Where does the WSRA go from here?

We note some of the new WSRA management beginning to put out requests for ideas. Excellent. We gather the membership itself will be asked soon just how they see the future for the  Association. Even better.

One matter we WSRA+ bloggers would like to be uppermost in the thoughts of every single WSRA member – when faced with the overarching question “how do you want the WSRA to support the Railway”, please remember that the requirements of the WSR Plc must always be satisfied.

For an example of what we mean, consider the two steam locomotives owned by the WSRA, nos 4561 and 7821. Both are currently non-working. No 7821 is mothballed. No 4561 is in bits undergoing a very thorough, competent and expensive restoration to working order. We presume the WSRA’s objective is to see one, then the other, working trains on the West Somerset Railway.

But there’s no point restoring either to working order if the WSR Plc cannot guarantee hiring these locomotives.

Since the WSRA cannot possibly influence the WSR Plc’s decisions, as the Plc seeks to maximise its commercial opportunities and maintain its responsibilities to its shareholders, the Association can only best guess the WSR Plc’s future requirements for steam locomotives, even with regular dialogue between the two sides. At best that would be a hire agreement covering ten years with a guaranteed annual mileage. At worst, the WSRA could have two working locomotives which would have to move off the Railway to earn their keep – and how would that be “supporting the Railway”?

Meantime, we strongly urge members who are thinking about the future of their Association to consider the role and the position of the WSR Plc in all of this.

Please remember that whatever the Association might think about doing “for the Railway”, unless it is cosmetic such as the Goods Office project at Crowcombe, then if it doesn’t meet with the business requirements of the WSR Plc then it is not worth starting.

This posting should not been seen as a rant against the WSR Plc. It is not. We quite understand the WSR Plc’s position and its reluctance to share its governance and sovereignty (which is not necessarily a bad thing). It is the WSRA that needs to change – in many many ways – to work well within that framework.

None of these awkward situations would arise if the WSR Plc and the WSRA were to become one. But that is not likely. Sadly.