Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Selling the Family Silver - GWR to Sell Broadway Goods Shed

As my Blog Followers may know the GWR Railway is in dire financial circumstances at the moment, with major embankment slips occurring at Gotherinton and Chicken Curve. The cost of repairing these slips and the knock on effect of loss of business has drained the Railway of all its funds.  Drastic steps are being taken to keep the railway running over the coming season and, hopefully, see our way through the crisis.

The most drastic of these, and a step too far in my own opinion, is the selling off of the GWR iconic Goods Shed at Broadway. From my own perspective, it was because of a visit, one afternoon three years ago, to the Goods Shed, where a strong sense railway history pervaded, that I was drawn to the Broadway Project. Since that time I have spent many hundreds of enjoyable hours at the Broadway site, focused on the end goal of a fully working, historically accurate and complete GWR facility. When, on a cold January day you are ankle deep in muddy water cleaning out a catch pit, you have to have your dreams in full focus!

So from my point of view, and I stress there are contrary views, the GWR Board is not thinking strategically as a Heritage Railway but using the Caravan Site's existing dependencies on the Good Shed and its  access  as an early, easy way of clawing back some cash. Future generations of GWR Railway enthusiasts will not thank the current Board for its lack of vision.


Toddingtonted said...

Can you confirm whether there is an intention to sell or has the decision already been made? Clearly, I can see why the GWSR will be thinking of all possible measures to raise money that are legal and, if that means disposing of some assets, then that has to be considered although it may be unpalateable. Of course such a sale would mean that once undertaken, it would be very difficult (not impossible) to put the Goods Shed back into railway use again. It also presumes that the goods shed has a ready buyer in the WCC, as they may not be in a position to buy. It is interesting to note that all 3 goods sheds on the current GWSR survived because of alternative uses; what a pity the same could not be said of all the station buildings! So, is this a done deal or is it an intention?

Anonymous said...

The sell off would be typical of the way the board approaches every problem. We are only in the mess we are in because they will not look for the most cost effective ways of solving problems using in house resources where possible.The end result is that more cost effective suggestions from well informed volunteers are ignored and the costs mount up and up.

Anonymous said...

Madness. Short-term gain, long-term pain. Once the goods shed has gone we'll never get it back.

Anonymous said...

As the director responsible for Gotherington and Chicken Curve I have to take exception to the comment about ignoring well informed volunteers and internal resources.

We have established how bad the problem was at Gotherington and how deep seated the fracture was, there was no other way to repair it that would have got us up and running and able to sign off public indemnity on such a major repair for what will be a service enjoyed by the public and shareholders alike.

If I could enlist and enforce volunteers to attend site 5 days a week for months on end with no break full days in almost all weather, providing their own transport and apply a hefty penalty for late delivery, Im pretty sure everyone would have dropped already and no-one would have been maintaining the rest of the railway.

There has been a reasoned and well informed debate with our internal engineers behind the scenes.

Darren Fairley

Laurence said...

The goods shed must not be sold. People have got to think long-term here. The goods shed is a fantastic piece of railway history and needs to be preserved. If it is sold there will be a lot of regret. I know the GWSR will pull through this, it will be hard but it will happen. The GWSR is a heritage railway and to sell a heritage railway building is ridiculous. You must preserve railway heritage not sell it. I am amazed at the fantastic accomplishments of the GWSR but you just cant sell a piece of railway history like this.

I wish the GWSR all the best in the future but please do not sell the goods shed.

Anonymous said...

I echo both Bills concerns and Laurences comments -- the goods shed must not be sold....now how that message is got over to the board I am not sure... But maybe its time to shout loudly and dig deeper into the pockets.

Laurence said...

What about the possibility of a short-term lease? Then at least the shed wouldn't be lost to the railway forever.

Anonymous said...

If the company folded because it did not have insuficent funds you would be upset. You would be even more upset if the amount of money needed was the cost of selling the goods shed.

I agree it would be a shame. On the other hand, how much of a gamble do you want to take?

Anonymous said...

I think it is very sad when, the going getting tough, people start bad-mouthing the board. Their's is a very difficult job, and while we all like to find someone to blame for our misfortune, some things really are down to bad luck. The need now is to make the best of what you've got. If this means sacrificing a very small part of the railway's assets to keep the rest going, then so be it. Surely it's better to maintain 95% than to risk losing everything?

Giles said...

Perhaps a group of members could get together and buy the shed as they would a loco. First they could lease it to the caravan park and then the railway in the furure or sell it back to the railway at profit.

DanC said...

On no account should the goods shed be sold.
Heritage is heritage and is irreplaceable. This is a heritage railway not a theme park.

When the NYMR had to replace Bridge 30, they didnt sell off land or buildings, they dug deep raised funds and got on with it.

There are other options.

Anonymous said...

Whilst I fully accept that it would be very nice for the railway to have the job done properly at the present time this would seem almost impossibnle to achieve. So therefore would it not be possible to make temporary repairs at the present time using volunteer labour if possible? However drainage is probably very important and this ought to be carried out as a matter of urgency in order to pre-empt future problems as much as possible. Hopefully the money could be found for this thus avoiding the sale of the goods shed which I think ought to be avoided at all costs.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately certain additional facts need to be added to clarify the position that was clearly put to heads of department last week, at which the Broadway Group were represented.

