Bure Valley Railway’s victory over bank bureaucrats

Andrew Barnes Andrew Barnes

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
9:42 AM

The directors of the Bure Valley Railway are celebrating victory in a bureacratic battle that had threatened to shut them out of their home town bank.

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Andrew Barnes and his wife Susan, who run the popular line from Aylsham to Wroxham as a not-for-profit company, were annoyed when they learned of the implications of a government directive that Lloyds Bank should part company with TSB.

It meant Lloyds Bank, with which they had happily banked for three years, would be closing in Aylsham and the branch would become a TSB - which they could not use as a Lloyds customer.

Their annoyance became immense frustration when they tried to switch their account to TSB only to be told after much wasted time that it was not possible.

Mr Barnes, 45, who bought a controlling interest in the railway in 2000, said: “We went through all the bank opening procedures and were directed to an office in Edinburgh where we were passed to eight different people.

“Eventually they said we could do it, but after filling in all the forms and getting them signed by all the directors they said they had made a mistake and they could not accept any business with a turnover of more than £500,000.”

However, when the EDP contacted the bank yesterday, a spokesman said the decision had been reviewed and the firm could continue to use the now-TSB branch in Aylsham.

Emphasising the fact that he had nothing but praise for the local bank staff, Mr Barnes said he had highlighted the issue because be was concerned about the implications of the bank split for other small businesses.

He said: “A maximum £500,000 turnover would rule out most businesses that were not sole traders. It is ironic that the government’s directive, which was in compliance with a ruling from Europe, was meant to increase competition between banks.”

Welcoming the bank’s apparent U-turn as “great news”, he explained that continuing with Lloyds would have left them facing an impractical 25-mile round trip to branches in Norwich or Cromer.

The railway, which has 18 paid staff and a turnover of £1.2m, had to pay in takings in the form of cash and cheques on a daily basis, he added.

A TSB spokesman said the £500,000 limit was intended to be only a guide and the principle behind it was that the TSB had been set up as a simple bank not designed to take on undue risk. They had now agreed to take on Bure Valley Railway.

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