11 September 2017
Present were John Hunt (in the Chair), Richard Wheeler, Michael Chyriwsky, Nigel Hall, Paul Hutchinson, Chris Lawson, Martin Lloyd and Richard Pearson.
Also in attendance as observers were Bill Dobson, Colin Foxton and Roy Marshall.
There were no apologies for absence, with John Hunt declaring an interest as an employee of WCRC and Richard Pearson as an employee of NRM Locomotion, Shildon.
Approval of the minutes of the August meeting was deferred to enable the Chairman, Paul Hutchinson and Richard Pearson to prepare possible amendments for consideration by the Committee at its next meeting, as they felt they were not an accurate record of the discussion.
As matters arising, the Secretary reported that Norman Crockit had accepted the nomination to represent the Group and take afternoon tea with the Mayor of Darlington at an event to mark the 150th Anniversary of the granting of a Royal Charter to the Town. The nomination had gone forward to the Council.
John Hall’s resignation was accepted and the meeting expressed a vote of thanks for all the work and the contribution he had made to the group through his time as a Trustee. John’s work on the review of the Articles of Association and his planned contribution to the Trustees Annual Report would need to be progressed. For the Trustees Annual Report, it was agreed that the Treasurer would consider the requirements for the 2018 report and how it might best be prepared. The Secretary reported that he had recently received updated guidance from the Charity Commission on requirements for Annual Returns and Annual Reports, emphasising financial controls, and would circulate them for information and action where appropriate.
Colin Foxton agreed to explore whether legal advice on the revision of the Articles of Association could be provided by a solicitor contact. It was also suggested that Bryan Orange be contacted to see if the HRA had a model, up to date, set of Articles of Association which could be used as an example, although it was pointed out that those recently prepared by the KWVR had been used by John Hall in preparing his revised draft, with the agreement of the Worth Valley. Roy Marshall agreed to take on preparation of the draft minutes of this meeting and forward them to the Secretary.
The Finance Report noted that the account with Hampshire Trust Bank matured on 15th September 2017 with a final value of £75,927.23. The Committee considered the paper submitted by the Fundraising Sub Committee proposing that specific reserves should be considered for investment in a dedicated charity investment fund to generate better returns than current bank interest rates. It noted the responsibilities of Trustees for the proper husbandry of the Group’s finances, the need for regular formal reports to the Trustees on the investment position, and the Charity Commission recommendation that independent financial advice should be sought to ensure that Trustees had acted with due diligence. The Treasurer was asked to contact Bryan Orange to see if his son in law could provide independent financial advice on the recommended CCLA investment. Subject to that, in view of the potentially increased return, the Committee agreed to transfer the funds in the Hampshire Trust Bank to the CCLA Charities Official Investment Fund, in line with the paper’s recommendation. The United Trust Bank account and the Cambridge & Counties account should continue as at present, with the interest rate for the former due to increase to 1.25% from 1 September.
The formal notice for striking off NELPG Enterprises Ltd had been received from Companies House. That was likely to be achieved by the end of the year following publication in the London Gazette. The Enterprise bank account had already been closed in anticipation. Invoices from NYMR in respect of work carried out to the Q6 were still outstanding. There was also a need to check the K1 DMF figure as the 20% held back from the August Jacobite invoice seemed excessive. It was pointed out however, that the locomotive DMF figures were simply illustrative management information. Only restricted funds were allocated to individual locomotives: remaining income was held in the general reserve and available for all locomotive as the Trustees determined.
The Wensleydale Railway’s May invoice had now been paid. Paul Hutchinson agreed to chase up a Jacobite expense claim which remained significantly overdue and it was agreed to provide Bill Dobson, as Q6 caretaker, with the necessary delegated authority to commit expenditure. The Treasurer reported that he would be preparing a paper for a future Committee meeting about the designation of reserves.
The notes of the 22 March VAMOS meeting, and Dave Whitfield’s request for a published response from the Committee before the next VAMOS meeting on 4 October, were discussed. It was felt that the Secretary had addressed most of the points raised through his attendance at the meeting and it was not clear what further response was expected. The main concern appeared to be the failure to publish the Committee minutes on the website. The Secretary pointed out that it was not appropriate to simply copy the minutes to the website: they needed to be amended to remove commercially confidential and personal information, and he had not had the time available to do this work. They should in any case only be available in the members only section of the website. This work would be progressed as time permitted. The Chairman agreed to reply to Dave Whitfield accordingly, and Paul Hutchinson agreed to attend on 4 October to represent the Committee. Michael Chyriwsky and Nigel Hall indicated they would also be present.
