director

Friday, 3 February 2017

'Broadway - the last mile' share offer passes the £1,000,000 point!

Dear GWSR supporter,
  
I am delighted to be able to tell you that today we passed the £1,000,000 mark on our 'Broadway - the last mile' share appeal thanks to the generous support of our shareholders, members, volunteers and the public at large.
  
I feel very confident now we have broken through the psychologically important £1 million barrier that the balance of the funds we need, now only £230,000, will flow in during the next 90 days before the share offer closes on 30 April 2017.
  
We do absolutely need this cash as you've probably heard the embankment between the 2 bridges in Broadway needs more substantial remedial work than previously estimated but, with your continued financial support, I remain confident that we will be welcoming our first passengers to Broadway on 30 March 2018 (Good Friday).
  
If you had been planning to contribute to the share appeal then, with the end, in sight, I would like to suggest now would be a good time.

Thanks again to everyone who has already contributed,
  
Chris
  
Chris Bristow

GWSR PLC Finance Director
  

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