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Held at Neuadd Pendre Social Centre, Brook Street, Tywyn, Gwynedd on September 26th, 2009

On the platform were Richard Hope, OBE, President TRPS; Chris Price, Chairman, TRPS; Gareth Jones, Chairman TR Co; John Robinson, Hon. Secretary, TRPS and Secretary, TR Co; Walter Crowe standing in for Garry Mumford, Hon. Treasurer TRPS and Accountant, TR Co, who was in the middle of treatment for a serious heart condition, and Phil Sayers as Minute-taker. There were some 237 members present.

Richard Hope opened the meeting at 3.30 pm by asking the meeting to stand in silence in memory of former Vice-Presidents James Boyd and Peter Olver, and of Iolo Davies, who had passed away during the past year.

1. Apologies

Apologies had been received from Vice-President Peter Austin, Hon. Treasurer Garry Mumford and about 18 other members.

2. Minutes of the 58th AGM

The minutes of the 58th AGM of the Society, held at Tywyn on September 27th, 2008, having been circulated to members of the Society at that date, were proposed by Richard Hope to be taken as read. James Martin queried the absence from the minutes of a remark by the Hon. Treasurer that, despite the staff cuts which had had to be made, he supported the principle of appointing a General Manager. James had sent his proposed amendment to both the Hon. Secretary and the Minutes Secretary but John Robinson pointed out that this was only after the minutes had gone to press. The minutes as printed were then agreed without dissent and Richard Hope duly signed them as being a true record.

3. Matters arising from the Minutes not on the Agenda

There were none.

4. Election of President

Chris Price took the Chair and asked the meeting to endorse the Council’s nomination of Richard Hope OBE as President. This was agreed without dissent.

5. Appointment of Independent Examiners

Richard Hope resumed the Chair. The appointment of Silver & Co as the Society’s Independent Examiners was proposed, seconded and agreed by the meeting. Richard Hope thanked Peter Silver for his work.

6. Election of Honorary Treasurer

Garry Mumford had been nominated in accordance with the rules; this was put to the meeting by Richard Hope and agreed without dissent. The meeting agreed that Richard Hope should send Mr Mumford good wishes for his full recovery.

7. Election of nine members of Council

Richard Hope asked John Robinson to read out the names of the candidates, stressing that, because of the resignation of Peter Austin since the agenda had gone to press, there were nine rather than eight vacancies. Mike Davies asked as a point of order whether any candidates had outstanding legal or employment tribunal claims against the TR Co. Richard Hope assured the meeting that Larry Bridges’ internal appeal against redundancy had been rejected, since when nothing further had been heard. No members were standing for Council who were members of staff. John Robinson then read out the names of the twelve candidates and asked them to stand.

Ballot papers were then collected. Later in the meeting Peter Silver announced the results. 259 papers had been returned with 1832 votes being cast as follows:

Larry Bridges 152, Matt Dawson 160, Jane Garvey 118, Simon Jenkins 155, Jonathan Mann 180, Chris Price 162, David Room 105, Andrew Vick 143, Matthew Wear 160, Roger Whitehouse 155, Noel Williams 181 and Andrew Young 161.

Messrs Bridges, Dawson, Jenkins, Mann, Price, Wear, Whitehouse, Williams and Young were declared elected. Permission was given to dispose of the ballot papers in the traditional way.

8. Reception, Approval and Adoption of Reports

Chris Price, presenting the Report of the Council, said he found it embarrassing to be on the platform facing the members instead of speaking too much from the body of the hall. He felt humbled, since being Chairman of Council was a massive honour, but sadness in front of a potentially split Society. What needed to be done had to be with the co-operation of 3,500 people. Despite he and his predecessor preaching the road of openness and honesty, this had been difficult to deliver because of the redundancies resulting from the financial situation. Secrecy was inevitable because of employee confidentiality and this was a horrible situation. At the end of the previous year there had been rumours of a resolution calling for an Extraordinary General Meeting. After discussion all members of Council had signed a resolution that they felt the EGM resolution was deeply flawed, but this was merely stating an opinion and not stamping on the call for an EGM. The Open Meeting held in February had not been as successful as was hoped, and further redundancies had followed. The last few months had seen financial improvements and the green shoots of recovery.

