Monday, 3 September 2018

"One Railway"...what does it really mean?

I have been asked on many occasions since 23 August to expand on the “One Railway” principle. I had thought that it pretty much did what it said on the tin, but I will now do my best.

I should start by saying that I did not invent the term. I am not sure where it came from, but it emerged after the Robin Coombe “Road Ahead” report in 2015. In two words, it encapsulates exactly how the management of the railway should be taken forward.

The WSR family is a broad one. The operational body is the PLC. The WSRA is a supporters and fundraising organisation. The WSSRT supports the heritage of the railway. The DEPG focusses on diesel locomotives, the SDRT runs Washford station and promotes the history of the late lamented SDJR. Then we have station groups, locomotive owning groups and on top of that informal groups who run different parts of the railway. To my mind, this is part of the WSR’s richness and diversity. We all do our own bit, the bit we are most engaged with and this keeps the wheels turning. It might be complex, but it generally works and works well. But there is a fatal flaw in this too. Groups can become blinkered to their own views and their own plans to the exclusion of others. One group may wish to pursue a particular strategy and may divert resources onto it, whereas another group may be doing something that undoes that work. Two groups might duplicate work. And worst of all, members of one group might decide they don't like the work or membership of another and try to disrupt things. These things are not constructive - nor are they unique to the WSR.

This came to the fore in a big way in 2013 when the WSRA became embroiled in a argument with the WSR PLC. I was involved in those events and it was not a happy time. Groups of individuals became embittered and embattled. Others felt under attack. We were pulling in opposite directions and if we were not careful, something would have broken – and that would have been the railway. I wanted to reach out with an olive branch from one group to another, to try and understand other's points of views, to try and get us working together, to share information - and I got illegally suspended as a trustee for my efforts.

These difficulties were resolved and we all fervently hope that we will not return to those days.
One Railway has now become the guiding mantra to prevent it happening again. Working together we can achieve miracles, working apart we will struggle to do the smallest things.

It's about at all times asking yourself, “What is best for the railway?” rather than “Whats best for my organisation?”, or even worse "Whats best for me?". It's about understanding each other, about working together. It's about respecting other's viewpoints and their needs. It's about compromise, collaboration and communications. We have seen some excellent examples. The wagon restoration group has made truly fantastic progress using resources and help from most of the major players on the railway. One group has provided funds, another has facilitated spending money in cost effective way, another has provided material help. The BESTT Apprenticeship scheme sees the WSRA and the WSR PLC working closely together to provide a supported training environment for three young apprentices in Minehead shed. This is what One Railway means to me: All of us working in a supportive way to ensure the future success of the railway which we support.

Link to the wagon restoration group

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