The following Health and Safety issues were discussed - no progress had been made on the RO arrangements and skills matrix, but would now be followed up; with the return of the First Aid Trainer to the UK, he would be contacted by Michael Chyriwsky to arrange dates for the necessary courses, although they may best be delayed until the next period of leave; comments had been received from Bryan Orange on the draft revised ICE cards and it was agreed that the next draft should be circulated to a small sample of working members for their feedback. The main concern however, was the best means of providing this information to ROs in relation to their volunteer teams, taking account of data protection requirements and the new legislation coming into force next year. These were to be checked, in the light of which a method of providing ROs with volunteer contact details and note of any medical conditions would be developed; the NYMR MPD risk assessments were still awaited; the advice on moving coal on the K1 tender on the Jacobite had now been issued and ROs asked to remind their teams each week not to stand on the lockers to draw coal forward - this would be included in any future Jacobite Manual; the accident report on the broken finger sustained by Alan Hardie was considered, and while he was understood to be recovering well, he would be contacted to confirm this. It was an avoidable accident and emphasised the need for ROs to give clear instructions on how tasks should be carried out. The accident report would be forwarded to our insurers.
Concern was also raised about individuals working excessive hours. All agreed that this practice was to be firmly discouraged, particularly when driving long distances to and from Fort William overnight. In such circumstances, driving should be shared with no more than two hour individual sessions and regular breaks, and with the following day off duty, as Paul Hutchinson explained he had organised on a recent occasion when he had been RO at Fort William.. It was also important to keep a close watch on the hours worked by MPD volunteers at Grosmont, who, having worked on NYMR duties, might then make themselves available for NELPG work later during the same shift. Safety remained the priority.
Bill Dobson reported that he had so far been unable to contact the CME to arrange to meet to discuss the Locomotive Maintenance Policy but he would keep trying. Meanwhile, the draft Locomotive Sub Committee Terms of Reference had been circulated and comments incorporated. It was agreed that, in addition, the word ‘Deputy’ should be replaced by ‘Assistant’. In the absence of any previous Terms of Reference, this amended version was agreed on the basis that it would be kept under review in the light of experience. Bill Dobson was therefore requested to set up the Sub Committee with Terry Newman.
A first draft of a Locomotive Overhaul and Maintenance Strategy had been prepared by the Chairman, but he would review it in the light of this meeting’s discussion before it was circulated to the Committee for initial reaction. It was pointed out that this should set out the strategy for implementing the objectives set out in the Group’s Memorandum of Association, the timespan of the strategy, address the need to stagger overhauls (because of available finance, volunteer numbers, skills and facilities), whether we should maintain a locomotive for main line use (entailing 7 yearly overhauls, a support coach, a group car and support crew), how to retain and enhance our volunteer workforce and its skills. Finance was a particular concern, as the worst case proposals for locomotive overhauls over the next 24 months, submitted for consideration by the Committee, potentially exceeded the funds currently available. Priorities would need to be identified and some hard choices may have to be made as a result. It was important to have a strategy against which those could be assessed.
In discussion, although a number of members had continued to voice their unhappiness that the K1 was always in Scotland, and they had no opportunity to see and travel behind it, on, for example, the NYMR, it was argued that the Jacobite work, despite the associated costs of support coach, car, insurance premium, and support crew, yielded the most income for the Group. At the same time, an arrangement like that conducted previously with Blue Peter – main line work with NYMR operation (or similar heritage railway deployment) fitted into/around the schedule - was the most profitable the Group had experienced. A similar split for the K1, with part season on the Jacobite and part on heritage railways should be the ideal aim.
The NYMR had declined to invest in the necessary kit to enable the J27 or Q6 to run to Whitby, although the diagrams offered for that service did not always entail significant mileage in any case. The NYMR preference was to give mileage to locally based locomotives such as ours, than to hire in from other suppliers. There was therefore an open undertaking for our locomotives to be used on the NYMR, but there was concern that we should perhaps run our older locomotives over fewer miles, so as not to subject them to as much wear and tear.
The overrun of budget and time on the Q6 and J27 overhauls was discussed, and our lack of project management and management accounting skills, it was agreed, was the principal cause. That would need to be addressed, although there were individuals in the Group known to have the necessary skills and experience.
