More than 1,000 visitors travelled from Taunton to Bishops Lydeard over the first three days the pilot GWR summer shuttle train service, which is linking the West Somerset Railway (WSR) to the mainline in Taunton.
Chris Austin, Chairman of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, who has been leading the Taunton shuttle project on behalf of WSR Plc, said two thirds of those visitors had travelled the length of the heritage line to Minehead.
He said: “The first trial shuttle trains run jointly by GWR and the West Somerset Railway have seen visitors flocking to West Somerset and Minehead from around the country. The new shuttles have brought rail visitors from no fewer than 50 main line stations all around Britain so far, ranging from as far away as Penzance to Newcastle upon Tyne!
“First survey result figures just released by the railway show over 1,000 visitors have travelled from Taunton to Bishops Lydeard over the three days the shuttle has been running so far, and last Saturday’s figures show two thirds of these passengers going through to Minehead.
“And interestingly, around 13% of those visitors have said on survey forms that they have never been to the WSR before, while almost half (46%) were infrequent visitors.”
Mr Austin said people had come from far and wide to use the shuttle, with one passenger coming from Newcastle upon Tyne and others travelling from as far afield as Cornwall, Kent and South Wales. Another passenger travelled from Stone in Staffordshire to Stogumber just to visit friends!
“The shuttle trains are proving popular and the next ones run again on Saturday 31 August, and Saturdays 7 and 21 September and 5 October. You can book on the WSR website (www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk) or pay on the train.
“For local people, the 10.05 WSR train departure from Minehead allows time for lunch or a spot of shopping in Taunton before returning later on the 15.37 train from the county town,” Mr Austin said.
He added: “This boost for the West Somerset economy was in addition to the 400 visitors from a charter train from Paddington on Saturday 17 August hauled by mighty LMS pacific locomotive ‘Duchess of Sutherland’.
“The special charter train was hauled on to Minehead by WSR locomotive 53808 from Bishops Lydeard, where the Duchess was turned and serviced and it then arrived in Minehead later in the afternoon ready for the return trip to London.”