I had a very interesting day today. As part of their 'Gateway' project, Careers South West ran a two-day business development exercise at West Somerset College in Minehead.
The premise was that the WSR requires to develop its station at Bishops Lydeard. The young people at the college were split into teams of about 6 or 7 people and given the project brief, they had to come up with a development plan which then had to be presented back to the tutors and railway representatives.
The teams appointed surveyors, architects, commercial and advertising leads and each studied their particular aspects. Initially I was allocated to the surveyors and i had to tell them a lot more about the layout at BL, what the constraints might be (eg ground levels, underground pipes, planning issues etc) and give some general background about what might be required.
there then followed mentor sessions, when we visited each team and discussed their presentation plans, answered their questions and gave more pointers.
Finally, we had to listed to the proposals and judge them!
There were some great ideas! In no particular order:
1. provide a wedding venue at BL station. It was suggested we could charge £6000 for a wedding and once costs taken out, make £144K per year.
2. Donate a quarter of all our profits to the Dogs Trust
3. Build an underground multistory car park so that visitors' modern cars are hidden from the heritage railway (cost was £1M per storey!)
4. Build a maze in the shape of a turntable
5. use as much sustainable material as possible, recycled bricks, reclaimed timber etc
6. build an interactive museum with 'speaking boards' to encourage young people.
All the teams did very well with some very imaginative drawings and plans. The winning team was the one who had costed out their proposals and suggested how it might be paid for.
Considering these were year 9 students, the results were very encouraging. Stepping back, all realised the need to expand visitor facilities, make them more attractive to visitors and to advertise them much better - I am sure we can all agree with that.
We do need top do more work at BL, it is our busiest station and does not present the image we may wish to our visitors. The board realise this and we have now restarted the BL development project which first came to light under the Southern Gateway project.