West Coast Railways says it is ‘seriously disappointed' that the Office of Rail and Road has revoked its exemption, which allows it to run heritage trains on the mainline.
WCR's 2024 season is due to start in two weeks, running under an exemption that was set to be in place until the 29th February 2024.
However, as we reported yesterday, the ORR has now revoked this exemption, with WCRC reaffirming it wants to work with the ORR to protect jobs and vital income for businesses that WCRC works with.
WCRC says passengers will be contacted if their service is going to be cancelled due to the exemption being revoked.
WCRC's full statement reads
West Coast Railways has expressed its serious disappointment that rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has revoked the exemption which enables it to operate its heritage rail services, including the world-famous Jacobite, on the UK main line.
With its 2024 season due to start in two weeks, the operator had asked the ORR to maintain an exemption that allowed it to operate services until 29 February 2024, while it works with the regulator to find a long-term solution. However, the regulator decided to revoke the exemption on 10 January 2024.
WCR has reaffirmed that it is keen to work with the ORR to identify solutions to enable its services to continue to operate, protecting jobs and vital income for businesses along its routes.
James Shuttleworth, Commercial Manager, West Coast Railways said: “We are extremely disappointed by this decision. We remain committed to working with the ORR to agree how we can safeguard the future of our heritage services. We now ask the regulator to reconsider urgently in the interests of our passengers and business partners, and to allow our exemption to run until 29 February.
“We are already considering a range of options and had asked the ORR to allow the current exemption to run its course, to give us time to put forward detailed proposals.
“Our much-loved services, enjoyed by so many visitors from the UK and around the world, support a large number of businesses along our routes. The Jacobite alone has become an intrinsic part of Scottish tourism, boosting the economies of Mallaig and Fort William. It brings an estimated £20 million into the UK's tourism sector to which we contribute £50 million overall every year.
For everyone relying on these incredible heritage services this decision is a body blow.”
For passengers with bookings for WCR services that are affected, we will notify them well in advance if we do not expect their service to run. They will then be offered a full refund and can rebook their excursion if they wish. They are encouraged to contact WCR via [email protected] for more details.