THORNBURY CASTLE OWNER APPOINTED WEST SOMERSET CHAIRMAN
Jonathan Jones‑Pratt, owner of Thornbury Castle, has been appointed as acting chairman of the West Somerset Railway plc.
Mr Jones‑Pratt, who also owns under‑overhaul Kinlet Hall, was unanimously voted into his new role on September 24, just over a week after he was made a director of the plc’s board earlier in the month, on September 13.
He takes over from Ian Coleby, who was sacked on August 23 following a dispute between the plc and the WSR Association (SR484), and will act as chairman for an initial three‑month term.
Regarding Mr Jones‑ Pratt’s appointment, a WSR plc statement said: “The key appointment was made by the plc board in order to provide a period of stability for the rest of this year while also providing a clear leadership focus for an agreed business recovery plan, which is required to reduce costs and seek to improve visitor numbers.
“The WSR plc board also discussed the need to make a long‑term appointment as chairman, so the company intends to advertise for a suitable and permanent candidate as soon as possible.
“In recognising that the WSR is facing a number of issues over the next few months, the board will be initiating staff consultation meetings in early November in order to push forward an improved culture of wider communication with WSR personnel, and so work collectively in dealing with business challenges.
At the same time, fellow plc director Bill Knell resigned from the board for “personal reasons”.
Mr Jones‑Pratt said: “I am both pleased and honoured to accept this position and will embrace the role and the challenges the railway faces.
“I aim to provide stability to the wider WSR family and also seek to ensure that we create a best practice culture from now on. My ultimate aim is to not only protect the West Somerset Railway, but also take our team together on a journey of recovery to better times and success after a downturn in our business recently in a turbulent marketplace.
“I am under no illusions that there are many challenges to be overcome, but every effort will be made with my personal commitment to ensure success and create a joined‑up vision for the future of the railway.”
●● It has been confirmed that the rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, would be visiting the WSR in October, but that the inspection was not related to the line’s recent management issues.
An ORR spokesman said: “We have a programme of proactive inspections and the WSR is just another railway on our list. We will be evaluating its Safety Management System, but we are interested in all railways’ safety management systems in the wake of the South Devon Railway incident last year.
“We are aware of the current situation in respect of the WSR’s management issues, but that is not the reason we are going.”