West Somerset Railway plc warn of temporary closure if freehold is sold elswhere

Somerset County Gazette: THE West Somerset Railway plc has warned that the railway could close temporarily if the lease is sold elsewhere. PHOTO: Alex Cameron. THE West Somerset Railway plc has warned that the railway could close temporarily if the lease is sold elsewhere. PHOTO: Alex Cameron.

WEST Somerset Railway plc has warned that the railway could be closed for a period if the freehold is sold elsewhere.

On Friday, Somerset County Council made the decision to dispose of the freehold at a meeting. Currently, the council own the freehold and lease the land to the plc who operate the attraction as part of the lease.

While the council will only go ahead with the sale if conditions over preservation are met, they said they are committed to making sure the railway operates as normal in the meantime.

However, the PLC has said a sale to a third party would cause disruption and could mean closure of the railway while transfers take place.

The West Somerset Railway PLC and the West Somerset Railway Association, a support charity, have both submitted bids for the freehold of the land.

A spokesperson from the PLC said: “SCC has confirmed that because of its importance to the local economy, nothing will be done to jeopardise the ongoing success of the West Somerset Railway.

“In order to avoid any possibility of closure during the transfer process orders for operating the railway must be in place at all times.

“The Light Railway Order currently vests the powers to operate a railway only with the County Council or the West Somerset Railway plc, so if the land was sold to any other third party, unnamed in the existing order, the West Somerset Railway would be closed for the running of trains until statutory powers were obtained by the new owner/operator.”

The railway would not reopen until powers were obtained.

As the WSR plc is the current operator of the railway, they already hold the statutory operating rights and say a transfer to them would avoid this.

They add: “Because objections to an application for a new order by a third party would lead to uncertainty, and with a public enquiry incurring very high costs, the report stipulates that the purchaser must pay all such resulting enquiry costs.

“We look forward to working with SCC and all our partners during the due diligence process to show how the plc option provides the solution.” A recommendation put forward by the council states that West Somerset Railway should remain as ‘operators of the railway’.

Cllr David Huxtable, the cabinet member for resources said that there has been a lot of support of the Railways Association proposals for the freehold.

Cllr David Hall added: “The West Somerset Railway is extremely important to Somerset, attracting thousands of visitors to the area and contributing greatly to the local economy.

“It’s important that the railway continues to operate as normal while any discussions over a sale take place, and we’re committed to making sure that happens.

“We will now sit down and work with all interested parties to do the right thing for Somerset council taxpayers and the right thing for West Somerset Railway.”

A spokesperson from the West Somerset Railway Assocation was unavailable for comment. 

Comments (3)

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10:19pm Mon 10 Feb 14

Lulu2011 says...

The West Somerset Railway plc will just have to make a realistic offer to buy the land. They are a plc and shouldn’t expect the freehold to be gifted (or near gifted) to them which is probably what they are hoping will happen if they moan about it enough. At the moment, the freehold belongs to Somerset and it is only fair that a realistic price is paid.
If the West Somerset Railway plc make a sensible offer, they won’t have to worry about any issues that may arise if the freehold is sold to a third party, because they will be in control themselves. They are in business to make money and should not expect the people of Somerset to subsidise them. Simples!
The West Somerset Railway plc will just have to make a realistic offer to buy the land. They are a plc and shouldn’t expect the freehold to be gifted (or near gifted) to them which is probably what they are hoping will happen if they moan about it enough. At the moment, the freehold belongs to Somerset and it is only fair that a realistic price is paid. If the West Somerset Railway plc make a sensible offer, they won’t have to worry about any issues that may arise if the freehold is sold to a third party, because they will be in control themselves. They are in business to make money and should not expect the people of Somerset to subsidise them. Simples! Lulu2011

9:16pm Tue 11 Feb 14

Somerset;SocialistParty says...

