WSR volunteers back plc land bid

PHOTO: Steve Guscott.

PHOTO: Steve Guscott.

First published in News

DEDICATED volunteers who work on the West Somerset Railway have clubbed together to start a petition and campaign.

They aim to ensure the freehold of the line is sold to the railway plc and not the association, who have both made bids to Somerset County Council. The council owns the freehold and leases the land to the plc, but is now looking to sell.

The One Railway Group website has been live for  two weeks and has already secured just over 300 signatures for its online petition.

The group, made up of members from both plc shareholders and members of the West Somerset Railway Association, is independent of both, and believes the volunteers have a ‘critical part to play’.

The group says on its website: “We believe that the West Somerset Railway plc is the only organisation who can sensibly hold the freehold of the railway.

“Over very many years, the plc have managed and developed the railway to its preeminent position as a leading heritage railway.”

Mike Rowe, one of eight volunteers who has set up the website, said: “What is important is that the railway should keep running.

“The plc has done a fantastic job of running the railway for many years, and it has done particularly well in the last few years, which during a major recession is admirable.”

Mr Rowe, who has been volunteering with the railway for ten years, added: “The volunteers have not set this up because the plc has told us too; we are simply saying that we love our railway and we wish to continue seeing it run.

“It is a major tourism boost not just for West Somerset but for the whole of Somerset.

“If the county council should sell, it should be to the plc.”

The County Gazette reported an alternative view last week from Robin White, a former chairman of the WSRA and director of the WSR plc.

She said, while transferring to the WSR plc might be simpler, the WSRA has the advantage of being a charity, and so if the railway were transferred into its ownership, it would “undoubtedly be better protected for the future”.

  • TO view the One Railway Group’s petition, visit www.wsror.com

A paper version is also available from Michael Rowe by calling 01643-862182.

Comments (4)

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5:09pm Fri 28 Feb 14

ShoulderToShoulder says...

The Gazette reports that "the group says on its website: “We believe that the West Somerset Railway plc is the only organisation who can sensibly hold the freehold of the railway. "

This is clearly not the case, as the simple facts more than demonstrate.

There is another organisation that can not be merely THOUGHT of, as the only available 'sensible holders' of the freehold.

This organisation has a proven track record of ACTUALLY sensibly holding the freehold throughout WSR's entire history to date.

That organisation, is of course, Somerset Count Council (SCC).

SCC ruling Tory group have provided not one single good reason to sell off the freehold, to what is one of the most significant tourist attractions of its type in the South West region, if not the entire UK.

In place of any attempt to provide a single good reason to sell the freehold; the ruling Tory group merely repeat their disingenuous mantra that "SCC is not in the business of providing a train service".

This attempted 'justification' for selling the freehold is a completely false and specious argument,. designed to obscure the real reason for the proposed sell-off.

The real reason for the proposed sell-off, is the Tory Party's ideologically driven agenda to privatise everything from the Royal Mail and the NHS to the West Somerset Railway.

Instead of backing the PLC's bid; the WSR volunteers and the wider community would be better advised to mount a campaign against this proposed privatisation and demand that the WSR remains publicly owned.

Oppose ALL cuts and ALL privatisations!

www.tusc.org.uk

www.socialistparty.o
rg.uk
The Gazette reports that "the group says on its website: “We believe that the West Somerset Railway plc is the only organisation who can sensibly hold the freehold of the railway. " This is clearly not the case, as the simple facts more than demonstrate. There is another organisation that can not be merely THOUGHT of, as the only available 'sensible holders' of the freehold. This organisation has a proven track record of ACTUALLY sensibly holding the freehold throughout WSR's entire history to date. That organisation, is of course, Somerset Count Council (SCC). SCC ruling Tory group have provided not one single good reason to sell off the freehold, to what is one of the most significant tourist attractions of its type in the South West region, if not the entire UK. In place of any attempt to provide a single good reason to sell the freehold; the ruling Tory group merely repeat their disingenuous mantra that "SCC is not in the business of providing a train service". This attempted 'justification' for selling the freehold is a completely false and specious argument,. designed to obscure the real reason for the proposed sell-off. The real reason for the proposed sell-off, is the Tory Party's ideologically driven agenda to privatise everything from the Royal Mail and the NHS to the West Somerset Railway. Instead of backing the PLC's bid; the WSR volunteers and the wider community would be better advised to mount a campaign against this proposed privatisation and demand that the WSR remains publicly owned. Oppose ALL cuts and ALL privatisations! www.tusc.org.uk www.socialistparty.o rg.uk ShoulderToShoulder
  • Score: 3

6:33pm Fri 28 Feb 14

Steve Edge says...

Whilst Mike Rowe and his chums are perfectly entitled to their view, it should be noted that many dedicated volunteers share the opposite view.

Also, readers should note the WSRA has consistently supported the railway since 1971, providing well over £2M in the last ten years and, through its own endeavours, providing the Plc with tens of thousands of pounds worth of revenue each year. The Plc's undoubted success in running and developing the railway has not been achieved alone but by the unstinting support from its supporting organisations notably its oldest partner, the WSRA.

