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The West Somerset Railway PLC, West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA) and West Somerset Railway Steam Trust (WSRST) have had a meeting and released a joint statement regarding the Notice to Leave issued to the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust (S&DRT) from the Washford Station site.
Following an official response on Monday 24th of February by the S&DRT to the initial Notice to Leave, a meeting was set up with members of the WSR PLC (Chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt), WSRA (Acting Chairman Mike Sherwood) and WSRST (Chairman Chris Austin) to discuss the situation and S&DRT’s official response, to release a joint statement to explain the WSR PLC’s point of view and next steps.
The statement released goes into some of the details surrounding the Washford Site, and the history between The West Somerset Railway and The Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust.
The WSR says in its statement that in June 2019, the SDR Trust met with the WSR PLC to discuss a concern that they had with the PLC regarding plans for the future hire of locomotive No. 88. This, they say, repeated previous concerns that some drivers did not like the locomotive.
The PLC say that they made it clear they understood the terms of the agreement and wanted to continue to operate the locomotive on the WSR. It was then agreed that an overhaul for 88 was needed, and the West Somerset Railway PLC would develop a fund for it – The WSR PLC then say that they asked the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust for a contribution for the work, but apparently did not respond to this request.
Later on, in 2019, a meeting was held between the WSR PLC and SDRT which said that the financial rescue of the West Somerset Railway had been successful. The Trust, according to the statement, was again asked for a contribution to the 88 Appeal, with perhaps a consideration of making an appeal to purchase some of the parts needed in the overhaul. It has now been acknowledged that £3k from the Real Ale Festival has been a real help.
The WSR PLC has said that during the Ale Festival, some safety issues were highlighted by visitors and passed to the Office of Rail and Road. Over the past couple of years, the WSR PLC has said that other safety issues have been brought to the attention of the trust, including non-compliant moves, moving carriages by hand and drivers driving without an exam.
With regards to funding, the WSR PLC has said that the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust pays currently just over £1249 per annum for the site, which has only increased due to RPI over the years.
The West Somerset Railway PLC has accepted that their comment saying that the Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust was a ‘cuckoo in the nest’ was inappropriate. It has also acknowledged that this is caused some bad publicity and upset, and withdrawal of support for the PLC.
The full statement can be found here.
Hopefully, a beneficial agreement can be made between all parties involved in the near future, as ultimately, one of main aims for each party is to recreate the Somerset and Dorset Railway and COVID-19 poses a great risk to every heritage railway and group across the country.
For more information, please visit the West Somerset Railway’s website here.
This article first appeared on www.railadvent.co.uk
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