So far as the work programme for the locomotives over the next 24 months was concerned, the proposed programme of work at Carnforth this winter for the K1 included bottom end work and work on the boiler. The option to undertake more extensive boiler work now (including replacing the outer firebox wrapper sides, replacing all tubes, the elements and the ashpan) might be advisable, given that the tubes have been in 6 years and the boiler will have to be lifted next year
if it is to continue to run on the main line. However, the CME had confirmed that the K1 could do a further year on the main line with a more limited work programme, although the mechanical work and roof stay nuts must be dealt with, as well as remove, examine, and replace if necessary, the elements and steam pipes. These would need to come out again when the boiler overhaul does take place. It was suggested that patching the tender tank would suffice for the present. Informal approaches had been made to Johnny Haddow at WCRC to confirm a possible window for the boiler work. The more extensive option had been costed at £120K plus contingency. Any work costing over £50K would require members approval at an SGM, and no overall work programme costing in excess of that could be initiated until that approval had been given.
It was agreed that the proposals for the K1 winter programme should be revised in the light of the discussion, and an explanatory note to support a motion for approval at an SGM should be prepared for consideration by the Committee at its meeting on 9 October. Because there was a possibility that the K1 would not be available for the whole Jacobite season in 2018, the Chairman agreed to speak to David Smith to establish whether it would be required in those circumstances. It was also agreed that the necessary SGM should be held on 17 November (the date for the next Open Meeting) which meant that the notice and motions would have to be issued in the next issue of News, to be received by members no later than 20 October.
The work proposed for the J72’s 10 year overhaul following the expiry of its ticket from 25 August 2018, included a complete retube, a new smokebox, probable new firebox tubeplate, mechanical work and the option of a new cylinder block. All of this was costed at £125K - £135K, including contingency. This was noted against the likely available finance. For the remaining period of the ticket, it was reported that the tubes were now dry and it was agreed that the J72 should be run as gently as possible for the rest of this operating season and next with the current tubes so that the Worth Valley hire can be fulfilled next July, and then return to Hopetown for withdrawal. A decision will need to be made in the light of circumstances at the time should the tubes start leaking again.
Because it was now clear the Q6 could not be returned to traffic this operating season, Bill Dobson had identified 19 March 2018 as his target date for completion of the current winter maintenance programme. His work plan showed this to be easily achievable. He would like to take advantage of this 5 month window therefore, to additionally undertake a boiler lift and full retube, subject to a second opinion, in writing, from another boiler inspector. This inspection would only go ahead, however, if the CME agreed that there were no implications contractually as a result of seeking that inspection and advice. Bill would also need to confirm the availability of NYMR resources to carry out the lift and the work, with potentially Mark O’Brien training our volunteers in retubing. If this went ahead, he believed a ticket to 2028 could be achieved at minimal extra cost. He was confident his deadline could still be met if sufficient volunteers attended Grosmont at critical times, and within the £50K cost he was currently working within. It was felt however that this costing was extremely tight, and that a £20K contingency would be appropriate. This would require approval by members at the planned SGM.
It was agreed therefore that the proposals for the Q6 winter maintenance programme should be revised to include a possible boiler lift and complete retube, subject to checks over NYMR availability and discussion with the CME about a second opinion boiler inspection. An explanatory note, to support a motion seeking approval for the additional expenditure at the planned SGM, would need to be prepared for consideration at the next Committee meeting on 9 October. In the meantime the existing winter maintenance programme could continue, as it was within the Committee’s £50K delegated authority limit from the membership.
An approach had been made to Mathew Storey to undertake the work to adjust the J27 tubeplate. Dave Pennock had written to Richard Watkins at LNWR, Crewe about the effect this work might have on their boiler warranty, and seeking his views on the smokebox issues, but there had been no response as yet. Progress was still being made with reassembly, but Richard Pearson reported that it was likely that the spend on the J27 would exceed the current expenditure authority agreed by the membership. It was agreed therefore that an explanatory note, to support a motion seeking approval for the forecast additional expenditure at the planned SGM, be prepared for consideration at the next Committee meeting on 9 October.
At this point the Secretary and Nigel Hall had to leave the meeting.
In view of the lateness of the hour, Paul Mason’s offer to take up the role of J27 caretaker was deferred for consideration at the next meeting and the Chairman would advise Paul Mason accordingly.
Under Any Other Business, Colin Foxton agreed to continue to progress with Nigel Hall the registration of the NELPG trademark. It was felt that registration of the NELPG trademark in some 3 or 4 classes would suffice. The domain name was unlikely to be an issue. Consideration of the Fundraising Sub Committee letter about financial controls and the need for a locomotive overhaul strategy was also deferred in view of the lateness of the hour.
Meeting closed at 10.40pm
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