Sunday, 15 January 2017
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.
15th January 2017