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Author Topic: RailFuture / new board member  (Read 2533 times)
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« on: May 19, 2019, 07:21:24 am »

Yesterday I attended the AGM of RailFuture in Cardiff, and during the afternoon saw two presentations on Transport for Wales' plans and the metrics of travel in South Wales looking ahead, and the requirement for travel - and Climate Friendly travel - in Wales.  Concentration in both cases on The Valleys, with an admission that little extra ca be provided in West Wales due to infrastructure limitations.

Confirming news already posted in "Frequent Posters" - but posting here too as a public statement ... I have been elected to the board of RailFuture for a one year term. RailFuture has a board of nine directors, with three being elected each year, and additional candidates filling any shorter term vacancies in the order of the number of votes they have achieved. Of six candidates in the election, the top three on votes were (re)elected directors who had just completed three years, and the next two were myself and a gentleman who I believe has previously been a director and is coming back. I am the only "virgin director" and came a significant distance ahead of the sixth candidate. Thank you to members and other readers of this thread who proposed and seconded me, and who voted for me.  It's greatly appreciated.

There are few (RailFuture is unique?) rail campaigning organisations across the UK looking medium and long term ahead, taking a view much wider than a single line, and welcoming individual members, putting forward and supporting strategies and campaigns that are feasible.  And as the organisation that fills such a position, RailFuture has some 2,000 paid up members which is no bad achievement.

There are challenges. The membership numbers are flat-lining and the membership is distinctly old - I feel young in the room at 64.  And it's hardly gender or ethnic background representative either - there were 4 or 5 ladies at the AGM and between 50 and 60 gentlemen, from appearances everyone having ancestors who originated from within Great Britain even before it was Great or Britain.  The old membership "needs" refreshing with younger blood that won't be dying away over the next decade, and to do so needs to provide a real benefit / encouragement to those who - for example - are already very much aware of climate change and even bunk off school to attend rallies and make their point.

Which brings me on to suggest that another issue (which was expressed to me by another RailFuture member) might be the reluctance of the organisation to take a sharper edge to its campaigning - "does not want to ruffle feathers".  There's a lot of good to be said for working with people that (in my view) should be the de-factor norm, but there's also a need to be the candid / critical friend, and perhaps that element has been lacking in RailFuture.  I don't know - I'm initially learning and would expect to be quite quiet as I learn.  An intent, anyway - though I did stick my oar in at one point during the meeting yesterday, and it will be interesting to see how well I control myself.

I do find myself asking "is a year enough to make any impression".  An odd and impractically short term to be elected for by an organisation that prides itself in taking a long term view.  In the early autumn, I'll already be considering "do I stand again for the board" ... and the chance of any steerage / influences having had any effect may be close to zero, with any "pain to make for gain" stuff I support being only at the pain stage when it comes to the next election.  Ah well - I went into this one with the view "let the membership decide" and - with 277 votes, first in the poll with 324 and the sixth candidate with just 139, I think I have something of a mandate all be it not the three years I would have preferred.

Something else that cropped up yesterday - across the full meeting - was a request from the chair (and retiring board?) to speak consistently to the press about RailFuture objectives and what they support. By all means encouraged to flag up railfuture membership, by all means now (in my case) to let people know I'm on the board, but not to claim to be representing the organisation as a whole.  Keep 'on message', keep consistent.  Enthusiasm for the cause is wonderful, but where something is said / done in an organisation's name it really needs to be with the permission / approval of the organisation. This was a little thing at the meeting, but it struck home with me last night when I found a message concerning someone claiming to "represent the forum" awaiting me, and indeed I have seen the same thing on Facebook this morning.  We had a number of members around last night's final London HST runs, but none of them was there as a representative of the Coffee Shop which is what I see described and published.  "Even I" do not claim to represent the Coffee Shop without checking with the moderator team, especially not to look to get favours from doing so, so this concern for the moment is purely a personal one and I am asking the rest of the moderator team if they share that concern.

