Monday, 26 September 2016

GWSR update on the successful 2016 operating season and latest news on the share issue


September 2016



 Dear GWSR Supporters,





I am posting the following on the blog to update you on the excellent results of both the current operating season and our on-going share issue ‘Broadway – the last mile’ .



The financial year which ended on 31 January 2016 was a record for the railway in terms of passenger numbers, turnover, operating profit and volunteer numbers; the key parameters of a successful heritage railway.



This year all those records look like being exceeded! Passenger numbers so far are up and, as a result, so too is turnover and operating profit. Volunteer numbers have also increased. All our special events have had record attendances and, in addition, fire and drive is sold out as are the fish and chip trains with orders for the Santa trains now coming in strongly.



All this is a result of an increasingly widespread public seeing what a super railway we operate and wanting to be part of it! I think people are strongly attracted by our unique position in being the only major heritage railway run by volunteers, which means that the income I’m talking about above doesn’t get used up in wages but goes directly into maintaining the railway’s 110 year old operating infrastructure.



Turning now to ‘Broadway – the last mile’, the share issue has gone extremely well so far. At the end of the third week in September the inflow of funds had just exceeded £810,000 which is a terrific achievement only 24 weeks after the share issue launch led by our President, Pete Waterman. We are particularly delighted by the large number of new shareholders from all parts of the country validating, if validation was needed, the important work we are doing bringing a railway link from Cheltenham to Broadway for the first time since 1960!



On 2nd September a milestone was achieved when we took delivery of the first batch of rail for the extension from the newly named British Steel Ltd. It’s great to be buying British! Two more batches will be received this month giving the Permanent Way gangs enough rail to reach Peasebrook Farm Bridge, which you can see from the share issue document photographs is getting on for half of the one mile of track needed to reach Broadway.



 I would urge all shareholders within striking distance of Broadway to visit the station site, where from the viewing platform you can see the station building proceeding apace, the footbridge erected and the internals of the signal box being fitted. For those further afield, you can keep up with this and all the railway’s other endeavours by accessing the blogs on our website, GWSR.com.





Figure 1 Rail delivery, Toddington 2 September 2016





So, it is all good news at your railway, with the only disappointment being the HMRC Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) where it now looks unlikely that our share issue will qualify. This seems manifestly unfair as we received advanced assurance (HMRC language for approval) in December 2014 and a further confirmation in January 2016. However, they now state the law has changed and we must abide by the new (EU inspired) rules which require a successful proposal to link different countries or people who speak different languages. They believe linking Gloucestershire with Worcestershire does not meet these new border or linguistic criteria! Although we have not entirely given up on persuading them otherwise, investors should plan on no EIS tax relief being available. Higher rate tax payers, particularly those who already hold shares and have enough travel tickets, should now consider supporting the Broadway appeal by a tax-efficient donation to the GWRT rather than buying more shares. If you have any concerns or comments about this please email me at finance.director@gwsr.com.



With more than 60% of the funds in, we have enough money to fund the project this year but we definitely need at least the other £470,000. If you are an existing shareholder who has been waiting for the initial excitement of the share issue to die down or for the summer holiday season to be over, may I please suggest that now would be a great time to buy shares or make a donation to the GWRT and maintain our momentum in the drive to reach Broadway?



Give our volunteers the funds and they will finish the job!
Thanks for your support,
Chris



Chris Bristow

GWSR PLC Finance Director



p.s.  PLC share application forms and GWRT donation forms are available by emailing development@gwsr.com or calling 01242 621405. 

Saturday, 3 September 2016

GWSR Broadway the last mile share issue status at 3 September

Dear Supporters of the GWSR,

I am pleased to advise you that the total value of funds received for the share issue is £760,000. That's after 21 weeks from the Pete Waterman launch event.

While this represents good going, the rate of inflow of funds has slowed, as expected, as the share issue is no longer new news and our public have been focussed on summer holidays and events.

The big news was yesterday's delivery of the first batch of 56 rails from the newly renamed British Steel on Friday (formerly Tata). We've placed two further orders, each for the same amount, to be delivered in two weeks times and four weeks time respectively.

