Moors Express revived

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Ian Riley's 45407 at Grosmont on a wet 25th April 2015
Moors Express June 2015

One of the tasks set for the Communication Committee, by the Trust Board, is to improve communication with members, volunteers and employed staff. I am sure you will agree that this is an easy task to set, but much more difficult to deliver on! Like all organisations the NYMR has some ‘dark’ corners and there is no doubt that some dark deeds get done in these ‘dark’ areas. I can’t promise to ‘shine a light’ into all of these dark corners but I hope to try and hopefully bring you items of news that don’t normally get aired together with some background to those that do.

It is the Committees intention that this should be a monthly publication and I hope to bring you a digest of some of the obvious and, where possible, the less obvious items of news that have come my way. As with all journals the content is only as good as the information sources so if there is something that you think should be broadcast then please drop me an email with the details to Bernard.warr@nymr.co.uk

I’ve resurrected the ‘Moors Express’ title (which was started originally by the current Trust Chairman, John Bailey) for reasons of continuity and my initial intention is to produce an issue each month. To avoid the document being too lengthy and therefore potentially tedious to read I will limit myself to no more than 2000 words per issue. If this should result in important items being omitted then it may be necessary to go to a fortnightly cycle.

So, on to the good news:

Financial Results for 2014

The railway did better in 2014 than it has for some years producing a small surplus (of about £20,000) on the operating account. When the Trusts’ other income (membership, bequests, legacies and fundraising) is taken into account there was a surplus of over £650,000. Full details have been circulated prior to the AGM, which is to be held on 20th June 2015.

West Country ‘Pacific’ 34101 Hartland

Following a successful meeting with the family of the late Mr. Shaw, the new contract, which will keep Hartland at NYMR for the next 25 years is now at final draft stage and is expected to be signed off this month.

Visitor Attractions

Everyone will agree that there is a need to develop attractions across the railway to ensure visitors have plenty to do and see, as we encourage them to spend the day with us. The Trust Board recently approved two such developments on Platform 2 at Pickering:
• A play area for small children on the south end of Platform 2, which Pickering Station Group have proposed and are currently raising funds for.
• Improvements to the Visitor Centre, also on Platform 2, to offer an interactive experience for visitors to be developed by the Education Committee

There is also a plan, supported in principle by the Trust Board, to create a Velocipede Hub at Grosmont to provide a base and storage for velocipedes with the aim of more events at NYMR or elsewhere to demonstrate these historic vehicles – the proposal, which hopes to seek HLF funding, is still being finalised.

West Coast Railways

The fate that befell West Coast Railways in April (suspension of the operating licence) has had a positive impact on our railway in that engines visiting for the Spring Steam Gala were temporarily ‘marooned’ here. These included Ian Rileys’ two ‘Black Fives’, 44871 and 45407 together with NELPGs’ K1 62005. The reinstatement of the WCR licence by Network Rail resulted in all three engines heading north to Fort William for the start of the ‘Jacobite’ season on 11th May. These three provided some relief to our hard pressed MPD (see below in the less positive news section.)

Recruitment of new Managing Director

The vacancy was widely advertised in the early part of the year with a closing date of 31st March. There was a good response with enquiries received from nearly 90 individuals. Of these around 30 submitted applications from which a ‘long list’ of 15 candidates was prepared, all of whom were invited to a familiarisation day on 12th May. 13 attended and two more attended on 26th May.

Based on the observations of the candidates made on these two days, a shortlist of five candidates was prepared all of whom were asked to make an individual presentation to the Directors (of both Boards) on Monday evening last, June 15th. This was followed by a day of interviews on Tuesday 16th. At the time of writing both Boards are meeting, prior to the AGM on Saturday 20th June, to approve the preferred candidate selected by the two interviewing panels.