One final RailFuture comment / Thank You.  To our own ChrisB who acted in a voluntary capacity (RailFuture has no paid staff) as returning officer for the election.  It's traditional to thank the returning officer, but I want this to be more than just a traditional "Thank you".  There's a lot of work behind the scenes, and Chris has done it totally be the book, totally effectively, and totally politely.  Which I think are the three key elements in running an election.  Thank You, Chris.

Coffee Shop Admin, Vice Chair of Melksham Rail User Group, on the board of TravelWatch SouthWest and of RailFuture
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« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2019, 07:22:49 am »

In order to ensure a fair election of board members, RailFuture has a purdah period leading up to those elections which forbids canvassing / limits publicity by individual standing to their published answers to questions and election addresses.  Now that the elections have taken place, I'm going to share my answers and election address with members here; the election address includes a manifesto 'element' and whilst the cynical amongst you may feel that manifestos are written to secure election rather than to be followed, it's not a view I share.  Having said which, I am now learning a very great deal more about the organisation than was possible/practical prior to the election, and what I learn must flavour my way on the board.

Election Address

Railfuture has a significant resource of wisdom and knowledge in current members. Current members are rare people who can look ahead to the future beyond just the next 10 years. They need to be nurtured, yet at the same time Railfuture should develop new members, new advocates, new campaigners. We need to use technology and methods not previously available, and fuse them in with the established.

I don't have a rail career background, except a career as a passenger. I got involved in rail campaigning in 2005, looking for an appropriate train service for my local station (Melksham, Wiltshire). I've learned a lot. I've learned how everything intermeshes and it's rarely one station or one line. About how everyone needs to agree (or compromise) and work together in partnership. About what a long game this is. And about how important it is not only to achieve tangible results, but also to provide them to endure.

I'm 'webmaster' at the Great Western Coffee Shop forum which was founded by myself and a fellow campaigner in 2007. 12 years on, we're still getting 2,000 messages a month and are looking forward to how we take it forward for the next 12 years. I'm also a board member of TravelWatch Southwest - interfacing user groups to each other, operators and local and central government. Twice yearly meetings with over 100 groups represented confirms the need for such co-ordination, and further confirms my involvement with bringing transport campaigners together.

Now semi-retired from my 'day job', I have the time, and I believe the experience, to help bring fresh vigour to Railfuture. I have the enthusiasm to help drive it forward as a long term strong active advocate for improved public transport in the UK.

Personal Details

Q1. Over 12 years (Ely Conference 2007)

Q2. Member of Severnside Branch Committee

Q3. None

Q4. Sheila McKechnie Foundation National Transport Campaigner of the Year 2017; Career in Customer Service IT Training & Development, and travel (inc business traveller) and tourism; Served 4 years as Community Rail Officer, TransWilts Community Rail Partnership (2 days per week)

Q5. Founding member, campaigner and blogger at "Save the Train" - 2005-2011 - which became TransWilts; Member of Melksham Rail User Group from 2005 and still there - currently vice chair; Member of West Wilts Rail User Group from 2006 to date; Founding member (2007) and webmaster of Great Western Coffee Shop forum; President of Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 2009 to 2014; Board member of TransWilts from its foundation in 2011 until 2018, responsible for tactical promotion; Member of Bath Bus Customer User Panel (First Bus) from circa 2014 and current; Elected to board of TravelWatch Southwest, 2015, and remain on board as user group advocate
Q6. None

Q7. Member of Melksham Rail User Group from 2005 and still there - currently vice chair; Member of West Wilts Rail User Group from 2006 to date.

Those questions:
1) Length of membership the Railfuture Ltd
2) Current and previous Railfuture Ltd branch membership and committee Service
3) Current and Previous Railfuture Ltd national group service
4) Relevant qualifications and work experience
5) Current and previous membership of other relevant organisations with details of positions held
6) Participation in other organisations as Railfuture Ltd representative
7) Nature and Duration of any association with a rail user group (whether or not affiliated to Railfuture Ltd
Note - answers correct at the time I answered them (in February).  I am no longer on the branch committee (question 2) as of the branch AGM in April, though I would have liked the opportunity to stand.

Coffee Shop Admin, Vice Chair of Melksham Rail User Group, on the board of TravelWatch SouthWest and of RailFuture
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