The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways have shared their plans for survival after the coronavirus crisis hit the narrow gauge railway hard.
The major tourist attraction in Gwynedd brings in over £25m a year to the local economy and supports many local suppliers.
The railway plays a major role in making sure its railway, trains and buildings are conserved for future generations.
The coronavirus lockdown hit the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways when they were about to resume services after the winter period.
Normally, the Ff&WHR brings in nearly £6 million, but they have released a forecast of just £1m this year.
Paul Lewin, Director and General Manager comments: ‘It is vitally important to the local economy that the railway survives the coming winter and is able to open again for the 2021 season. A large number of jobs in the area are reliant on the income generated by the railway, not only our own employees but those in the supplier base, accommodation providers, retail and dining.’
At the time of lockdown, the company had very limited financial resources, and the government furlough scheme helped to secure many jobs.
The two societies have come to the aid of the company with loans and fundraising initiatives. An appeal to members has raised £500,000 to date, and the railway has received funding from the National Lottery Heritage Emergency Fund and a Welsh Government grant.
Both the Ffestiniog Railway and the Welsh Highland Railway have been able to offer a limited COVID Secure service during the summer, albeit at a lower capacity, and thus lowering income for both railways.
The railway company has now come up with a plan to allow all maintenance for the entire railway to be carried out which will allow the railways to operate safely in 2021, this includes a major bridge replacement project at Plas y Nant near Waunfawr.
Boston Lodge Works has also secured a number of contracts from other railways in the UK to complete work.
Commercial operations will largely cease in November, and the company has informed all staff of the risk of redundancy as the focus turns from commercial operations to engineering for the foreseeable future.
Paul Lewin comments further: ‘We have and will continue to make all possible efforts to protect every post that we can. We have made better than expected progress in respect of protecting jobs, but as the season and the job retention scheme draw to a close we have no choice but to make some reduction to staff numbers in order to ensure the survival of the company. We will then turn our attentions to re-engineering our business to be sustainable post Covid. We expect to make much more use of technology and pre-booked services in years to come.’
How You Can Help!
The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway are continuing to operate trains, if you are able to consider a visit to the railway, please click here to book your tickets and support the railway.
If you cant make a visit this year, then consider making a donation to the railway’s appeal by clicking here.
Another way to help the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway, is by purchasing a copy of RailAdvent’s Victorian Weekend DVD Set. For every one sold, we will donate £5 to the railway. Click here for more information.
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