Lulu2011 wrote:
The West Somerset Railway plc will just have to make a realistic offer to buy the land. They are a plc and shouldn’t expect the freehold to be gifted (or near gifted) to them which is probably what they are hoping will happen if they moan about it enough. At the moment, the freehold belongs to Somerset and it is only fair that a realistic price is paid.
If the West Somerset Railway plc make a sensible offer, they won’t have to worry about any issues that may arise if the freehold is sold to a third party, because they will be in control themselves. They are in business to make money and should not expect the people of Somerset to subsidise them. Simples!
Hi Lulu, Broadly agree with your apparent opposition to the idea of the people of Somerset subsidising a PLC...However, you seem to accept the 'business case' (not sure, when or even if it has been presented?!) for the transfer/sale of the freehold.

The WSR is, in a sense a museum and a heritage piece and as such should not be run for private profit.

Here's an even simpler suggested solution... Just simply leave the freehold of the West Somerset Railway as it is. Preserve the status quo. It isn't even apparently costing Somerset County Council anything; so why do they wish to relinquish the freehold?

This has more to do with Somerset County Council's Tory administration's ideologically driven political determination to cut, slash and burn jobs and services and privatise any and all remaining 'assets' including the WSR.

The other two parties are no different, of course; they are implementing savage cuts and privatisations where ever they are in control.

However, we will deal with that specific issue in our post below.

The Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)
opposes all cuts and all privatisations, including the proposed transfer of the WSR freehold, over to a PLC.

For more information, or to join the Socialist Party, visit: www.socilaistparty.o
rg.uk

For more information, or to join TUSC, visit: www.tusc.org.uk
[quote][p][bold]Lulu2011[/bold] wrote: The West Somerset Railway plc will just have to make a realistic offer to buy the land. They are a plc and shouldn’t expect the freehold to be gifted (or near gifted) to them which is probably what they are hoping will happen if they moan about it enough. At the moment, the freehold belongs to Somerset and it is only fair that a realistic price is paid. If the West Somerset Railway plc make a sensible offer, they won’t have to worry about any issues that may arise if the freehold is sold to a third party, because they will be in control themselves. They are in business to make money and should not expect the people of Somerset to subsidise them. Simples![/p][/quote]Hi Lulu, Broadly agree with your apparent opposition to the idea of the people of Somerset subsidising a PLC...However, you seem to accept the 'business case' (not sure, when or even if it has been presented?!) for the transfer/sale of the freehold. The WSR is, in a sense a museum and a heritage piece and as such should not be run for private profit. Here's an even simpler suggested solution... Just simply leave the freehold of the West Somerset Railway as it is. Preserve the status quo. It isn't even apparently costing Somerset County Council anything; so why do they wish to relinquish the freehold? This has more to do with Somerset County Council's Tory administration's ideologically driven political determination to cut, slash and burn jobs and services and privatise any and all remaining 'assets' including the WSR. The other two parties are no different, of course; they are implementing savage cuts and privatisations where ever they are in control. However, we will deal with that specific issue in our post below. The Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) opposes all cuts and all privatisations, including the proposed transfer of the WSR freehold, over to a PLC. For more information, or to join the Socialist Party, visit: www.socilaistparty.o rg.uk For more information, or to join TUSC, visit: www.tusc.org.uk Somerset;SocialistParty

8:32pm Wed 12 Feb 14

tauntonpundit says...

Couple of issues with this:
1. Without WSR plc running it the railway with the support of volunteers the freehold is a massive liability in terms of even basic maintenance of overgrown trees etc;
2. It is likely that the freehold was aquired by compulsory purchase of the land in the 19th century as low value farm land;
3. Inflating the value may prejudice the viability of WSR.
Couple of issues with this: 1. Without WSR plc running it the railway with the support of volunteers the freehold is a massive liability in terms of even basic maintenance of overgrown trees etc; 2. It is likely that the freehold was aquired by compulsory purchase of the land in the 19th century as low value farm land; 3. Inflating the value may prejudice the viability of WSR. tauntonpundit

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