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Updated Tuesday 25th March 2014

Question & Answer - 8th March

The Question and Answer Session at The Engine House was attended by 30 working members, chaired by Nick Paul, of the Holdings Plc with Mike Ball.

A presentation was made by Nick Ralls focusing on the passenger and initial financial results for 2013, projects for 2014 and Share Offer projects update.

Financially the Railway recorded a record turnover in 2013 of £6.6million and £0.5million improvement in sales over that recorded in 2012. A profit for the year has been achieved whilst both increasing investment in the maintenance and overhaul of locomotives and absorbing a £75,000 increase in coal cost during the year.

One of the key achievements in 2013 was the receipt of the Queens Award for Volunteering. The SVR is run by its working members and as an example; to operate our Timetable ‘A’ service requires 50 plus volunteers. At our galas there will be between 300 -500 volunteers over the three days. It was highlighted that the Volunteer Liaison Office is now supervised by a new team of Barry Moreton and Sarah Tookey. In the coming year there will be a jobs fair held at Kidderminster Station on the 12th April to recruit new working members to departments that need to bolster their numbers. 2014 will also see the construction of the diesel depot at Kidderminster, vital for the volunteers who so ably maintain and overhaul the diesel fleet currently in an open yard.

Attention turned to the ongoing projects that had been started in 2013 but continue in to 2014. These include the project at the Motive Power Department to improve efficiency. The staffing is now up to strength and the investment in facilities has been completed; recently this has seen the removal of Tranter Towers, the portacabins from the shed. The focus in 2014 of the project is to examine how to increase contract work without compromising the improvements to the overhaul of the home fleet.

At Carriage and Wagon, 2014 will see the replacement and renewal of track in Bewdley Yard, the rail and sleepers have been kindly provided through the auspices of the SVR(GW)A. The Company will be recruiting further Carriage Repair staff and reviewing the working practices at both Kidderminster and Bewdley departments to make best use of the facilities and floor space.

The main projects for 2014 were bought to the attention of the audience. The Diesel Depot will start in September 2014 with the laying of the significant concrete slab and be completed by March 2015 with the construction of the shed itself. This facility will allow working members to undertake maintenance on diesels all year round unaffected by the weather.

The viaducts at Bewdley, (Wribbenhall and Sandbourne) both largely sandstone structures require renewal of stone and repointing. This is a long term project as there are a number of arches that require attention.

Track relay work continues, the Permanent Way Gang re-laid a third of a mile of track by Little Rock Cutting and Sterns in 2013 and plan to do up to half a mile at the end of 2014 at the top of Eardington.

A smaller but no less important project will be the maintenance and renewal of the bearings of Bridgnorth Bypass Bridge.

Finally the completion of the Comberton Hill, Kidderminster Offices is imminent. Volunteer assistance in this project has been very important in the strip out and wiring and IT installation, the offices will be in use before the end of April 2014.

With the Company Offices moving to Kidderminster, James Pearson Stationmaster Bewdley is leading the project to look at what opportunities present themselves to utilise the vacant space. It was emphasised to the audience that a volunteer catering facility is very much part of the plans at Bewdley.

The projects noted above are a small fraction of the total expenditure requirements on the Railway. A recent exercise undertaken by the General Manager requesting all Managers and Heads of Department to submit their spending requirement for the next few years resulted in a list totalling over £10million. These requests can be prioritised but it is important to understand that to fulfil these expenditure needs we have to look to income streams beyond the fare box.

Moving on from general plans the focus of the presentation moved to Share Offer Projects and an update was given on the projects as highlighted in the share offer document.

Locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall a key project has already seen activity to swap its tender to a more appropriate Collett type. Through the good work of the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust external funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for £95,000 has been secured.

The Heritage Skills Training Academy is now well in to its first pilot year and has three trainees currently; James Lewis, Max Green and Chris Bird. There has been an early start to recruitment in 2014 with a familiarisation day held for young people interested in the scheme. Over 30 families attended. The SVR is pursuing the need to have the scheme nationally accredited so that our young apprentices have transferable skills at the end of their apprenticeships.

The Bridgnorth Development Project led by Ian Baxter has made considerable progress. At the last Holdings Board meeting (18th February 2014) the Directors adopted the Conservation Plan for Bridgnorth. Created by Kevin Simpson, this comprehensive document provides the parameters for development on the site and will inform decisions concerning the appropriateness of future designs. Five work streams have been identified and these are being progressed by the Development team so that by the end of July a Master plan for the Bridgnorth site will be available.