Chris Price continued by saying that the Board members were members of Council and trusted to make decisions on Council’s behalf. These were not always decisions one would like to make. How could we encourage younger people to come forward to take on administrative tasks if they would be looking down the barrel of a gun? We needed an environment in which we could enjoy the day-to-day tasks. We had to look forward and to remember that we were here to preserve a railway not to bite each other. We needed to draw a line in the sand. What had happened must never happen again. We should focus on the challenges ahead. The short-term emphasis must be on marketing to increase the number of ‘bums on seats’. We should then look again at the proposed shed at Quarry Siding. We needed to take a positive, helpful and forgiving attitude. We were here to preserve our wonderful railway we all loved, but sometimes we got too close and should stand back and look to the future (applause).

David Mitchell then reported the traffic and commercial figures for the 2009 season up to the evening before. Public bookings were 36,371, 4.3% more than 2008, members’ bookings 5,355 (-11.9%), total bookings 41,726 (+1.9%) and passenger journeys 79,370 (+2.6%); expected traffic revenue (excluding special items such as driver experiences, treats, etc) was £326,675 (+14.0%), reflecting a fare increase which was unlikely to be repeated for the next year. Shop takings at £88,366 were 5.3% down on 2008. This was not surprising given that recession-hit visitors’ spending priorities were likely to be first to travel, then refreshments and only then shop items, and reflected great credit on the two ladies who stocked and ran the shop. Catering takings were £155,138, 9.6% up on 2008 whilst footfall had only increased by 2%, reflecting the enormous work and effort put in by the catering team. Gerald Grudgings asked about receipts from driver experiences and such like. Referring to the popularity of driver experiences, David Mitchell estimated these would be in the region of £20,000 this year.

Walter Crowe then read the Treasurer’s Report provided by Garry Mumford. The report highlighted that the 2008 accounts contained a couple of unusual items, the treatment of grants from Holdings and the annual pensions payment. Taking these into account, we had had two full financial years where the Railway Company’s loss had been in excess of £100,000, which was completely unsustainable. If it had not been for a substantial legacy received at the end of last year we would have been dangerously close to running out of cash in Spring 2009. The very difficult decisions made and actions taken by the Board during last year and this had averted what could have been a very difficult situation. In addition, despite the very real possibility that we could have seen further falls in passenger numbers and revenue this year, we had benefited from the fact that this had not happened. The savings made and the small increases in revenue had significantly improved our overall financial picture, and our cash reserves were very close to the levels they had been in 2006, which had been a particularly good year overall as the Railway Company’s loss was below the income from the Society. This change in fortunes could mean that we had sufficient reserves to see the Railway through the trough in 2010 without the need for a loan from Talyllyn Holdings as had been necessary for the past two years. It was therefore a much more positive picture despite the concerns about the results in the 2008 accounts. The big unknown now was what 2010 would bring. Predictions still suggested that unemployment would continue to climb, and, despite the talk in the media of ‘green shoots’, Garry Mumford thought it was fair to say that they could just be weeds and that we had some way to go yet before the good times returned. As had been said elsewhere, the challenge now was to build our visitor numbers in order that we could be assured of a financially sustainable future.

With great pleasure Garry Mumford had presented the Board meeting on 10th April this year with a comprehensive pack of monthly management accounts representing the three years in which the Railway’s accounting systems had been computerized. This had only been possible through additional work paid for by a very generous member. The new challenge was keeping everything up to date, which had been hindered over recent months by his health issues. Progress was being made and he remained deeply grateful to those who assisted in this, both specific members of the Railway’s staff and volunteers. There remained much to be done, but over the past months there had been very significant progress both in the financial management of the Railway and in its financial performance.

Gareth Jones then answered questions which had been submitted in writing by Nigel Adams concerning the costs of, and savings from, the redundancies which had been made. The total cost of making staff redundant in 2008 was £23,861, of which £2,555 was spent on human resource consultants; there were no legal costs in that year. To date in 2009 total costs amounted to £15,088 including £3,565 in legal costs and £3,101 on human resources consultants. There were still some outstanding issues but additional costs should now be relatively small. The overall payback period was probably less than five months.

