At the EGM of the West Somerset Railway plc held on Saturday 10 August, the Motion to revise article 53 of the plc's M&A was passed with an overwhelming majority of the 102 shareholders present. There was one vote against the motion and one abstention.
This will defer publication of the plc accounts until a later date, probably early December, so that this summer’s trading figures can be looked at by both the directors and auditors alongside last year's 15-month loss-making accounts in order to demonstrate that the business can continue as a going concern.
After the Resolution was clearly passed, the meeting also received presentations over a two and a half hour period from all of the directors and advisors about what was being done to help get the railway 'back on track' in their areas of responsibility, especially infrastructure, plus the Chairmen of the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA) and the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust (WSRRT) outlined what both support organisations were doing to help, including an update for the Rail Renewal appeal which now stands at @£80,000 of the £250,000 target set for this year.
The plc Chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt outlined the very serious financial situation the WSR was in last year which put it at risk of insolvency, and stated that the 2018 accounts would make for dismal reading when finally published. But the threat to the WSR is now diminishing thanks to some drastic cost-cutting measures and prudent management of resources, and the railway had not had to use its overdraft facility.
Jonathan Jones-Pratt said the vote to defer publication of the accounts was, in effect: 'the start of the recovery process’ and that the Board and management at the top had to get everything right throughout the railway and its constituent parts.
Mr Jones-Pratt added: ‘After analysing and identifying the peaks and troughs of WSR train services this year, the train timetables will be different in 2020 going forward so that we avoid being busy fools running empty trains. A budget is being created to generate a surplus to invest back into the railway, and the end result will be a better railway which allows for both steam and diesels to operate, but the WSR will always be a core steam railway operation.’
WSR plc Vice Chairman Mark Smith told shareholders before the vote to amend the company's Memorandum of Articles & Association that they were facing a stark choice because the 15-month accounts were so poor that publication now could well kill the railway off as a going concern. He told shareholders: 'If we get it right today, then we will have a railway going forward. But if we get it wrong, then we'll have a cycle track - it's that simple.'
The whole meeting was conducted in a calm, professional and amicable manner throughout with plenty of Q&A from shareholders and directors and advisors.