Bishops Lydeard Somerset - A damning report which recommends that all trustees of the West Somerset Railway Association charity step down with immediate effect has been published this week.
The report comes from an Independent Expert Panel which concluded that the association leadership "lacks clarity of purpose and has no strategy to meet its own ill-defined objectives", and that the charity as a whole is unsustainable in its current form and structure.
The aim of the WSRA is to support the heritage railway, but there have often been tensions between the charity and West Somerset Railway PLC over the years, and this report was commissioned after the WSRA trustees were given a vote of no confidence at a meeting in July.
The WSRA has more than 5,000 members, owns two steam locomotives, runs the Quantock Belle dining train, a shop at Bishops Lydeard station, and a locomotive workshop in Williton.
In a letter to Peter Chidzey, the association's chairman, Robin Coombes, chairman of the review, said the report "may not make pleasant reading".
Mr. Coombes said, "We feel that in the interests of the association and wider WSR family the current trustees should step down with a degree of dignity and respect intact, there is a significant legacy that can represent the many hours of dedication you have all devoted to the railway, an award winning journal, a successful Quantock Belle, the ongoing restoration of 4561, and the introduction of apprenticeships in order to hand on heritage engineering skills."
Mr. Chidzey said the trustees were very disappointed by the report and did not feel its recommendations were justified.
"The key recommendation of the review is that all the trustees should resign before any development can be instigated. As you would expect we are very disappointed indeed with this recommendation and do not feel it is justified," he said.
"We are also very disappointed that the report has not seriously addressed what direction the WSRA should take in the future, allocating only four and a half pages of a sixty page report to this important aspect."
Robin White, a member of West Somerset Railway Reform Group said, "The key recommendation of the review, that all present Trustees should stand down, must be faced. We hope the trustees will swiftly act on this. We agree with the report that new trustees cannot include those of us who have led the fight against the present trustees for several years now, although we are happy to offer any help we can give to the new trustees. We are confident that a group of respected, responsible, WSRA members can be found to take over as "caretaker" trustees very rapidly, with a person of standing engaged to manage that process. This will allow proper reflection on new permanent trustees to be put forward to members at the 2016 AGM along with fully-consulted proposals to implement the other changes recommended by the review. It is now time to heal.".