WEST COAST AC­CUSED OF ‘BUL­LY­ING’ IN S&C WA­TER TOWER ROW

Carn­forth TOC asks MSLO mem­bers to quit as­so­ci­a­tion, de­scrib­ing it as a “hin­drance to lo­co­mo­tive own­ers”.

Steam Railway (UK) - - Down Main -

West Coast Rail­ways could be stopped from us­ing the wa­ter crane at Ap­pleby on the Set­tle-Carlisle. The prospect of be­ing de­nied ac­cess to a fa­cil­ity tra­di­tion­ally used by south­bound trains on the ‘Long Drag’ comes amid a dis­pute be­tween the crane’s cus­to­dian, the Main Line Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, and the Carn­forth­based op­er­a­tor. In Fe­bru­ary, West Coast an­nounced that it will no longer run en­gines owned by MSLO mem­bers un­less they con­firmed plans to leave the or­gan­i­sa­tion. In what has be­come an in­creas­ingly pub­lic row, the train op­er­a­tor has said it con­sid­ers the for­mer Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion to be “more of a hin­drance than an as­set to lo­co­mo­tive own­ers” – while MSLO has ac­cused WCR of a “bul­ly­ing de­mand.” The trig­ger for the dis­pute is £1,700 that MSLO says WCR owes for the use last year of Ap­pleby’s wa­ter crane and tower, which MSLO man­ages. That was when the as­so­ci­a­tion in­tro­duced a £150 fee for each visit, sub­se­quently re­duced to £100 af­ter a re­view of what MSLO de­scribed as “ac­tual costs and use in 2017”. It had pre­vi­ously pro­vided the ser­vice for free. All pro­mot­ers other than WCR had paid, it later told mem­bers. In a let­ter to MSLO Chair­man David McIn­tosh on Jan­uary 16, sub­se­quently widely cir­cu­lated, and which Steam Rail­way has seen, WCR’s James Shut­tle­worth said that in a pre­vi­ous tele­phone call his com­pany had “re­jected your invoices, both for the ini­tial and re­vised amounts”. How­ever, he said that “as pre­vi­ously, WCR was quite pre­pared to pay for the ac­tual wa­ter sup­plied and, to that end, I merely re­quested that we have sight of your wa­ter bills, specif­i­cally those ap­per­tain­ing to the oc­ca­sions when we took wa­ter at Ap­pleby”. In its let­ter, WCR also re­it­er­ated some­thing it said was an offer it had made be­fore and re­peated – “to take over the whole Ap­pleby wa­ter sup­ply from MSLO”. This, it said, “should be seen as ben­e­fi­cial to MSLO for a num­ber of rea­sons: it would re­lieve you of the main­te­nance re­spon­si­bil­ity and cost bur­den of ad­min­is­ter­ing the charge for wa­ter, as the ma­jor­ity of users are work­ing through WCR any­way.” The sub­se­quent an­nounce­ment by WCR that it would no longer recog­nise MSLO came in a note sent to lo­co­mo­tive own­ers on Fe­bru­ary 21, which has also been seen by Steam Rail­way. In it, the train op­er­a­tor ex­plained that were it to take over the job of wa­ter sup­ply it would make both Ap­pleby and its own sup­ply at Hel­li­field avail­able to other op­er­a­tors “pro­vided a suitable ar­range­ment is in place”. How­ever, James Shut­tle­worth added: “Un­for­tu­nately, MSLO man­age­ment and, in par­tic­u­lar, the cur­rent chair­man, David McIn­tosh, have per­sis­tently re­fused to take up this offer, for rea­sons which re­main un­clear to WCR.” “WCR now be­lieves that it has reached the end of the road with its re­la­tion­ship with MSLO; it con­sid­ers that the or­gan­i­sa­tion has no mean­ing­ful role within cur­rent main line op­er­a­tions, that it is more of a hin­drance than an as­set to lo­co­mo­tive own­ers through its ever more de­tached

man­age­ment com­mit­tee, and there­fore it will no longer recog­nise the or­gan­i­sa­tion or its mem­ber­ship. As a direct con­se­quence, WCR will no longer op­er­ate lo­co­mo­tives be­long­ing to re­main­ing mem­bers of MSLO, un­less they con­firm to WCR, by re­turn, that they in­tend to ter­mi­nate their mem­ber­ships.”

TROU­BLED WA­TER

In mid-March MSLO was still con­sid­er­ing its next step, although it de­scribed the above – to­gether with the pro­posal to hand over the Ap­pleby lease – as an “out­ra­geous and bul­ly­ing de­mand”. In an email to mem­bers on March 6 it asked for feedback on three dif­fer­ent op­tions – whether it should hand over the lease; whether it should pur­sue WCR through the small claims court for the £1,700 it says it is owed; and whether it should block Carn­forth ac­cess to Ap­pleby’s wa­ter tower from May 1. Ac­cord­ing to David McIn­tosh, it was still wait­ing for mem­bers’ re­sponses as of March 15. As longer term read­ers may re­call, MSLO is the suc­ces­sor to the Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, which in BR days was the key go-be­tween for BR on the one side and en­gine own­ers on the other. The SLOA was also, of it­self, a ma­jor pro­moter of rail­tours. Th­ese days, mem­ber­ship is no longer es­sen­tial, but the or­gan­i­sa­tion sur­vives as a form of um­brella body – as well as run­ning the wa­ter­ing fa­cil­i­ties at Ap­pleby. Those rep­re­sent a re­mark­able ex­cep­tion to the norm on today’s rail­way, in which wa­ter­ing nor­mally means bring­ing in a road tanker at an es­ti­mated £350-plus a time. On March 15, David McIn­tosh told Down Main that his group cur­rently had 19 mem­bers – and as yet had “been ad­vised of no res­ig­na­tions” as a re­sult of WCR’s move not to recog­nise it. How­ever, he said the Great Western Society had “de­cided not to re­new be­cause of a re­view of their main line as­pi­ra­tions.” The de­ci­sion to do that, the Great Western Society’s Richard Pre­ston later con­firmed to me, had been taken be­fore WCR’s an­nounce­ment. “Sev­eral for­mer mem­bers,” David McIn­tosh con­tin­ued, “have ap­proached us seek­ing to re­new their mem­ber­ships.” West Coast’s James Shut­tle­worth mean­while, when asked whether he wanted to com­ment fur­ther, re­sponded on March 16: “I have noth­ing to add to my memos and let­ter, other than that our frus­tra­tion is borne out of many years of try­ing to save ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing MSLO and its mem­bers, both money and has­sle.” So, where next? It seems that may de­pend on the re­sponses of MSLO’s mem­bers. One thing that looks un­likely, how­ever, is a direct trans­fer of the lease to WCR – which MSLO also con­sid­ers to have been over­taken by events. Net­work Rail – which re­mains the owner of Ap­pleby’s wa­ter tower – told Down Main on March 13 that “Ap­pleby wa­ter col­umn is man­aged by MSLO [which makes] ser­vices avail­able to all op­er­a­tors, MSLO has to pay the wa­ter bill for its use and there­fore levy a small charge to all users of it.” “As part of a lease agree­ment MSLO would not be able to trans­fer it to an­other party, the lease would need to be re­turned to NR first.” Carn­forth-based ‘Ju­bilee’ No. 45699 Galatea crosses the S&C’s Arten Gill Viaduct on Fe­bru­ary 24 2018 with the south­bound ‘Win­ter Cum­brian Moun­tain Ex­press’. MATT FIELD­ING

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