The audience was reminded of the background to the Severn Valley Railway Charitable Trust, how it has made great strides in supporting projects in 2013. Through its offices the Railway has gained £95,000 through a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant towards the restoration of Hagley Hall and £25,000 has been committed in support for the Heritage Skills Training Academy. There are many ways in which supporters of the Railway can help, including the Patrons Club, a regular giving scheme of £1 or more a month, or the Guardians Club where supporters might like to consider including the SVRCT in their will, all of which may attract tax relief for donors. More details are available through the SVRCT leaflets or by contacting the Charity staff through admininistration@svrtrust.org.uk.

The presentation finished looking beyond 2014, to highlight the Railway's ambition to seek UNESCO World Heritage Status. A team is also looking how we celebrate 50 years since the formation of the Railway Society in 2015.

The Chairman opened the floor to questions. A number of the questions wanted to know more of the status of the Bridgnorth Development project. The review of questions is not comprehensive but example questions included:

Will a portion of the share offer funding be ring-fenced for the Bridgnorth Development Project? The response was that whilst the Board are still awaiting costs for the project, there would be a significant amount ring fenced for the project.

There was general concern in the room that the project be moved forward to completion as there have been a large number of previous attempts to develop Bridgnorth all of which have fallen. The Chairman strongly reinforced his commitment to the project and seeing it through to completion.
Nick Ralls General Manager


February 2014 Roundup

The Holdings Board Meeting was held Tuesday 18th February. It was a full agenda and items below are detailed for interest:

Assistance with Operational Safety:
Last year Andy Barr MBE, Heritage Operations Manager for Transport for London volunteered to assist the Railway in looking at its emergency procedures and operational safety, giving a view to see if anything can be improved. Last night Andy gave an interim report on his assessment of the SVR to date. The review was very positive and encouraging; highlighting many positive aspects of our operation, and also some areas in which we can improve. Andy, during this initial period has written a new Emergency Plan which has been introduced, the Adverse Weather Plan has also been enhanced. Andy will continue to assist the Railway in an advisory capacity offering guidance on the Safety Management System and Rule Book in conjunction with the committees whose responsibility it is to maintain these documents.
Andy will provide updates on his progress via the General Managers monthly report to the Holdings Board.

Heritage Skills Training Academy:
The recruitment process for this year's intake of trainees is just beginning; a group of young people with their parents or guardians have been invited to the Railway to meet with Richard Thurlow, the Academy Coordinator to explain more about the Railway and the trainee/apprenticeship scheme. An interview and selection process will follow this so that we have trainees ready to start on the Railway by August.

Locomotive Agreement Negotiations:
The negotiations on a new maintenance agreement have been progressing with a meeting of all Locomotive Owners having taken place in January 2014. Company representatives were invited for part of the meeting. The meeting was cordial and there was discussion surrounding the draft documents that had been circulated by David Postle, Chairman of the Large Locomotive Owners Group, prior to the meeting. Before further progress can be made, a full assessment of the out of traffic locomotive fleet needs to be completed. This is currently underway with the locomotives being assessed by both Ian Walker and a representative of the Owner of the relevant locomotive.

Diesel Depot:
The long cherished ambition to build a diesel maintenance facility took a further step forward last night. Planning permission having been gained last year a funding package has been accepted by the Holdings Directors to build the depot will commence this Autumn with the construction of the concrete slab followed by the construction of the depot building in 2015. Primarily a maintenance facility the depot will incorporate a road for diesel storage which can be extended to a further phase of development being funded at a future date. 
The depot situated close to the Carriage shed will provide pit and jacking facilities and allow maintenance and repair of the heritage fleet of diesels to take place throughout the year.
Please look to This site for further information on this exciting project.

Safety:
There have been two recent incidents concerning the Safety Committee. During the recent high winds a loose slate was blown from the Bewdley MPD signing on point, knocking a member of MPD staff off their feet. The roof has been assessed and will be repaired. All staff are requested to check roof structures for signs of slate movement and if there are causes for concern to inform Chris Bond, Infrastructure Manager.
Locomotive 7812 Erlestoke Manor was subject to a low water incident whilst under test in Bridgnorth MPD yard. The incident is under investigation by Ian Walker, MPD Works Manager in conjunction with Roger Norfolk, Locomotive Crew Manager and the Office of Rail Regulation have been informed.

