Steam railway wins race in £170,000 infrastructure works project

6960 Ravingham Hall
Credit: Ian Knight

The West Somerset Railway has announced that it has won the race against time to complete infrastructure works costing £170,000.

The work has involved an overhaul to its staff training, competence and compliance systems, and sort out its finances in going forward during the first three months of 2019.

The Office of Rail & Road visited the West Somerset Railway on Friday 22nd March 2019 to complete an audit of the progress made by the railway.

The longer closure has allowed the railway to focus on its efforts on track works and other maintenance along the line.

Although infrastructure works are in the advanced stage, some problems have been found around Blue Anchor, including having to order a new point. This means that steam and diesel trains will begin initially between Bishops Lydeard and Wachet from Saturday 30th March 2019. The railway will then operate trains to Minehead from Good Friday, 19th April 2019, once Blue Anchor works are mainly complete.

On Saturday, March 30th, Great Western Railway Hall Class loco No. 6960 “Raveningham Hall” will steam out of Bishops Lydeard station at 10.15. Due to no turning facilities at Watchet, the return leg will be hauled by a diesel locomotive from the D&EPG’s fleet at Williton in a Top and Tail format.

What did the officials say?

Following the ORR visit, WSR plc Chairman Jon Jones Pratt commented:

“The ORR inspectors were very impressed by all of the massive progress across the board that we have made during a relatively short period, and I’m delighted they gave us a clean bill of health to re-open this coming weekend.

 “But it’s been a race against time to try and get all of the work completed and a great testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff, volunteers, contractors and supporters to whom we owe a great debt of thanks. Our shareholders have bought over £20,000 of new shares since our stakeholders meeting on 2 March to help fund the works, and it’s been reminiscent of the efforts by the early WSR’s pioneers who first re-opened the line in 1976.”

“The WSR wishes to apologise to all accommodation providers in West Somerset who have been inconvenienced or lost business as a result of the extended closure period, but we had no choice and had to undertake some costly, unexpected and time consuming track works, especially around Blue Anchor. I look forward greatly to the day when the whole railway is open again.”

“Although we are all looking forward to our services continuing through to Minehead, the work needed at Blue Anchor has been more extensive than first thought. Having access to just over half of the line allows us much needed time to complete the works to the high standards required.

“Our Permanent Way Engineers and volunteers have all been working extremely hard, and in all weathers, over the closed period to ensure that we can get our services back up and running as soon as possible and we are grateful for all their efforts so far and the many thousands of hours worked.

“We hope that people will turn up in good numbers during our first weeks of operating to support the WSR again and enjoy the heritage steam railway experiences and services we offer.

 “Our temporary terminus at Watchet is a vibrant seaside destination, and we have been in communication with many in the town to help enhance the experience as much as possible during this period.

 “The support which the WSR has received from volunteers, staff, shareholders, support organisations and the general public over the closure period has been extremely humbling.”

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