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Steam railway funds needed to survive pandemic

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image copyrightGeograph/Gareth James
image captionGloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway has felt the impact of virus restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic

A steam railway which saw a 77% drop in passenger numbers in 2020 says it will need to fundraise in order to survive.

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) carried fewer than 29,000 passengers last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Full closures and virus restrictions led to a large drop from the 125,000 passengers it welcomed during 2019.

All UK heritage railways have currently been forced to close due to the national lockdown.

The railway, which runs for 14 miles (22.5km) through the Cotswolds, responded to the lost revenue by dipping into its financial reserves and obtaining government funding of up to £318,000.

It also secured a loan partly guaranteed by the Government.

image copyrightGeograph/Gareth James
image captionAll UK heritage railways have been forced to close due to the national lockdown

GWSR finance director Richard Winstanley said further fundraising would be needed this year with bills still coming in but services unlikely to resume until "March or April at the earliest".

"Typically in January we would expect to see income from advance ticket purchases, including party bookings, which are an important part of the railway's revenue, and for forthcoming special events.

"These revenue streams have, of course, dried up. This means that further fundraising will likely be required during the year in order that we can provide the financial assurance to maintain the railway for the future.

"We're looking forward to welcoming our travellers back and are planning for an eventual full resumption of services when the time is right."

The news comes just a week after the Heritage Railway Association warned English coal supplies could run out in early 2021, with Welsh supplies lasting until 2022.

Chairman of the West Somerset Railway Jonathan Jones-Pratt said "the whole industry is in jeopardy" after planning permission was refused for a coal mine near Newcastle.

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  • Steam railways 'will run out of coal', industry warns

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