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Q & A Session 28/01/12
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Question and Answer Session
Held in the Valley Suite on 28th January 2012
 

The Presentation

The contents of the presentation were:

Looking at the achievements of 2011.
Looking ahead to the budget of 2012.
Review of progress on the business plan.
A summary before throwing the meeting open for questions from the floor.

Looking at the achievements of 2011

A significant turnaround had been achieved financially  in 2011 financial results, with passenger numbers ahead of budget and a profit achieved.
The SVR is concentrating on the revenue per passenger not number of passengers in isolation.
We all have a part to play in controlling costs as we did in 2011.

A summary was give on some of the fantastic events from 2011:

Santa 2011 - 40,479 passengers in December, against 37,502 in 2010.
Autumn Gala - Star of the show the Caledonian engine brought in over 6,500 passengers.


There was further discussion on the work already well underway to increase the efficiency of our overhaul of locomotives and how this relates to renegotiating the running agreements with the locomotive owners.
'SVRlive' is also at the end of its pilot phase as a method of improving communication with working members, shareholders and members.
All this was achieved by the combined efforts of working members, paid staff and all those who have any input into the SVR.

 

The 2012 Budget
A realistic passenger number of 200,000 is the target, considering the continued economic condition of the UK.
Another profit will be delivered.

 

Business plan progress
The audience were reminded that the two elements that we continue to focus on are:
Improving Governance and Strengthening the financial base.
A review of the ideas received since the last meeting was given and how these had been very useful.

Ideas submitted following previous Q&A included:

How could we use the mainline connection.

Treasure trails at the Engine House.

Guarantee board to be represented on top table.

Solar panels to be installed on carriage shed.

Everyone who emails in connection with these issues will get a response (though it might take some time).

 
Reengaging volunteers
As per the slide of the presentation access to 'SVRlive' will be given at all station sites.

 

Improving board effectiveness.

Work is already underway to clearly define the remit of all organisations within the SVR family.

Discussions will continue with the Rolling Stock Trust (RST)    to extend its remit. We need a charitable trust that will cover  the whole railway and are looking at extending the remit of  the RST to do this. The RST is 10 years old in 2012. Ideally we need a person who can identify potential funding sources. The Holdings Company has realised that the RST charity can benefit the railway if they work together. Holdings solicitors have talked to the Charity Commission to see what the RST can be permitted to do. RST trustees then have to make appropriate decisions.

 

Strengthening the financial base

Shareholder benefits. Shareholders will be able to purchase shares by monthly Direct Debit. New benefits will include experiences, such as driving courses, observation saloon use, behind the scenes.

Charitable giving. We need to identify supporters with  influence and affluence. The people with influence will help us reach the people with affluence, so we can personally knock on the doors of would-be donors.


Ensuring a management structure fit for purpose
It is recognised that we need greater emphasis on Marketing and a Marketing & Communications Manager post will be advertised shortly.

Recruitment for succession of Infrastructure Manager will also take place shortly.

 

Improving Motive Power Dept efficiency
Please see the presentation slide.

 

Strengthening the Financial base
In support of this slide a draft list of projects was distributed to attendees. A copy of this list is available from the Downloads page on this site. It contains projects suitable for charitable fund raising and for the forthcoming share issue.

Summary
This slide emphasised how interrelated all elements of the business plan were and that the capitalisation is core to all of these activites.

 

A copy of the presentation is available

from the Downloads page.

 

The Question & Answer

1. We have 26 locos but we will have to hire in this year.

 

2. Current state of negotiations with loco owners:

SVR Holdings must and will continue to remain viable.

We are looking to establish the most efficient way of supporting overhauls of locomotives for Owners and the SVR.

Counter proposals from loco owners will be looked at. There is a meeting on 19th February. All needs to be fair and transparent.

Other heritage railways have also been through this, but the Holdings Company wants to retain all 26 locos on this line, and most other railways have more limited fleets, i.e. operate on a more commercial basis.

Other railways have typically 5 or 6 locos able to run.

3. Spending on infrastructure is important and continuous because of the geographical location of the SVR.

 

4. A new marketing and communications manager post will be advertised, with job spec drawn up with advice from a qualified volunteer.

 

5.There is a shortage of volunteers training for the Road Railers. These people would be able to assist with work if trained. With the reorganisation of the Loco Department this training should improve, Roger Norfolk is the main contact.

There were questions concerning the recruitment of new staff at additional cost in these difficult economic times for the country. The answer was given that this was a requirement to hand on knowledge. It was recognised that the recruitment process takes some time.

 

6. There was discussion over the use of paid staff for emergency cover for signalmen, guards etc. It was recognised that it is important to have this cover but that when this happen the paid member of staff is taken away from their core activity.

 

7. The DMU Group are not included in the current Rolling Stock discussions. Will their agreement be changed?

A diesel committee, under the chairmanship of Gus Dunster, has been set up to consider how best to serve the interest of the groups.

 

8. How is the value of SVR at £5 million calculated, and is this the true value?

The accounts of SVR are stated at Historic Cost, with no revaluations included. The bank appointed an independent valuer last year, and this valuation was also £5 million.

 

9. Questions were asked to how the locomotive overhaul queue was determined and if the smaller locomotives would be included.

Class 4 and bigger are a priority currently because of the small size of the operating fleet, but in the future a fleet of over 12 working locos is possible.

 

10. SVRG (the 'Guarantee Company') is now responsible 'only' for providing volunteers to operate the line. SVRH (the 'Holdings Company') takes the ticket money and is therefore responsible for safety.

 

11. The structure of the Boards is confusing, which one is responsible for the Light Railway Order?

SVR Co Ltd is responsible for supplying volunteers not for operating the railway.
The new Rolling Stock Agreements will be the responsibility of SVR Holdings.
The Light Railway Order was originally held by SVR Co Ltd, but transferred to SVR Holdings.

 

12. There was a concern that a number of the projects on the shareholder list and charitable giving should be funded from annual profits.
There are a large number of signifcant projects on the list including developments and initiatives, even with an annual profit of £250k, to fulfill our project objectives would take over 40 years.

 

13. There are differences between now and 10 to 20 yrs ago:

Staff are much older.

Locos are older (and need more work).

Infrastructure is failing.

The storm was terribly bad luck.

We have no novelty value any more.

There is massive competition.

Travel costs are high for volunteers. The recession is hitting everyone.

14. The going rate for paid staff means new entrants will cost more, paid staff of the future will not consider the railway a vocation like many of the current staff do. It was recognised that pay scales will need to be reviewed to allow the SVR to remain competitive with other heritage railways and organisations.

 

15. It is recognised that volunteers need training, access to tools and equipment, encouragement, and interesting jobs to do. We have to get better at this, as we cannot afford many paid staff.

 

16. The 'Skills Register' is regularly used by management; it is a vital tool. The Company would welcome more offers of help.

 

17.  HRA pass holders were allowed free travel on SVR, but are now charged. This is not reasonable.

There is no consistent approach as to the treatment of HRA pass holders amongst the Heritage Rail movement. The HRA are to be contacted to suggest they implement a consistent policy for the members.

 

18. Rover fares are sold for trains departing where it is too late to rove!

The pricing of tickets is constantly reviewed, and this point will be considered.

 

19. Opportunities are being missed to run trains at some times of the year, for example at the start of the season.

The railway is more effectively maintained when a complete shut down is implemented. Work takes longer and is more expensive if there is a requirement to stop works over the weekends to allow trains to run. The current tunnel works would not be possible without a shut down.

 

20. £450 per steaming day is considered very good value for a loco hire.