Malcolm Brown pointed out that it was important to learn the lessons of the past. He knew the agony of making decisions on redundancy, but when he had said that he saw bullying and character assassination he had been fobbed off. Although it was true that we had managed without a paid General Manager for 15 years, we had not managed without a General Manager prepared to give much time to the Railway. There was a lack of understanding of the distinction between the executive and the governance role. Chris Price responded by saying that nothing in the last 18 months had undermined democracy. Accusations of bullying were themselves bullying if they were unfounded. However, he made a personal commitment to follow up any accusations of bullying; there was no room for it in the organisation.

Andrew Wilson accused the February Open Meeting of being a secret meeting, since not all members had been contacted by post and he had had great difficulty in finding out what had gone on. Chris Price said the meeting had been open to all members of the Society but that the cost of a mail shot would have been over £1,000 which could not have been justified in view of the financial situation at the time. However, every effort had been made to broadcast that it was being held. An account of the meeting had been published in the March Talyllyn News.

Richard Hope proposed the approval of the Report of the Council and the Financial Statements of the Society for the year ended 31st January, 2009; this was agreed without dissent.

9. Members’ Free Travel

Lawrence Garvey responded to the statement and discussion at the 2008 AGM concerning members’ travel. He pointed out that Membership Free Travel was enshrined in the Society’s Constitution and Rules, Rule 9. The lost revenue quoted at the previous year’s AGM of between £54,000 and £60,000 over three years assumed that membership travel comprised 4,000 adult round trips and 1,000 accompanied children annually which could be charged at privilege fares. The statement had then called for unlimited free travel to be suspended and replaced by three free journeys with the remainder being at privilege rate, 25% of the normal round trip fare. It was agreed at the meeting therefore to ensure sufficient data was available to give a clear picture of actual travel patterns.

Over the last few years, the Joint Membership Secretaries had been collating data on travel by members of the TRPS. This was not only to judge travel patterns accurately, but also to determine if misuse of membership cards was taking place, and if free travel was affecting our ability to carry fare-paying passengers. This required the recording of membership card numbers even though it was accepted that some saw this as the start of restrictions on travel. It had been found that:—

  • 51% of the annually-renewing membership had travelled on the Railway in 2009 to date.
  • 357 tickets had been issued to members travelling more than three times, this gave a maximum lost revenue at privilege fares of £1,160.
  • There was no major evidence of misuse of membership travel, however there was a misunderstanding by some that a membership ticket was needed for each journey, rather than for each day.
  • A small number of members had made what may be considered, by some, as an excessive number of journeys.
  • There had been a few instances where it was obvious that membership had been purchased to take advantage of the travel concessions. The Joint Membership Secretaries considered this was not helped by people being able to collect cards either from them or Wharf Station due to their residing in Tywyn. It was to be hoped this would reduce when they handed over to others who might well live elsewhere.
  • The number of Life Members travelling was minimal.
  • The longer people had been members the fewer times they travelled.

Bank holidays had the greatest proportion of members travelling, although the busiest day for members per train had been April 15th. Members were not depriving fare-paying passengers of seats. The Membership Secretaries trusted that members would not travel if trains were heavily loaded or would give up their seats if appropriate. Members living in Tywyn did not, on average, make any more trips on the Railway than others, whilst dog members travelled less frequently than other members.

The Joint Membership Secretaries had not been made aware this season of any persons presenting unsigned membership cards and had not heard of instances either of laminated unsigned cards or of people claiming that free travel came with their accommodation.

Lawrence Garvey then drew attention to the article in the September News appealing for volunteers for the role of Membership Secretary and mentioning that they had only had one ‘sort of offer’. He emphasized that they really did wish to give up and begged for someone to come forward.

In conclusion, Lawrence said the Joint Membership Secretaries recommended that no restriction should be placed upon free travel by members of the TRPS, although hopefully all members would consider how they might help the Railway in practical ways (applause).