Its not a done deal, the caravan club have rented, looked after the building for a number of years improved the building largely at their cost, for their own use and given an area over for a small display of railway materials, which are not directly accessible on the level with the railway or visible from the railway the opposite side of the main road.

They have undertaken most of the work to make keep the building as it is at present.

The Caravan club support the railway and indeed a great many of their customers also support the railway and will soon have it on their doorstep rather than having to drive to Toddington.......however that will only be if the railway survives.

They have no intention to remove it, so visually Broadway will still look the same and infact they want to improve the building further, and do things that we can't afford or fund.

Surely if we were to consider selling a little silver to use your words, to realise a pot of Gold in the station buildings and the railways survival, it should be considered if indeed a suitable offer is forthcomming?

No one has suggested that the building will disappear or be radically altered?

Darren Fairley

Anonymous said...

The call for temporary repairs vs full repairs has been debated and explained at great length on the GWSR website.

There is no temporary option available for Chicken Curve, the damage from the snow and ice is severe – the experience is gained from Gotherington and Cheltenham before that and what has been confirmed as we dug in. The findings from the dig out at Gotherington and Cheltenham have confirmed that the Engineering options and solutions chosen were absolutely spot on.

We have not been able as yet to undertake a full and detailed survey of what has happened at CC. Suggestions that have been put forward for repair, by our internal engineers and external, cant be tested until we actually know what has fully happened, how deep and what needs to be repaired in full, repaired in part or simply monitored in an appropriate manner dependant on the type of movement.

If we could use internal resources we would, but look at how much resource has been used in the contract at Gotherington, five days a week for months in almost all weathers – how many lorry loads, how much plant and kit.

We cannot assess what needs to be done in full yet and we would then have to consider who would then maintain the rest of the railway whilst that work is going on if undertaken ourselves. We are considering all options. It would be remiss to guess and try something that could make the situation worse without it being fully calculated and covered by design indemnity - we carry the public – it is not something that can be underwritten any other way – all we do is in full public eye and has to be undertaken at further cost.

The business plan works on the railway staying open – not on a patched up section that could again fail and loose us more revenue and the trust of our visitors.

Updates on the repairs etc., will continue to be covered on GWSR.com

Darren Fairley

Bill said...

As you were not at the HOD Meeting you will not have been aware as to how little was said at the meeting about the Goods Shed, other than it was to be sold.

You have no way of knowing what might happen to the Caravan Site and the Goods Shed in years to come if the Caravan Club hits hard times.

Heritage may be founded on sentiment, but the reason that all great restoration projects succeed is that they do not compromise on their ideals. In that way their excellence remains for posterity.

I will leave this thread running for another week or so but I would urge all contributors to not criticize the Board. They work very hard on our behalf. They have may have many faults but being wrong is not one of them.


Dave Bowie, B'way Group said...

Bill makes two important points. First, it would be very unfortunate if the goods shed has to be sold, and I have to ask whether the caravan site value would be much reduced if we retained just the shed and its rail access. Second, members of the Board are volunteers too: they have the Railway's interests at heart and have difficult decisions to make. Few of us would want the job. So let's keep the debate reasoned ans civilised.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the railway sell the land south of huntings butt tunnel as the railway is more likely to make a mainline connection at honeybourne than into the center of cheltenham

Anonymous said...

You guys at the GWSR have had some real bad luck and I'm sure your board and all volunteers are doing their level best to resolve the issue. However please do not sell this goods shed. You will have no control over its future, and although there are no plans to remove it at this time who knows what could happen in the future if you've sold it and have no real say. Just as you were not able to forese the landslips you can't foresee what may/may not happen with such a heritage building. I would think some sort of lease is the best option for now, which would then bring in some cash and retain overall control of the buildings future.
Best of luck with your fund raising for the line repairs.

Anonymous said...

Bill you are correct, due to family illness I had to leave before the meeting and so was not there but I am fully aware of what was said at the HOD meeting and was involved in the prep work.

Additionally and subsequent, further explanation of the situation has been given to you for the groups benefit as noted in my latter posting that was not put forward in your original stream to give a more balanced view of the overall situation and why it was being considered and not just the HOD information.

No contract has been written up, who’s to say that we can’t do something to account for some eventualities - we could get first refusal to buy back etc?, or if the price is not right (if indeed there is one formally offered)continue to rent the building, but with less security financially for the railway in the immediate term.

I wish the caravan club well - indeed they could well be reading this! - and on the other side of the coin there is no reason why they should not prosper, therefore so will the building, whether bought or rented.

To be brutally honest but quite frank - we are not prospering - it is in our interest for the survival of our Railway today, that we consider options.

The board can, will and does get things wrong, but we too have vested interests in the railway as volunteers and will do the best that we can in these difficult times to make sure we as a whole have a future.

Darren Fairley

Roger said...

How much land do we still own here? Enough for lots of sidings or just a loop to the goods shed? What use would we put it to? Given the desperate financial situation we perhaps should give this some thought much earlier than we planned to. If we had an idea of the whole picture it would be easier to see the pros and cons.

