Cash injection for historic Vale of Rheidol Railway

Lesley Griffiths, deputy Minister for Science, Innovation and Skills with engine driver Peter Smith The Vale of Rheidol Railway has received the money from the Welsh Assembly Government

A narrow gauge steam railway in Ceredigion has received a £300,000 cash injection.

The assembly government money will help pay for a restoration workshop for the Vale of Rheidol Railway's historic locomotives.

The grant is part of a £1.1m investment programme by the Aberystwyth-based tourist attraction, which will safeguard eight jobs and create eight.

The railway has 40 engines in its collection, although 37 need restoring.

Work has been carried out on them outside Wales because of a lack of facilities.

A railway spokesman said two steam engines and a diesel were in use in Aberystwyth. Eight of those requiring restoration are stored in the town, while the others are located in Surrey.

It also has 16 carriages and 13 are in use.

The railway, which was built to transport lead ore and then tourists, dates back to 1902 and was the last steam railway in the UK owned by British Rail until its privatisation in 1989.

The first phase of a 10-year development plan starts this summer following the £300,000 grant from the Welsh Assembly Government.

'Skilled workforce'

As part of the plan, the railway will construct an 1,800 sq metre restoration workshop, and it will also be used to train engineering apprentices.

The long-term proposals are to expand and develop the railway as a tourist centre attracting enthusiasts from across the UK and abroad with a range of facilities including a museum, shops and café.

The assembly government gap funding will enable the railway to access £600,000 from the Phyllis Rampton Narrow Gauge Railway Trust, with the remaining money coming from the railway.

Robert Gambrill, secretary of the Phyllis Rampton Trust, said: "Part of the workshop will be used to train youngsters in heritage skills and we will use the engines as the training tools and plan to build up a fully trained and skilled workforce.

"The intention is to offer apprenticeships and create long term jobs and help boost the local economy."

Railway manager Neil Thompson said it could cost about £350,000 to restore a locomotive.

"It also means that the skills we need are not being developed locally which is why we are very keen to ensure the workshop will become a key centre for skills training," he added.

The railway carries 35,000 passengers annually between Aberystwyth and nearby Devil's Bridge. It currently operates between Easter and October.

On a visit to the railway, Lesley Griffiths AM, deputy minister for science, innovation and skills, said the assembly government was committed to promoting the take up of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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