The West Somerset Railway (WSR), England’s longest steam heritage line, received an un-expected cash boost just days after launching its recent £1 million Emergency SOS survival fund in early June.
On hearing of the crisis appeal, the railway was contacted by Meercat Associates, a business procurement service operating across the UK. The company took a closer look at WSR’s energy systems, then saved the heritage line £12,800 off its gas and electricity bills – vitally-needed money which will now go towards the WSR’s SOS Appeal.
“We operate 10 stations, gift shops and cafes, but had multiple energy and other suppliers with an array of contracts ending on different dates,” said Jonathan Jones-Pratt, Chairman of the West Somerset Railway plc which operates the line.
“Managing our supply costs is very complex and time-consuming for us so, as well as the annual savings gained so far which will go towards our SOS Appeal, we’re delighted that Meercat is now monitoring our ongoing consumption of core services and will give strategic advice as and when we should switch suppliers again in the future.
“With the cost of energy continuing to rise, it’s re-assuring to have this important support and expertise in place, and all of our meters are now aligned with common end dates, and managed through Meercat’s portal.”
Like most attractions, the 20-mile-long WSR line has suffered a large trading revenue shortfall due to the virtual loss of all of last year’s train income, plus the truncated 2021 operating season with fewer trains running and a reduced capacity resulting from COVID-19 restrictions.
Much of the ‘SOS’ money the WSR is looking to raise will, hopefully, come from regular donations such as the ‘Fiver’ or a ‘Tenner’ a-month schemes, which together with other fundraising efforts, previously raised over £500,000 during 2020 to survive.
The WSR’s latest SOS funding appeal came about directly after the railway had two formal appeals turned down following the recent rejection of its second round bid for £432,200 to the Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Second Round for Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage (CRFH) financial support.