Sunday, 15 January 2017

Board Update


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


  1. The desire to open to Broadway in Spring 2018 seems to me to be resulting in short-sighted decision making. Two reent decisions come to mind.
    1/ Reducing the embankment width between Broadway (Evesham Road) and Childswickham Bridges.
    2/ Not opening Broadway Signal Box because of staff shortage !
    Why does entry to the Boadroom so often result in Myopia - in no way confined to GWSR. Leadership requires vision not demotivation of volunteers.

  2. if we have to accept that the Embankment has to be reduced in width and is say 75 yards in length ,one wonders if this will provide a POSITIVE of creating a larger car Park area along the trackside .
    This factor is vital as tourist numbers are expected to increase significantly from 2018 yet we have no budget on this vital area .

    .Disposal of waste material will be an an expensive on cost but we must sort out the car park this year so we can run trains next Spring as planned . john M.

  3. I assume that the narrower top to the embankment is due to a shallower slope & hence reduced stabilisation costs. This is no way prevents later works, when money, time or need dictates to restore the 2 track formation.

    What would be a good idea, is to extend the running line north bit by bit this year as tamping / approvals permit as a pre-Broadway taster to boost visitor numbers. A bit for each gala maybe and an end of year treat!

    We cannot have it all and those who run our railway often have to make decisions based on hard reality.

    David Martin

  4. I don't really see how either the embankment or Broadway signal box constitutes short-sightedness, or lack of ambition or whatever.

    As others have said, hopefully there's nothing to prevent the embankment being restored to double track in the future should it be deemed appropriate. The plan for double track along that section was abandoned some time ago for the short term anyway due to lack of funds. So yes it'll be more expensive, but no more expensive than spending extra on the embankment now then laying the extra track in a few years.

    As for Broadway box, the way I see it is track will be at Broadway by 2018. Broadway box might be ready by 2019. I suspect we'd get far more people wondering why we aren't running to Broadway if the track is all there than we will an in progress signal box and a temporary ground frame. It is not shortsighted as it in no way prevents anything from happening, on the contrary, it means Broadway will be able to open before the signal box is ready, which must be a good thing to get money rolling in. It hasn't been a waste of time building the signal box at all as soe people have said, it will be a fantastic tribute to the GWR and the volunteers who built it when done and fully functional, even if it's not quite i time for opening.

    Also worth noting I've been told SVR did exactly the same thing with Kidderminster, their lovely box was not finished for some time after trains started running there.