The West Somerset Railway, Britain’s longest heritage line, had a far better year in 2021 than forecast despite the ravages of Covid, and now looks to be on track for a full service this year.
Because of lockdowns and a late start to its timetable, officials had budgeted for a loss for last season of well over a quarter-of-a-million pounds. In fact, this was reduced to £55,000.
A record-breaking month of Santa Specials and new Winterlights trains brought in around £271,000. Of that, £204,000 was clear profit and was an incredible success said company chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt.
He added: “I must say a big ‘thank you’ to all of our wonderful staff and volunteers who have worked tirelessly for the railway during the past season.
“Overall the income over the Christmas season has provided a lifeline for the WSR and should mean we can re-open for a full season this year with confidence. This has been achieved by an extremely hard-working team and means the business is healthy.”
The company and its two supporting charities – the West Somerset Railway Association and the Heritage Trust – had agreed to put past difficulties aside to work much more closely together, he said.
With the end of work on the new level crossing in Seaward Way, Minehead, training was under way for staff, and services should be back to normal in the Spring. Mr Jones-Pratt commented: “We are really looking forward to an exciting 2022.”
One of the West Somerset Railway’s new Winterlight Express trains, which brought a record-breaking return, at Bishops Lydeard Station - Credit Don Bishop