A new Saturday-only GWR summer shuttle train service will start this weekend on Saturday, 27 July, and continue through August and into the autumn as part of a timetabled link between the national rail network at Taunton station and the West Somerset Railway (WSR).
Trains will run on Saturdays on the following dates: 27 July, 3, 17, 31 August, 7, 21 September and 5 October.
The dates will allow for a big influx of visitors to the WSR’s special events on 3 August for the Steam Rally at Norton Fitzwarren, and the WSR’s Autumn Steam Gala on October 5.
The primary purpose of the trial, which is being run as a joint venture between the West Somerset Railway and Great Western Railway, is to attract people from the national network to visit the WSR and enjoy the scenic line and attractions which will bring big benefits to local businesses in West Somerset.
The West Somerset Railway itself is one of the largest tourist attractions in Somerset with around 180,000 visitors a year. For local residents, the new service will offer a stress-free and sustainable way of Saturday shopping in Taunton as well as a good connection with the national network.
Great Western Railway already offers through tickets from its staffed stations to the West Somerset Railway and these will be valid on the shuttle train or on the No. 28 bus between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard as an alternative to the shuttle rail service.
Tickets can also be bought on the shuttle train from Taunton to any station on the West Somerset Railway.
The use of the trains will be carefully monitored and analysed to see if there is a basis for running a service in future years.
GWR Managing Director, Mark Hopwood, said: “This new regular, timetabled GWR shuttle service from Taunton to the WSR at Bishops Lydeard is an exciting opportunity for both railways in a joint venture.
“It is funded through our Customer and Community Improvement Fund as a trial, and we hope that visitors, enthusiasts and local residents will use the new Saturday service this year so that we can jointly evaluate its success.”
The new shuttle service was officially launched by Taunton MP Rebecca Pow who said: “I am a firm believer in innovation and in partnership and it is great to see GWR using their Customer and Community Improvement Fund to link mainline trains to the West Somerset Railway on Saturdays this summer.
“It is great for Taunton, for Bishop Lydeard and for Minehead and I hope the trial is a great success.
“In December this year we will see the biggest timetable change for 40 years on the GWR mainline with faster, more frequent services, but it is great to see that there is also a push to improve our local services too and I commend the staff and volunteers at the WSR for putting together the bid that secured the funding.”
Jonathan Jones-Pratt, chairman of the West Somerset Railway plc, added: “The new GWR shuttle link is another good reason to visit the West Somerset Railway this year.
“Coupled with great scenery, the friendly welcome and our steam trains, and you have an unbeatable day out. We are proud to be running our heritage steam trains alongside their Great Western successors.”
The proposed timetable is (WSR advises travellers check the railway’s website prior to travelling as times will vary for WSR special event weekends or ring 01643 704996):
GWR Taunton dep 09.39 10.28 12.10 15.37 16.36
GWR Bishops Lydeard arr 09.56 10.45 12.26 15.54 16.53
WSR Bishops Lydeard dep 10.15 11.00 12.40 16.20 –
WSR Minehead arr 11.35 12.20 14.00 18.00 –
WSR Minehead dep – 10.05 14.30 15.25
WSR Bishops Lydeard arr – 11.30 15.52 16.50
GWR Bishops Lydeard dep 10.03 11.45 12.53 16.09 17.11
GWR Taunton arr 10.22 12.05 13.10 16.26 17.28
For information on the GWR shuttle and West Somerset Railway services, see the railway’s website: www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk or call 01643 704996.
For information on connecting services from Taunton, see the National Rail website: www.nationalrail.co.uk or call 03457 484950.