Laurence said...

I know this is off topic but for future thought has anyone considered the idea of putting the line back into Cheltenham up to the roundabout at Waitrose and building a platform there? It would be a fantastic central location and would most certainly bring in more revenue.

Toddingtonted said...

Darren thanks for clarifying that this is not yet a done deal and, that if it does go ahead, the new owners would probably be the caravan club who already lease it. If nothing else, the sale of an asset like this may need more discussion but, if it makes people reach for their wallets instead of their metaphorical Uzi 9mms then it will have been a blessing in disguise!

Patrick said...

Darren, have all options really been fully explored here? What about mortgaging the shed or leasing other railway buildings? Selling rolling stock? A share issue? Appeals to funding bodies and/or local govt? Wealthy benefactors amongst the supporters?

Loss of the goods shed will be long regretted - inserting clauses into the sale agreement preventing its demolition will only reduce the residual value. At the very minimum a buy-back option should be negotiated.

Anonymous said...

I wonder is the Goods Shed a listed building? If so, it might be difficult for any potential buyer to knock it down and build houses there instead.
In the meantime, I agree with the comments made on 23 Feb that thought should be given to extending to the centre of Cheltenham (High Street Halt site?). Of course this is as soon as Chicken Curve has been sorted out and the extension to Broadway completed. At the very least, consider safeguarding the track bed into Cheltenham.

Anonymous said...

Who's got £200k now to extend to Cheltenham HS, taking maybe 2 years of hard labour too?
I'd leave that good idea in reserve until better days, unless you want to finish us off once and for all.
Worst case - the bricks from the shed redevelopment could be useful for the station?

Keith Patterson said...

Hi Darren

Can't we get 2 costs i.e. one for doing the job properly and the other for a very minimal repair i.e. just replacing the slipped land with ash fill or something similar to get the railway running again. It is accepted that option 2 will be only temporary and the full repair will have to be undertaken at some point. However the advantage of option 2 is that it will hopefully give more time for the railway to recover finacially before committing to the proper repair of CC.

Chris said...

Keith you just cant do that. The embankment has failed - it is no longer safe, period. To have the confidence to run heavy trains on it *with the general public on board* the only way forward (and also the most cost effective) is to do the job once and properly.

Anonymous said...

I may have missed something here does the goods shed have any road access or is it only via the caravan site. Does the caravan group have any funds to go from being a tenant to an owner of the goods shed. With a sitting tenant I am not sure it will raise much money.
I also remember the debate when we sold off so much land at Winchcombe station. Long term that was a good decision.
Ian H.

Keith Patterson said...

Hi Chris

I am afraid I disagree with you. However I have had my say so over and out now.

Keith Patterson

Geoff said...

Out of interest, how much space is there at the Broadway site? From driving past etc., it would appear that as the whole site is on an embankment there is at most four lines (two main lines and two loops, one through the goods shed). Therefore, whilst in an ideal world keeping ownership of the goods shed would be maintained, being realistic and given the circumstances the future use of the goods shed by the railway must be fairly limited. I would certainly doubt that any developments such as those at Toddington and Winchcombe would be possible and at best Broadway could only be a start/end point for passengers.

Chris said...

Keith, there's really no argument to be had - you need to wake up and realise this is the 21st century; flinging down some ash and hoping it lasts would crazy, irresponsible and potentially putting lives (as well as the future operation of the railway) in jeopardy - embankment failures have already led to the lines closure once before by causing a derailment, after all.

Bill said...

Thanks to all for taking time out to make your comments. I have avoided getting into heated debates about individual questions/topics.

I remain convinced that the GWR would be better to retain the Goods Shed in all its glory, to set it up as a GWR Heritage Centre and create a revenue stream for the railway by laying on exhibitions of the GWR past and present. Rather than perpetuate the debate here I will open up a new thread soon when I have found out what the current state of play is from our illustrious Board!
Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Nobody likes to see valuable assets disposed of but the reality is this. Does the GWSR use existing assets to raise vital funds to continue its business model or should it sit back and hope a knight in shining armour arrives to save the day or for its own members to continue to raise money from appeals, donations and other sources. We live in very straightened times where disposable money is now in very short supply. If the railway is to survive this latest crisis it needs money now and not over the the next months and years to be received by dribs and drabs. If we are not very careful and fail to support the board in this most difficult task of ensuring we have a railway for the future. We could well see the business fold into bankruptcy and for those assets we hold most dearly to be sold off to satisfy the railways creditors. Then where would we be!!

Bill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill said...

Anonymous 26 Feb
Spoken like a prudent accountant!

By enlarge I agree with points made, but I will never be convinced about selling off the Good Shed.
We should not delude ourselves into thinking that CC will be the last slip crisis the Railway has to fund and manage. There is potential for them all along the line. If we are to survive we must seek out a lower cost, new technology solution. We cannot apply main line maintenance criteria to our shoe string operation. Therein lies the challenge and if we cannot rise to it we can all pack our bags and dust off our Hornby Dublo.

PS this is the last entry on this particular Blog item!