Steam Railway (UK) - - FOCUS -

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.”

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