That will be enough to keep  our Permanent Way gangs busy this autumn and allow them to extend the railhead to Peasebrook Farm Bridge.

Here are a couple of pictures from yesterday;





If you are now back from your summer holidays and have been considering investing in the share scheme then now would be a good time in order to keep momentum going!

Kind regards,








Chris Bristow
GWSR PLC Finance Director







Friday, 2 September 2016

Visitors comments

Apart from comments on Tripadvisor, twitter and facebook etc.,  we see lots of direct emails from visitors. This one is just one of many:

Just a quick note to say a huge thank you to your wonderful team. We visited today as a family with my wife's Grandfather and our two children (in his late 80s and a former engineer on the carriages in the 50s). My father, who has been guardsman on the GWR since his retirement some years ago now, introduced us to many of his colleagues today and it made my grandfathers day, when we were kindly shown around by the Deputy Manager in the main workshop at Winchcombe. What impressed us so much was the care, dedication and passion the team showed in what they were doing and have achieved over the last couple of decades. If only people were like that in everyday work - and they get paid for it! Many thanks again for a wonderful day out - a very happy if a little tired,

Colin Fewell

Friday, 5 August 2016

Report from the Away Day Meeting of the Plc Board

Every year, the board sets aside a whole day for a meeting so that various topics can be discussed at length. Our latest such meeting took place at the beginning of August.

We considered the arrangements for the proposed opening to Broadway It was agreed unanimously that the opening should be a celebration of the achievements of all volunteers in every department throughout the railway, who have worked so hard to make this happen. As such we shall be organising the event around the use of our own in house loco's.

We considered our current organisational structure. In future station groups will be accorded departmental status, and as such will have a clear reporting line to a Plc director. 

Succession planning is obviously important. We do have a number of 'pinch points' in the organisation, and it was felt that the best way to overcome this is to seek to widen responsibilities in all departments and avoid reliance too much on individuals - so far as this can reasonably be done. We also need to develop more signalmen (and women); more Duty Operations Officers; more help with special events and more support to fill vacancies in the OTC management team.

The format of the timetables for when we operate from Broadway is still under discussion, but it appears that it will be on a similar format to present operations. We are anticipating the need for eight coach trains, and it appears that the current policy of having two TTI's on a train works well. Tour groups (and especially cream Teas) are a good source of income, and arrangements for them will be essentially unchanged.

There has been a degree of discussion previously about whether or not it would be an appropriate use of resources to extend our railway south beyond Cheltenham racecourse to Cheltenham Town boundary over the trackbed we currently own. After further discussion, we decided that we would not pursue this option and would instead concentrate upon developing and enhancing our railway between Broadway and CRC. 

Although we are heavily committed financially to the rebuilding and reopening of Broadway, we are still looking to see what can be done to develop and enhance the railway elsewhere. One of the issues we have been considering for some time is a proper workshop for S&T at Winchcombe, to replace the coach they currently work from. With the impending departure of the privately owned stock in the yard, that can be developed further. We decided to commit sufficient funds for a start to be made upon building such a facility.

We are also very conscious of the need to develop and enhance the messing and welfare facilities for our Loco Department. We agreed that this project should also come to the fore, and that sufficient funds be allocated to enable it to move beyond the planning stage.

As was mentioned in the previous blog posting, we are awaiting a further report on the condition of the embankment at Broadway. We have been aware of this for some time, and provision for repairs was included in the Share Appeal budget. As soon as we know what our options are, we can plan with more certainty.

You can see that there is a lot going on, and a great deal more to be done. Our Share Appeal continues to make splendid progress, and we are very grateful to all those who have already contributed. If you have not subscribed so far, you know what to do ................

Richard Johnson
Company secretary

Friday, 29 July 2016

Plc Board Meetings

There have been a couple of Plc Board Meetings recently, and I need to provide you with an update.

At a meeting in June, we discussed a proposed memorial garden to be located at Toddington. There have been various suggestions about what sort of memorials could be included, but we decided that the memorial garden should be just that; without specific memorials for individuals.

We spent some time discussing and making preparations for the then forthcoming AGM. It is surprising how long it takes to organise and ensure that all aspects are dealt with. This included plans for the question and answer session held afterwards.

