Reports of Committee meetings of NELPG Ltd and NELPG Enterprises Ltd
11 January 2016
Present: John Hunt (in the chair), Martin Lloyd, Michael Chyriwsky, John Graham, John Hall, Nigel Hall, Paul Hutchinson, Chris Lawson, Richard Pearson, Richard Wheeler.
Fred Ramshaw, Andrew Scott, and Neal Woods also attended and were welcomed to the meeting.
John Hunt and Neal Woods declared an interest as employees of West Coast Railway Company, John Graham declared an interest in Lochty Railway Co, Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust (SNGLT) and Wayne Jones & Partners, and Richard Pearson declared an interest as an employee of Locomotion, Shildon.
The minutes of the December meeting were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Under matters arising, following further consideration, in particular in view of the likely cost of a separate mailing, it was agreed that the proposed SGM to appoint Ribchesters as Independent Examiner of our accounts should be postponed from the February to the March Social meeting. This would enable the Notice of the meeting to be issued with the February issue of News, which, as a result, needed to be with members by 11 February. It was also agreed that the motion seeking approval to transfer £50K from reserves to the J27 overhaul fund should be taken at the AGM in April: it was unlikely that, on current spending plans, the money would be needed before then.
The monthly Financial Report noted that the 2014 Gift Aid claim had been paid by HMRC, the Q6 mileage figures for November and December had now been received enabling the invoice to be issued to the NYMR, and the Wensleydale Railway was continuing the agreed weekly payment against their outstanding invoices for use of the J72. A clearing payment for the balance of its November invoice was expected by the end of the week. A VAT payment of just over £6K was due to be made.
The Treasurer reported that current membership subscription rates fell far short of the costs of publishing News, never mind the general administrative costs of running the Group. He would continue his consideration of the issue, particularly the pensioner rate, the position of Patrons, and the use of electronic distribution of News, and put proposals to the February Committee meeting for consideration, with a view to submitting a motion for changes to subscription levels to the AGM in April.
The Letters of Engagement from Ribchesters were considered. Their contents were accepted and they were signed by the Chairman, with one copy to be held by the Secretary in the Company file.
Considering was given to developing a locomotive overhaul strategy. In doing so, the Chairman commented that forward planning needed to consider whether we have got the resources – manpower and finance – and the necessary skills to maintain our locomotives for the long term. A framework in which we could move forward and make decisions was now essential. As an indication of the difficulties we faced, with the loss of Richard Campbell, Fred Ramshaw and Richard Pearson from previous overhauls, Neal Woods was now, in effect, providing the engineering input of all four individuals. That was unsustainable for the long term and meant overhauls were inevitably protracted. The meeting at Hopetown in August to consider the J27 overhaul was felt to have been too late. Earlier and it may have been possible to re-organise, bring in contractors and get the work finished by the end of October 2016. Similarly, many of the individuals who were working at Hopetown also supported the Jacobite operation and, once that started in May, work on the J27 might slow down. The case for developing an overhaul strategy was therefore considered unarguable, and this should lead to a form of business plan for the future, identifying our priorities.
Any overhaul strategy would need an operational strategy to go with it. Earning opportunities would need to be maximised, which could mean locomotives working in different places. That would have implications for the resources required for their operation, as well as to maintain and overhaul them. It was important therefore to get the message across that you did not have to be an engineer to volunteer. Skills could be picked up and developed from doing the work, and there were plenty of examples across the Group of individuals who had done just that. There was a barrier to break down. And it was not just locomotive volunteering: there were plenty of non locomotive volunteering opportunities as well, in a variety of roles running the Group.
Development of the strategy would need to involve those with an engineering background and experience however, and it was agreed that Paul Hutchinson would convene a meeting with John Graham, Richard Pearson, Fred Ramshaw, and Neal Woods to pull together a first draft strategy for consideration at the March Committee meeting.
Following discussion at the October meeting about how best to ensure a sustainable organisation for the long term, Andrew Scott had prepared a paper in the light of the comments received. This set out some possible objectives for the future – what we were aiming to do, what needed to be done to achieve them, and, where necessary, a change agenda for which funding might be needed. The objectives and associated issues for their achievement were agreed, and discussion concentrated on what needed to be done to deliver them, where external funding would be required and possible sources. A further paper would be prepared with proposals for taking this forward.
There was nothing to add on succession planning to the points made in the discussion of previous items.
The need for an asbestos register to be established was discussed under health and safety. It was reported that the locomotives were all asbestos free and this should be recorded in the Locomotive Maintenance Policy (LMP). John Graham would send the necessary confirmations to Michael Chyriwsky. A check would be carried out on the Support Coach.
The LMP itself also needed updating, and there should in future be a separate section dealing with asbestos issues. It should be an accessible document, available on the members section of the website.
The normal locomotive updates were provided, and the latest position is recorded elsewhere in this edition of News. It was agreed though that the contract terms and costs would be far too expensive for a leased vehicle to replace the current NELPG car. A purchased replacement would therefore be necessary and an appeal was to be included in the next issue of News to see if there was a member in the garage trade who would be able to help with a suitable purchase.
Enquiries had been received separately from the Nene Valley Railway for the hire of the K1 (by the Chairman) and J72 (by the Secretary) during 2016. Both locomotives were committed elsewhere, and the requests were to be declined.
The Chairman reported that five ROs had indicated their availability to cover all the proposed Jacobite operating weeks. The next stage would be to establish support crew availability. This would be done after the meeting with Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust (SNGLT) at which it was intended to offer the opportunity for SNGLT main line support crew to keep their hand in by assisting with the Jacobite, and vice versa
when the A4 returned to the mainline. Our members would have support crew priority however, and any PTS and medical costs would have to be borne by SNGLT for its members. Subject to this, and the outcome of the current ORR action against WCRC, it was agreed that the K1 should go to Fort William for the 2016 Jacobite season.
Richard Pearson advised there was a possibility the Q6 might be requested for the Shed Bash at Shildon at the end of July. If so, it was agreed it should be accepted
There was a lengthy discussion about whether a letter should be sent by NELPG to the ORR in support of WCRC. Both the Chairman and Neal Woods left the room in view of their conflict of interest as employees of the Company. Martin Lloyd took the Chair. Strong views were expressed both for and against writing, but it was concluded that a very short, very factual letter, based on our operational experience over the years in which we had encountered no safety issues, should be sent. A draft would be circulated for urgent comment and approval.
There was a discussion about confidentiality issues. There was no any other business.