PUT THE ‘GREAT’ BACK INTO THE GREAT CENTRAL
I was saddened by the death of former Great Central Railway MD Bill Ford (SR485), described by those he worked with as its ‘finest ever leader’.
As a long-term financial supporter of the GCR, and a fairly regular visitor, I, along with many others, observed the changes under his tenure, until the board unceremoniously ‘dumped’ him in his absence while he was seriously ill in hospital, in 2016. The changes made during his time in office were quite astonishing, and turned the railway into the success that it is today.
He always said that this success was achieved by putting the ‘right team together’ and that it was the ‘team’ that brought the success.
Always polite and welcoming, and despite his enormous workload, Bill was never happier than when he was talking to visitors, supporters, volunteers and staff alike about what could be achieved, particularly his ultimate aim (and that of the multitude of GCR supporters) of completing the route over the Midland Main Line to Ruddington and achieving that main line connection.
Sadly, the present GCR board seem not to be so enthusiastic.
It surmises that the ‘Gap’ is a long-term project and it is an open secret that some within the board have no interest in pushing forward in the way Bill Ford had hoped. With over hundreds of thousands of pounds of donors’ money already invested in constructing and completing the MML bridge, why is the fund-raising for the next step in the project (repairs to the Grand Union Canal bridge) being done by its volunteer organisation, Friends of the Great Central Main Line?
Surely the plc should be spearheading this?
You only have to look at the success of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway extension to Broadway, including a new station, to see what can be achieved when everybody is pulling in the same direction.
The plc may say that it is right to concentrate on other expensive infrastructure projects on the railway, but these were already in the pipeline during Bill Ford’s tenure. He was able to ensure that while these projects, which also included the now defunct lottery support for a museum at Leicester North, were important, and in some cases desperately needed, they would not be a distraction to the main goal of completing the ‘Gap’. His ability to network and to get non-enthusiasts to help the GCR, both financially and otherwise, was quite spectacular and the results are there to be seen.
The plc may also say that work is already progressing towards the extension because a new locomotive shed is to be built to accommodate the running line, starting by the end of 2019.
GCR Managing Director Michael Gough states elsewhere in your magazine that the development of this new shed means the track going north would be on the eastern side of the proposed new shed (i.e. the original formation). This means the track will have to be much closer to the existing residential properties – something that both the occupants of those properties and planners may find unacceptable.
Further, and with a couple of exceptions, directors are conspicuous by their absence and rarely seen by either the staff or volunteers. This issue was raised by a number of shareholders at the GCR plc annual meeting last June, showing that this has not gone unnoticed by the large numbers of supporters who have put vast sums of their hard-earned cash into the GCR over many years.
It is not a ‘corporate’ organisation, which is how some seem to view it. A special kind of management skill is required to amalgamate the enormous assets of both volunteers and paid staff and, most importantly, to keep them both happy.
The railway cannot operate without volunteers and keeping them on side is vital for the railway to continue. Otherwise, the decline in morale, which has already taken root in the camps of both staff and volunteers, will continue to fester to the detriment of our railway.
So, who will put the ‘great’ back into the Great Central Railway? Name and address supplied
THE CHANGES MADE DURING HIS TIME IN OFFICE WERE QUITE ASTONISHING