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The Board of the NHR (formerly GCRN) has issued its rejection of a proposal from the EMRT to force the surrender running rights on the southern section of the line from a point just north of Rushcliffe Halt to the mainline connection.
 
The proposal was accompanied by an ultimatum demanding that the document be signed by 1700 on Friday 30th July. 
 
The Board found both the contents of the Surrender Document, and the deadline, unacceptable. 
 
A copy of the document has been mailed to shareholders along with this letter, and is also available to shareholders by email on request to directors@gcrn.co.uk
 
The Board’s reasoning is as follows:

 

 

The New Board

 
The new Board has already undertaken major reforms to address corporate governance and operational issues, and has created a lot of positive momentum among the volunteer base and in the community.  
 
We are excited about community projects such as the school competition to design a new NHR logo, being judged by Ruth Edwards MP, which is a perfect complement to our core mission of safe and enjoyable heritage railway operation.  Our outreach into the community is only just beginning.
 
The Board is very confident that this cultural change and specific initiatives to be outlined in its Medium-term Business Plan (MTBP), being drafted in conjunction with a panel of experts from both within and outside the rail industry, will lead to the NHR being a major source of pride for the local Rushcliffe and Nottingham community, and a by-word for best practice in heritage railway operation. 
 
The new Board has made significant changes and needs time to bring these to fruition.

 

 

The Contents of the Surrender Document

 
The Surrender Document in its current form effectively turns the NHR into a non-viable operation, creating a ‘rump state’ that would be unlikely to generate volunteer and customer enthusiasm, and likely close.
 
The general history of ‘rump states’ is that once territory has been surrendered, there are usually more demands made for concessions in the future, until demise is complete.
 
As a minimum, the NHR needs guaranteed operating rights to Rushcliffe Halt.  It is preposterous that Rushcliffe’s local railway would be unable to run to a station that bears the name of its local area and parliamentary constituency. 
 
It would also fail to allow joint operations with the ‘bus preservation organization NABS, whom the NHR shares a site with, and with whom the NHR has highly cordial relations.
 
The Board also notes that despite friendly relations between the two counties, Nottinghamshire people, and their political representatives nationally and locally, want a Nottingham-based independent railway.  The concept of the NHR’s line being handed over to Leicestershire’s GCR plc to a point north of Rushcliffe Halt is markedly inconsistent with this.

The Board wishes for the record to state it wholeheartedly shares the aim of running through services over the whole of the GCR Mainline, in association with our good friends from the South, while having a different vision of how this would look to the EMRT.
 

 

 

Financial Alternatives

 
The Board is mindful of the fact that expensive remediation work on the line is needed. 
 
To that end, it is working to secure alternative sources of capital that will guarantee the future of the line, permit the re-opening of freight traffic and maintain an independent Nottinghamshire railway. 
 
These discussions are well advanced, with formal proposals being put together with realistic numbers, and interested investors being briefed.  No more detail can be given at this point due to their confidential nature.

 

 

A Question of Tone


The Board has a lot of respect for the EMRT, both personally and institutionally. 
 
However, at a time when the UK is experiencing its biggest crisis since the War, spanning physical and mental health, employment, family life and much more, is the tone of manufactured crisis and anxious urgency coming from the EMRT that is being used to bully the NHR into its most important decision since its formation, really appropriate?
 
There is enough anxiety around without creating crises.  This situation needs calm deliberation and thoughtfulness. 
 
The EMRT has intimated during negotiations that it will consider pushing the NHR into bankruptcy if the line is not surrendered.  It may also be the case that it could seek to remove the NHR (which of course is the organization that it was created to support) from its property.
 
The EMRT is entitled to take whatever course it feels fit, but the consequences of such action would be to deprive Nottingham of its local heritage railway, cost jobs, and be a serious blow to the community. 
 
This action would also be rather untimely given that the new NHR Board has undertaken significant reform, and is very confident that it can be the guardian of the railway that the people deserve. 

 

 

The Way Forward

 
The Board, as noted above, will be reverting with a series of alternative policy options and we seek your support in the near-term while these are finalized. 
 
Already underway is an independent review by a group of industry experts, without any vested interests, into the bridges that have issues.  These structures have become the casus belli for the EMRT, and it is essential that such a review be undertaken to ensure that the NHR Board is confident in its ability to make fact-based judicious decisions, based on its findings.

 

 

Michael Newton     Ronald Whalley     Peter Wilson     John Akinin

   Chairman                Director                 Director             Director

 
 

The Board of Directors - Nottingham Hertitage Railway

 

Published: 20 September 2021 15:00

Author: Phil Stanway