Tour de Yorkshire

This new venture to raise the profile of Yorkshire in the competitive cycling world was held over 3 days at the beginning of the May and was inspired by last years’ start of the Tour de France in the County. On the first day the tour passed both Pickering and Grosmont. Although the number of passengers was probably at an all-time low there can be no doubt that the site of three steam engines drawn up on the north side of the level crossing gates in Grosmont provided a splendid backdrop as the race passed through the village. It was good to see our profile raised through the media coverage.

Capital Programme

As part of the strategic planning for the future of the Railway, the Trust Secretary, Carole Hardwick, is putting together a programme of capital works that need to be tackled in the next 10 to 20 years. The source of the information contained is from our Forward Strategy ‘Steaming On’, Nigel Trotters S&T, P’way and Bridge renewal programmes, the MPD and C&W locomotive and carriage overhaul programme and other known projects. The last Board meeting had a brief discussion on the development of the programme and the funding implications that need to be recognized and sourced. Carole has emphasized that this is very much a ‘live’ document and is happy to receive suggestions of other items that should be considered for inclusion. As a result of a debate that began on the NYMR Unofficial Forum one such suggestion, now included, is volunteer accommodation. Watch out for future updates.


Member Survey on Moorsline Magazine

The Winter edition of Moorsline included a questionnaire inviting members to feed back to us their views on the content and readability of the publication. 6779 copies were circulated and 682 were returned, a credible rate of over 10%.

Generally speaking respondents were happy with the publication and we received some very good pointers on what was interesting, what was not, which sections duplicated each other and which others were too long. The Communication Committee in conjunction with the editor will be taking careful note of these preferences for future editions. A full report went to the Trust Board meeting on 5th June and an electronic copy can be had on request to my email address given above.

It is many years since the format and production of the magazine was last considered in any detail and a re-tendering exercise is underway to revitalise the look of the journal. If all goes according to plan the Autumn edition (due out at the end of October) will be the first to benefit from these new arrangements.

Cost of Coal

I understand that Ian Foot our Traction and Rolling Stock Engineer has renegotiated the coal supply contract, which is producing an annual saving of about £100,000. Well done Ian!

Now for the less positive news:

Locomotive Availability

Anybody on or about the Railway in April and May cannot help but notice that we are extremely short of steam locomotives. Of our own engines “Black Fives” 44806 and 45428 are under repair together with B1 61264 and Q6 63395. All of these should have been available for traffic and their absence has resulted in more diesel haulage and use of the 3-car DMU. We are a railway that advertises a ride behind a steam engine so, when diesels are substituted, there is a significant, level of customer resistance. Any manager that doubts this should spend some time in Pickering Booking Office and see, first hand, the customers’ frustration at our failure.

Unfortunately this is not a new problem and it is disappointing for all of us that work on the railway that it has not been overcome. Perhaps the reasons for this lie in one of those ‘dark corners’ that I talked about earlier. However, how much longer we can allow ourselves the luxury of not facing up to it, I do not know. It is fixable by careful management, which must involve ensuring that the resources are available to operate the agreed timetable. Despite such assurances being given to the Trust Board, at the time the timetable was approved, they are clearly not available. The cancellation of many mainline rail tours because of the West Coast Railways situation has helped us out, as mentioned earlier, however tremendous pressure is being put on the MPD staff to repair engines fast enough to meet our commitments as we approach the peak season. This is no way to run a railway!

Given the amount of running that we do in the ‘close’ season from November to March it is no surprise that winter work is not being completed. No one can argue against running the Santa Specials but is it cost effective to run at weekends in November and again for February half-term week? I have my doubts, as do many others.


So that’s it for the first edition. If you disagree with anything I have said please make contact and tell me! If there are things that I haven’t mentioned, good or bad, and you think that I should have done, then also please tell me – the email address is Bernard.warr@nymr.co.uk


Bernard Warr
Chairman of the
Communication
Committee.

17th June 2015.

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Bernards' Blog - A regular digest of things happening on the North York Moors Railway