To: All WSR PLC Shareholders, Volunteers and Staff
The West Somerset Railway (WSR) PLC wishes to alert all shareholders, volunteers, staff and supporters within the WSR community that a hostile takeover campaign is being undertaken by a small group of people seeking to take over as trustees of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust (WSSRT or Steam Trust) and whose nominations were delivered to the Trust office by WSRA trustee Robin White. Their purpose appears to seek to take over the activities of the WSSRT charity at their next AGM.
It appears this action is being carried out by using the pretext of the recent John Bailey Report that suggested the WSR plc should transform itself into a charity with a subsidiary operating company in time. Whilst this report has been endorsed by the West Somerset Railway Association and the WSR plc, further discussion for all of the railway family groups is being undertaken via the Partnership Development Group (PDG) later this month.
What the West Somerset Railway plc does not endorse is the use of the Bailey Report to try and force massive change on the WSSRT and its membership that, while supporting those organisations who wish to change, does not wish to lose its independence. The Steam Trust not only has very clear aims and objectives, but also has been very successful in undertaking them with the limited resources it has. The WSR plc will, therefore, do everything within its power to support the existing WSSRT trustees to repel this attempted and hostile takeover of a small, but widely respected charitable group which has supported the railway immeasurably, especially during the crises of recent years.
As things stand, the takeover proposal would result in the effective destruction of the Steam Trust, so risking the future of the projects it has so successfully carried out to date. It would create huge uncertainty for its members too, all of whom have laboured successfully and hard to: restore historic GWR Coach No. 6705; transform the Gauge Museum at Bishops Lydeard, and engage with local schools. Steam Trust volunteers, who just want to get on with the work they enjoy doing in support of the railway, would end up as collateral damage in this plan.
Initiating a hostile attempt to take over the activities of a smaller charity within the same ‘family’ but against their wishes is, in the view of the WSR plc, the last thing that the Bailey Report recommends. Far from moving us all towards the ‘one railway’ concept, it will result in re-opening old wounds and divide the railway community.
Many WSR supporters will recall that our railway has been through several such painful conflicts over the last 10-15 years, and this appear to be yet another example of the selfish approach taken by a few disaffected parties. This fact was summarised perfectly in the Bailey Report by the author’s comment: “there are those ....who genuinely believe the railway should be on a different path and that they are better suited to guiding its future.”
Coming at a time when the railway is fighting for its existence due to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, the WSR plc wishes to state that it is high time for this very unhelpful kind of activity to finally cease. Those involved should know that they are causing pain and hurt to loyal, long-serving leaders of the WSR who now have to defend such activities. It also saps away the spirit, strength and patience from all of those impacted, and those who just want to see the railway succeed again.
The WSR plc Board will review the situation in the coming days and be taking further steps to fully support the Steam Trust in due course.
The directors of the WSR plc Board