The ELR Board, at their meeting in April, discussed a request to significantly increase the level of resources to be made available to the Traction and Rolling Stock Department.
The challenge for Board is how can the ELR’s continued growth and demand for traction and rolling stock be met. This will require the performance and sustainability of the Traction and Rolling Stock Department to be improved and in so doing increase output across maintenance/restoration activities and ultimately generate third party income.
In October 2016, steam, diesel, carriage and wagon departments were merged to create the T&RS department to offer improved use of existing manpower, centralising procurement and improving overall performance. Whilst there have been improvements these, in themselves, were insufficient as under resourcing continued due to affordability issues.
The T&RS department is an essential element in competently and consistently delivering agreed annual work programmes and protecting the ELR’s national reputation within the heritage railway family. Graham Thornton (Director of Traction & Rolling Stock), supported by Tracey Parkinson (General Manager) presented proposals to Board for a major restructure in order to finally address under-resourcing and improve the day to day management of the workshops.
Departmental Objectives are:
- Safely maintain and manage the company’s locomotives and rolling stock to a standard of reliability and availability sufficient to meet the needs of the business.
- Develop a ‘centre of excellence’ for heritage railway traction and rolling stock engineering.
- Plan manpower and resources to ensure cost effective use.
- Procure goods and services to ensure value for money.
- Minimise waste and be mindful of the environmental impact of operations.
- Train and develop apprentices, volunteers and employees to ensure the succession of heritage engineering skills.
- Develop modern work space environments.
Over the next two years ‘8’ new skilled posts would come into the department at an additional cost of £250,000. This will increase the TR&S budget by 40%. The Board felt that without this substantial investment the company would struggle to honour its many service/events commitments.
Phase 1 – A new structure has been created including:
- A new Departmental Head of Engineering (in overall control of departmental work planning for maintenance and restoration, budgets and operational outputs/performance).
Three new working Heads of Service will be established and reporting to the Head of Engineering. These posts will be responsible for the performance/outputs from their respective teams. In addition, they will also carry out all necessary office duties. They will also be responsible in promoting volunteering opportunities, overseeing the work projects for volunteers to support engineering operations.
- Head of Carriage & Wagon
- Head of Steam
- Head of Diesel
A new post of Foreman Mechanical Engineering will be established and have a key role in mentoring/skills transfer duties as required.
Additional posts created include:
- Diesel Fitter.
- Fitter Machinist.
- Mechanical Fitter brake and bogie.
- 3 new apprenticeships.
These proposals were unanimously agreed by Board.
Planning for the Future – The additional resources will help Board achieve its strategy to increase the ‘core’ of the ELR’s home steam fleet. This will, over time, reduce our reliance on hiring in locos, although guest locos will still be brought in for future steam galas.
Inevitably, there will be questions about affordability. Board concluded that we must invest into this area or run the risk of increased service failures and damage to the ELR’s reputation and falling customer confidence.
Overall, the ELR Board believes that with prudent management of our finances with continued understanding and support from our many working volunteers along with increasing yields from services/events we can absorb these additional costs. There is also a strong prospect of future third party revenue being generated within T&RS.