The East Lancashire Railway has announced that it has received an interest-free loan of £300,000 to help them through the winter period after the pandemic left them ‘fighting for financial survival’.
The loan comes from the East Lancashire Railway Trust and is interest-free to provide support for staff and volunteers. The ELR Trust is the charity that supports the development of the heritage railway.
The land that the railway runs on is owned by the ELR Trust and is leased to the East Lancashire Railway and a number of cancelled events has meant that winter has been tough.
Apart from a few days in the lead up to Christmas, the line has been closed since November.
Due to local restrictions, the East Lancashire Railway could not run its Santa trains, meaning the railway lost out on its “most important source of income of the year”.
East Lancashire Railway Chairman Mike Kelly said: “We’re incredibly proud of the timeless experience the ELR provides for hundreds of thousands of visitors a year – thanks to our dedicated staff and volunteers.
“However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced us into an extremely challenging financial situation as successive lockdowns and tier restrictions have taken their toll and deprived us of crucial visitor income.
“Restrictions also meant we were unable to run our Santa Special trains, an enormously popular event, which was extremely disappointing, and without this income we were reduced to facing the prospect of bankruptcy.
“As we enter 2021, with no certainty on when we can reopen, significant financial challenges still persist.
“And so we are incredibly grateful for the support from the ELR Trust and this precious lifeline of a timely and generous £300,000 loan, which gives hope for the future.”
Brian Davies, Chairman of the ELR Trust said “COVID-19 has devastated charities like the ELR right across the country. However, for the Trustees there is only one ELR and we will do whatever we can in our power to make sure this beloved railway survives.
“The loss of the railway’s Santa Specials was devastating to the ELR’s sterling fight for survival.
“Throughout the past 12 months, the Trust has been kept fully informed of the huge efforts being made by the staff and volunteers in seeking external support through grants, loans and securing donations. Now it’s our turn to step in and show our support and confidence in the future of the ELR especially, its loyal staff and many hundreds of volunteers.
“The Trustees were very pleased that some of their funds could urgently be made available to get the ELR through these difficult next few months until it can reopen and do what it does best; offering a unique glimpse into a bygone era of the North West’s industrial powerhouse through steam and diesels trains.”
Councillor Jane Black, Cabinet Member for the Cultural Economy at Bury Council, said: “This is great news. The ELR is a marvellous attraction enjoyed by many people of all ages. I hope that this loan will enable the railway to get through the next few months and plan for the future.”
You can support the East Lancashire Railway through their ELR Support Fund.
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