Marketing:
Clare Gibbard is working on maximising publicity for the Heritage Skills Training Academy which is garnering good press coverage and finalising the publicity for the Spring Gala.
Other work includes finalising bookings and plans for the Family Fun Weekend involving Peppa Pig and highlighting the Railway as an ‘all weather’ attraction in light of the atrocious weather seen across the country in recent weeks.

Operations:
Phil Brown, Operations Manager has been investigating an incident at Orchard Crossing where a delivery man drove on to the track after incorrectly following his sat nav directions.
The dissemination of the rule book and changes will be implemented this April.


MPD:
The repair work on Sir Keith Park continues and the report in to the reasons for the incident occurring is continuing. The engine is expected back in April.

Carriage & Wagon:
Wheel flats on carriages have been a problem for the department and cost significant sums to repair as the whole carriage, in this case MK1 TSO 4550, has to be transported to Bristol by low loader for tyre turning.
In the paintshop LNER buffet 643 is being repaired and re-varnished.
At Bewdley LNER Pigeon Van 70759, has had its roof replaced and the volunteer group are now concentrating on the completion of the interior fit out.
GWR Carriage 1146 is now awaiting its turn in the Bewdley workshop.


Signalling:
John Phillips is undertaking preliminary work on the rewiring of signalling circuits at Bewdley South.

Infrastructure:
Work on the renovation of Kidderminster Offices is continuing apace, the current date for the office going live is the 7th April.
A visit from a Network Rail Test train to the SVR means that we have comprehensive survey data of our track condition along the whole line.
Work to build the storage sheds in Kidderminster yard will commence shortly.
All of the Permanent Way Gangs have put in a massive effort to clearing vegetation alongside the line this Winter, thank you.

Staffing Committee:
The Staffing Committee in conjunction with the Safety Committee and Company Doctors have reviewed the over 70’s Operational Policy.  The review has not seen drastic change but does provide a clearer definition of the policy.  This is now with the Guarantee Company for ratification.

Sterns Latest

The full time staff have been busy with the help of hired in plant, shoring up the slip at Sterns. A large concrete sleeper wall has been built at the toe of the slip and packed behind with approximately 150 tonnes of ballast. This has been topped off with around 200 tonnes of 6F graded stone. The weighting should hopefully help to stabilise the slip and drain the water from the embankment. So far little further movement has taken place since the slip was originally reported so the hope is that it is stabilising. Further monitoring boreholes are to be sunk shortly to increase our knowledge of what is happening below ground. Meanwhile the stop and proceed will remain in place for all trains.

 

 

Progress at Sterns...

Over the weekend commencing 22nd February it became apparent that a significant slip was occurring at the North end of the Sterns area that resulted in an emergency speed restriction being implemented. Further investigations the following week concluded that ground movement was taking place on the top of the old slip and that the movement was ongoing. It was decided in the interests of safety and on the advice from the SVR’s consulting engineer to issue a temporary speed restriction that instructs all trains to stop and proceed with caution at the location.
Some remedial drainage work is planned and close monitoring is taking place. The good news is that over the weekend of the 1st March no further movement was measured. It is hoped that a 5 mph restriction can be imposed soon and it is likely that this will have to remain in force during 2014.
At Bridgnorth a slip has been observed in the main car park above Jewsons yard and this is giving cause for concern. The area has been cordoned off and additional boreholes are being sunk in order to obtain further information on the rate of movement taking place. Once this information has been collated a decision on what corrective action will need to be made.
Both of these problems are almost certainly linked to the exceptional rainfall and flooding that has taken place this Winter and we can hope that we start to get dry weather during the coming Spring months.
Nick Ralls General Manager


SVR Resilience and Sterns
Following all of the terrible weather in January and February you will be pleased to know that the drainage on the Railway has coped admirably with the downpours.

However, please see the photograph below taken by Chris Bond of Sterns (between Hampton Loade and Bridgnorth), the location of the historic slip. You can see that there is a dip in the track where the formation has slumped.  This was monitored over the weekend and has been inspected by engineers today.
Work will begin this week to hand pack the ballast and raise the formation as close to level as possible. It is planned to do this before the weekend and will be followed by additional drainage work to try and dry the embankment out. This has necessitated a 5 MPH restriction to be imposed. It is likely that further work will be needed at Sterns during the close down period January 2015 to further stabilise the formation.

Nick Ralls General Manager