“Where’s the rest?”

“Is that it?”

“Where’s the interview with the Association?”

The BBC West Inside Out programme aired on Monday 23 March told some of the story behind the West Somerset Railway freehold saga but failed to provide the full story:

  • most glaringly, no interview or statement from the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA)
  • no clarification that the WSRA were asked but declined to be interviewed or provide a statement [we have since asked both WSRA and BBC to clarify]
  • no evidence that Roger Bush as “bidding on their [WSRA] behalf” [it was just implied by the reporter]
  • no evidence that the WSRA’s freehold bid was being made on the same basis as Roger Bush’s earlier proposal to the Plc when he was working with them when they were considering purchasing the freehold
  • no indication that the WSRA knew about Roger Bush’s dealings with the councillor
  • no mention of why the WSRA was bidding and why they wished to purchase the freehold
  • no mention of what Roger Bush would gain from a successful WSRA bid

At the time of his work with the Plc, Roger Bush (a property developer) was clearly no friend of railway heritage, with plans to buy and convert some of the stations and build holiday chalets along the line, as revealed in the programme.

Was that prospect on the cards again following a successful WSRA freehold purchase? Frustratingly to us, the reporter did not ask Roger Bush. What a golden opportunity missed by the BBC reporter!

Those gaps in the feature spoilt an otherwise revealing report. Watching it is strongly recommended to WSRA members. The programme is available for the next few weeks on the BBC’s iPlayer at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b055jhf7 and the feature starts around 11 minutes in.

WSRA have said Roger Bush was simply asked to ask to contact Somerset County Council (SCC) and ask two questions “if the freehold for sale and if so, how much?”  However. Roger Bush did far more work for WSRA than simply ask two questions and report back. For example, Roger Bush was part of the WSRA contingent and spoke on behalf of WSRA at formal meetings with SCC.

We suggest WSRA members urgently need to consider:

  • what the trustees asked Roger Bush to do on their behalf
  • to what extent the trustees knew about the methods used by Roger Bush to win support from councillors
  • what would have been the rewards, if any, for Roger Bush if the WSRA had purchased the freehold
  • what the WSRA have already said on this subject and what they might say in the next days and weeks

None of this came out on the BBC Inside Out programme and sadly an ideal opportunity was lost. Why did the BBC pass over a great chance to explore further?

The WSRA membership is soon likely to be asked to express its views on the conduct of the WSRA trustees by way of an (extraordinary) general meeting to be called by a group of concerned WSRA members.

The membership really need get answers from the trustees before making any decisions.

Only when all the facts are made public will the healing process on the railway get truly underway.

UPDATE: The BBC have kindly replied saying “We did ask for an interview but the Association declined.” which would seem to explain the lack of WSRA comment in the programme.