WSR ‘troubleshooter’ role for loco owner and businessman

LOCOMOTIVE owner and transport businessman Jonathan Jones Pratt has been appointed as acting chairman of the West Somerset Railway (WSR) plc for three months in order to tackle current financial problems.

The appointment, approved unanimously by the plc board, was made only 12 days after he was appointed a director, in the wake of long-serving popular volunteer and author Ian Coleby being asked to stand down as chairman, but remaining on the board.

Jonathan owns two GWR 4-6-0s: No. 4936 Kinlet Hall and No. 7027 Thornbury Castle (pictured on page 76), both of which are currently under overhaul at Tyseley Locomotive Works.

His company JJP Holdings operates a number of commercial transport activities in north Somerset and other areas of the county.

Mid-Hants Railway-based BR Ivatt 2MT 2-6-2T No. 41312 arrived on the South Devon Railway (SDR) on October 2 following its appearance at the successful September 27-30 West Somerset Railway autumn steam gala. The loco is at the SDR to provide steam cover for GWR pannier No. 6412, which is at the Battlefield Line on October 12/13, and because fellow 0-6-0PT No. 5786/L92 is awaiting completion of re-tubing. It was expected the Ivatt will stay on the line until October 16. No. 41312 is seen at the Royal Mile working the 11.30am service from Totnes Riverside to Buckfastleigh on October 3. A SDR spokesman said: “Many thanks to all our friends at the Mid-Hants and the West Somerset for making this possible.” COLIN WALLACE

Jonathan was appointed after a plc board demand that the railway’s current losses are tackled and costs, which have threatened to lead to redundancies, are cut. This follows a major downturn in business.

A WSR plc statement said: “The key appointment was made by the plc board in order to provide a period of stability for the rest of this year whilst also providing a clear leadership focus for an agreed business recovery plan which is required to both reduce costs and seek to improve visitor numbers.”

Jonathan said: “I am both pleased and honoured to accept this position as WSR plc acting chairman and will readily embrace the role and the evident challenges which the railway faces.

“I aim to provide stability to the wider WSR family and also seek to ensure that we create a best practice culture from hereon. My ultimate aim is to not only protect the WSR, but also take our team together on a journey of recovery to better times and success after a downturn in our business recently in a turbulent marketplace.

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