By owning the freehold, the WSRA would be securing the future of the railway for good, showing a commitment of the highest level to the railway.

There is no need for the railway to close, should the WSRA be awarded the freehold. All parties have received advice from the relevant authorities on that matter.

Furthermore, the WSRA has no interest in running the railway. The Plc would be free to, and encouraged to, continue to operate the railway in line with its published aims.

I urge all who understand the value of strong partnerships and who are wary of one commercial company having total control, to write to the SCC in support of the WSRA's bid.

Mike Rowe and his chums, and all the other volunteers and supporters, can, with the WSRA owning the freehold, and the Plc running the railway, continue to enjoy their work and making such a great contribution to what will continue to be a top division heritage railway providing a valuable service to the West Somerset area.
Whilst Mike Rowe and his chums are perfectly entitled to their view, it should be noted that many dedicated volunteers share the opposite view. Also, readers should note the WSRA has consistently supported the railway since 1971, providing well over £2M in the last ten years and, through its own endeavours, providing the Plc with tens of thousands of pounds worth of revenue each year. The Plc's undoubted success in running and developing the railway has not been achieved alone but by the unstinting support from its supporting organisations notably its oldest partner, the WSRA. By owning the freehold, the WSRA would be securing the future of the railway for good, showing a commitment of the highest level to the railway. There is no need for the railway to close, should the WSRA be awarded the freehold. All parties have received advice from the relevant authorities on that matter. Furthermore, the WSRA has no interest in running the railway. The Plc would be free to, and encouraged to, continue to operate the railway in line with its published aims. I urge all who understand the value of strong partnerships and who are wary of one commercial company having total control, to write to the SCC in support of the WSRA's bid. Mike Rowe and his chums, and all the other volunteers and supporters, can, with the WSRA owning the freehold, and the Plc running the railway, continue to enjoy their work and making such a great contribution to what will continue to be a top division heritage railway providing a valuable service to the West Somerset area. Steve Edge
  • Score: -5

7:44pm Tue 4 Mar 14

Frank Courtney says...

Steven Edge has supported the railway for very many years and is entitled to his view. This would however have much more credibility if the Association would come out of its shell, and explain exactly why (and how) it proposes to manage the leasehold. Unlike the PLC, the WSRA has over the last few critical weeks kept almost entirely silent and declined to respond to legitimate questions. The Association itself consists of a very small core management and administration group, and a group of Trustees, who show no evidence of having consulted their membership over this proposal (I know I am a member and have never been consulted). Worse than that, they made their bid to Somerset County Council without any external consultation with anyone, and entirely unknown to the PLC, with whom they propose to form a partnership. Without some response from the leadership of the trustees it is impossible not to draw the conclusion that this is a small group of people determined to take over control of one of the most successful heritage railways in the country. If they want to persuade volunteers like me (one of Michael Rowe's so-called "chums") they need to come out into the open and explain what they are trying to do. What is absolutely undeniable is that the WSRA have an appalling record in public relations - we fear their skills in running a railway may turn out to be the same.
Steven Edge has supported the railway for very many years and is entitled to his view. This would however have much more credibility if the Association would come out of its shell, and explain exactly why (and how) it proposes to manage the leasehold. Unlike the PLC, the WSRA has over the last few critical weeks kept almost entirely silent and declined to respond to legitimate questions. The Association itself consists of a very small core management and administration group, and a group of Trustees, who show no evidence of having consulted their membership over this proposal (I know I am a member and have never been consulted). Worse than that, they made their bid to Somerset County Council without any external consultation with anyone, and entirely unknown to the PLC, with whom they propose to form a partnership. Without some response from the leadership of the trustees it is impossible not to draw the conclusion that this is a small group of people determined to take over control of one of the most successful heritage railways in the country. If they want to persuade volunteers like me (one of Michael Rowe's so-called "chums") they need to come out into the open and explain what they are trying to do. What is absolutely undeniable is that the WSRA have an appalling record in public relations - we fear their skills in running a railway may turn out to be the same. Frank Courtney
  • Score: 9

10:00am Thu 6 Mar 14

usedtobe says...

Very well put Mr Courtney, this has needed saying for a long time. I do not understand the secrecy of the WSRA, even at their AGM, no question was answered satisfactorily. I was not present at the AGM, but was reliably informed that it was shambolic. I know over the past 2 or 3 years, some really good people have resigned from the trustees. In my opinion, These good people should return to the leadership of the WSRA and kick out the rubbish we have at this moment in time.
Very well put Mr Courtney, this has needed saying for a long time. I do not understand the secrecy of the WSRA, even at their AGM, no question was answered satisfactorily. I was not present at the AGM, but was reliably informed that it was shambolic. I know over the past 2 or 3 years, some really good people have resigned from the trustees. In my opinion, These good people should return to the leadership of the WSRA and kick out the rubbish we have at this moment in time. usedtobe
  • Score: 3

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