Mike Davies thanked Lawrence for an excellent paper and suggested that, were abuse to become a problem, photographic identification could be required to be presented with the membership card. Steve Vince said it had been absolutely right to investigate how red the herring was but that we could now lay this to rest.

10. Miscellaneous Announcements

Justin Adams announced the result of the Traffic & Operating Committee election. For the Locomotive Department there had been four candidates for four places therefore Martin Fuller, Richard Garvey, Bill Heynes and Andy Robinson had been elected unopposed. For the Traffic Department 151 papers had been returned of which one was spoilt. Votes cast were Walter Crowe 139, Phil Eaton 137, Lawrence Garvey 62, Marc Smith 101 and Andrew Thomas 86. He declared Walter Crowe, Phil Eaton, Marc Smith and Andrew Thomas elected. Permission was granted for the ballot papers to be destroyed in the usual way.

Phil Sayers followed with the results of the Young Members’ Group election. 16 valid ballot papers and one spoilt paper had been received. 71 votes had been cast as follows: Clare Evans 4, Matt Peat 12, Andrew Simner 16, Emily Smith 10, Andrew Thomas 9, Sarah Ventry 13 and Alex Wright 7. He declared Matt Peat, Andrew Simner, Emily Smith, Andrew Thomas and Sarah Ventry elected. Permission was granted for the ballot papers to be destroyed in the usual way.

John Smallwood and Bill Heynes made announcements about the evening’s entertainment.

David Mitchell appealed for volunteers to help at the Warley Model Railway Exhibition on 21st & 22nd November.

Tony Randall announced the Steampipes film and organ evening in London on 10th December and the London Area Group dinner on 7th December.

Keith Theobald, in his role as Outdoor Foreman, drew attention to the winter work programme and the Easter ‘Tidy the Railway’ working party – those wishing to join the latter should contact Keith Hayes.

Don Newing drew attention to the inaugural meeting of the Friends of the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum the next morning and also the East Midlands Area Group meeting on 15th October.

Chris Price pointed out that there would be an auction at the evening entertainment of the pictures on show at the meeting and other items such as a Driver Experience.

11. Any Other Competent Business

Bill Tyndall, who described himself as a long standing member, proposed the current appeal for funds should be called the Diamond Jubilee appeal. This would have a twofold aim. Firstly to raise money for No. 2 and secondly to raise money for a major project – he suggested a new building at Quarry Siding. By using the ‘Diamond Jubilee’ name, any money left over could go to other projects. Bill also asked that we make more use of any professional volunteers within the TRPS such as Planning Officers, Architects, Site Managers and Engineers instead of asking for help and then ignoring it. Chris Price pointed out that there was already a fund for No 2 and thought another fund might detract from that appeal. Bill Tyndall then emphasized that his suggestion was for a combined name and asked Council to consider his proposal.

David Mitchell pointed out that the centenary of Tom Rolt’s birth fell in February, 2010 and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the TRPS in October. 2011 would see the 60th anniversary of the first trains under Society auspices. He hoped this would put the TR very much into the public eye and appealed for help in making the Railway look spick and span; compared to the Welshpool and Llanfair we looked rather workaday. Jonathan Mann asked what colour we should repaint the herring.

Jonathan Mann also drew attention to DVDs of the Launceston Steam Railway which were on sale for £10. He thanked his employers for allowing the TR to retain half the proceeds from copies sold at Tywyn.

Mark Gibson said he thought the new website was fantastic and thanked those responsible. This was greeted with applause which was acknowledged by the Webmaster, Tony Sharpe.

Noel Williams reported that last year the Talyllyn Tote had raised some £1,560 for the Society. He announced the results of the October draw, which had been made by the top table, and thanked those winners who had not cashed their cheques. He suggested they might consider cashing their cheques and then making a gift-aided donation of the same amount to Talyllyn Holdings.

Russell Prince asked whether there was a long term strategy for appointing a General Manager and replacing the Acting Chief Executive. Gareth Jones said our long term strategy was to try to return to sustainable viability. We were still in recession but one way or another we had to manage the Railway.

There being no other business Richard Hope declared the meeting closed at 1656.