ELR Open Forum – 12 October 2016
A number of questions were raised at the ELR Open Forum, where over 80 members attended. Thanks to everyone who asked a question. These Q&A’s will also be published in the January edition of the ELR News.
Q – Photographers – Can a tour of Baron Street or an Open Day be provided.
A – Access to non public areas of Baron Street already forms part of the Photography Course, which is proving very popular and earns important revenue for the railway.
I will take this request way for further discussion.
Q – TTI – Over 40 weekends there is insufficient coaching stock. Many coach tours passengers often have to stand throughout their journey. If numbers of tours are known it are the responsibilities of the Event Organisers to book extra coaches?
A – Clearly good communications is paramount to ensure any seats are reserved for group bookings, which is done through the creation of paperwork that is handed to TTI’s on the day. It’s not always possible to turn down group bookings down due to the nature of some bookings, i.e. Shearings who book every Sunday and so on. We can’t turn away business like this. What we can do is be mindful of how many seats we do sell to the group travel market in the first instance.
As it stands we do not have the coaching stock to increase train loadings dramatically and as we continue to increase our visitor numbers this will become an issue we need to address.
Q – TTI – Can baby changing facilities be fitted to carriages?
A – Given the length of journey time we feel the changing facilities should be available at manned stations. Recently, a baby changing facility was installed at Rawtenstall Station.
Q – Brown Signs – Motorway – Why can’t the ELR apply for these signs
A – Our Commercial Department is exploring this option with Bury Council. The Highways Agency, charge between £17,000 – £40,000 for design and erection.
Q – Locum Report – Will there be a new strategy for the ELR
A – The Locum report is a key strategic document commissioned by the ELR Trust Board which is made up of Councillors’ from Bury; Rochdale and Rossendale, the fourth member being the ELLRCo. The strategy runs until 2020. It would be for the ELR Trust Board to decide whether a new or extended strategy would be commissioned.
As for the ELR and its relationship with the Locum Report, the strategy has helped the ELR to focus on key infrastructure developments at each of our Council’s partner stations. Our vision for the ELR will always be aligned with the Trust Board, but the ELR is looking to develop a parallel strategic plan to help sustain its heritage; future infrastructure and restoration programmes.
Q – Ramsbottom Gates – We can volunteers operating in the signal box can have full confidence the gates will operate with 100% efficiency
A – The safe operation of the gates is a top priority for the Company as they pose a particular challenge to ensure we can raise the level of efficiency; ease the operation of the wheel and minimise the maintenance regime.
To this end a number of Directors have met Siemens (who have offered their services for free) on site to explore a power option to operate the gates via the wheel. We await their proposals.
Q – Flying Scotsman’s Return
- A – Do we have enough guards – The shortage og guards is a challenge but should not impact on the successful running of thr planned services.
- A – Control of crowds on platforms – additional security costing £5,000 has been recruited to ensure safety on our platforms.
Q – Recent advert for Middle Management – Why is the Company bringing in more paid staff, are they necessary
A – It my considered view that the where no volunteer skills exist or can we can’t be guaranteed a full time commitment required by the vacancy, then it’s essential that the ELR recruits paid staff which can be full or part-time depending on the role. Whilst the ELR revenue and events programme has rocketed threefold, it’s the ‘back office’ and ‘operations’ infrastructure has been left behind and we are now playing catch up.
It is not always appreciated but the vast majority of paid staff are also regular volunteers on our railway.
Q – There are not many women as role models on the railway – What is the Company strategy to improve the number of women volunteers
A – I would fundamentally agree we need more women volunteers, as we seek to embrace the same challenge to recruit young people per se to work on our railway.
A number of positive actions are underway:
- Keith Whitmore, from the ELRPS is chairing a task and finish Youth Volunteers group, which includes a Director from the Company to better understand the barriers to recruitment. This group will be making recommendations to establish a Youth Volunteers recruitment programme;
- We have established a partnership with Bury College to explore how we can improve marketing of the ELR, in particular women;
- I am personally committed to see women recruited the ELR Board at some point in the future;
- I believe the development of the Volunteers Charter (available for consultation in January 2017 via ELR News) will also help the recruiting process.
Overall, I would welcome comments/suggestions on how we can improve our performance in this area.
Q – Trackside Staffing Levels – Since the extension was completed there has been a lot of staff turnover and no hot food.
A – It is true there has been a higher than normal staff turnover. However, I anticipate this is in the process of settling down and I pay tribute to everyone who has stepped in to ensure the service is largely unaffected. The lack of hot food came about as a result of the construction works, although hot food has been available at week-ends and through our Buffet. We are currently discussing our options as to whether we go back to providing hot food ‘in house’ or continue with the current weekend service. It’s important to get the balance right and to ensure the can make a profit.
Q – Signalling and Telecoms – Why is there no planned maintenance carried out on the railway-it all feels hand to mouth. Let’s bring in a paid employee to do it
A – Signalling – ELR Signalling Equipment is the subject of a great deal of planned maintenance, which includes periodic inspection, testing, lubrication, adjustment and renewals. This work is undertaken by volunteers and much of it is undertaken at times when there is no booked service such as on Tuesdays and in the evenings. Examples include:
Annual track circuit testing – 3 monthly facing point lock gauging and detection testing, level crossing testing, hydraulic fluid level checks in barrier machines, point machines and hydraulic signals. We also have a rolling programme of relay renewal, point machine overhaul and electric lock servicing.
Despite these measures there are occasions when faults occur and reactive maintenance is required for Track Circuits; Facing Point Locks and Detection; Temperature Related Signal Faults.
Telecoms – The S&T took over responsibility for telecoms in 2013, and embarked on a programme to identify and eliminate problems within our telecoms systems. This has involved a complete survey to document our telecoms cabling infrastructure and equipment at all locations on the ELR. As a result, S&T have been able to upgrade the Telecoms regime in September 2012.
Any additional resources, providing they can be deployed efficiently, would be welcomed. The area where paid employment does need to be investigated is to cover ‘On Call’ as it is unreasonable to expect volunteers to provide cover for the sheer number and length of running days we now operate, especially on Events.
Q – Is it possible to offer young volunteers a placement who are doing the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme.
A – At present the Railway can only accommodate volunteering from those doing the Gold Level of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award for those who are over 16 years old.
The younger element of 13 to 16 years old would fall into the category of Young Persons Group. Once this Group has been established then the Railway should be able to accommodate these youngsters. However at this point in time I do think that there is sufficient to work on with paid staff and existing adult volunteers.