After a forced closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway, as train services are restored with the help of a £250,000 grant from The National Lottery.
When the lockdown was announced, the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, like other railways, were getting ready for their peak season. However, a forced closure meant the railway switched to survival mode.
However, the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways are now amongst the number of railways in the UK to receive funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund, a £50m fund that was started in response to the COVID outbreak.
Thanks to National Lottery players, the funding is allowing bills and salaries to be paid and essential repairs, as well as maintenance, to be completed.
As lockdown measures eased, services re-commenced on the Ffestiniog Railway on July 20th, and on the Welsh Highland Railway on August 18th, but at a reduced capacity due to social distancing. These restrictions, whilst allowing trains to run, and income to come in, are still limiting the revenue the railway can generate.
Highlighting the importance of The National Lottery funding, the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways General Manager, Paul Lewin, said: “Without this funding, we would simply not have been able to afford to continue this highly important work, having effectively lost four months of our high season. The National Lottery Heritage Fund have also been very supportive of our ongoing project to secure the future of the historic railway works site at Boston Lodge by conserving the remaining 19th century buildings to ensure that they can continue to function effectively into the 21st century. Thanks to the invaluable support of The National Lottery and its players, we are pleased to confirm that this project is continuing unabated, despite the current challenging situation.”
Mr Lewin added: “COVID-19 brought all our efforts to a rapid and potentially very damaging halt. The additional support of The National Lottery during this emergency means that we can form a plan that sees our business survive the immediate challenges and go on to flourish once more in the future.”
Andrew White, Director of National Lottery Heritage Fund, Wales, said: “Our heritage railways are totally reliant on the summer months for their income. Lockdown has left many struggling and some facing a bleak future. We’re thankful to been able to support a number of them with emergency funding thanks to National Lottery players, including Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway. The heritage sector is so vital for tourism, jobs and wellbeing as we emerge from this crisis.”
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