A report from our Civil Engineer, included the disappointing news that bridge 45 (on the section to the south of CRC) was in a poor condition, and would require either very substantial funds to repair it, or propping to stabilize at at a cost of about £30k per year. A difficult but necessary decision to be made.

We agreed to fix the formal opening date for the Broadway extension for mid May 2018; shortly after the Bank Holiday. Although we had not yet finished with the Share Issue, we decided that we should make a definite decision to open on that date - come what may. We can now go ahead and plan the opening in detail.

Initial news about our planning application for the proposed car park at Broadway was less encouraging. Initial responses are that the Council will not allow it to be opened in stages, as we had expected. It has to be fully completed and surfaced before it can be opened to the public. As we won't have sufficient funds to do this prior to the opening, it was decided to withdraw the planning application, and reconsider our options. For those of you who are not aware, the £1.25m we are seeking by way of the B-TLM Share Issue, does not include any funds for the proposed car park.

After several months of consideration of all the alternatives, it was decided to abandon plans to build a toilet block on Platform 2 at Winchcombe. None of the alternative proposed locations was really suitable, and drainage would be very difficult and costly. The potential overall cost of the build was far higher than was first anticipated, and it was felt that money could be much better applied elsewhere. For special events, it would be a much cheaper alternative to hire in Porta Loos.

We agreed to place the contract to start construction of the new Elf Centre at Winchcombe, beginning in January 2017. This date is chosen in an attempt to cause minimal disruption to use of the platform.

The potential operational timetable for Broadway is taking shape, and is likely to include a requirement for eight coach rakes - C&W to note.

At a subsequent meeting recently we reviewed proposed plans for Winchcombe yard, which have been drawn up by a working party led by Andy Smith. We agreed to defer decisions until our annual all-day board meeting at the beginning of August.

We were told that after some consideration, there is no need to make any provision for loco watering facilities at Broadway. The cost of the necessary plant would be prohibitive, and there is no operational necessity for it.

We had previously received a report from our Civil Engineer about potential stability problems with the embankment between Broadway Road and Childswickham Road. Trial boreholes have shown that large areas of the embankment are unstable, and we need to establish what our options are. The first report from independent Consulting Engineers proposed a prohibitively expensive solution, so we asked our Civil Engineer to get some alternative quotes and options for rectification. This is very unwelcome news, as the whole embankment appears to be more unstable than was first anticipated.

Better news is that we were told that 56 lengths of new rail are about to be ordered from British Steel, Sunderland for the extension, with more expected in the coming months. Once P/way complete their work in the loco yard, they will be able to concentrate on the extension until they start on the winter programme of work.

The next meeting will be our annual all-day board meeting at the beginning of August.

Richard Johnson
Company Secretary.


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Broadway the last mile share issue passes two important milestones!


Broadway the last mile share issue passes two new milestones

Dear GWSR Supporters,

I am pleased to tell you that things are progressing well with the share issue in general and, in particular, we have;

Firstly, cash received from shareholders topped the £700,000 mark this week ending today, Wednesday 27/07, at £710,250. That is good going as today is 16 weeks after our share offer launch with Pete Waterman. Inevitably the rate of increase in funding has slowed down so if you have been holding off investing for just that moment now would be a good time to buy shares and keep the momentum going - only £540,000 to go!

Secondly, I am pleased to tell you today we sent off a Purchase Order to British Steel Limited, Scunthorpe for the first batch of rail we need - delivery scheduled for 2 September! Two more orders will be placed for delivery later in September and, all together, these purchases are enough to take the running line as far as Peasebrook Farm bridge this year.

For those interested in progress with HMRC on their agreement that our share issue under revised legislation is still eligible for the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), I can confirm that our financial advisers have this week submitted to HMRC a statement asserting our belief that our share scheme meets the EIS revised conditions and requesting their confirmation and approval. Fingers crossed!

Thanks for your support!

Chris
Chris Bristow
GWSR PLC Finance Director

Monday, 18 July 2016

Father Brown

A full day's filming last week. This photo shows Mark Williams (alias Father Brown) educating Ray O Hara in selfies