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West Somerset Railway Coronavirus emergency fund tops £56,000 mark

The West Somerset Railway plc’s Coronavirus emergency appeal now stands at £56,343. There is an additional £14,505 from the WSRA/WSSRT for Rail Renewal 2020, giving a combined total of £70,848.

It’s estimated the railway we need £500,000 are a result of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

West Somerset Railway plc Chairman, Jonathan Jones-Pratt, said: “It’s fantastic so many people are helping us in our hour of need. We reckon that we might need up to £500,000 to survive this crisis if it lasts until July and, while our appeal is still a long way short of that figure, it’s been a very encouraging and humbling start to have received so much support in a short time. Without this help, we may not have a railway in West Somerset for people of all ages to enjoy again in the future.

“All of the money raised will go towards safeguarding the WSR and helping us get through the Covid-19 crisis. We are facing a huge and potentially unsustainable financial hit which couldn’t have come at a worse time for the railway following the expensive and extended closed winter maintenance period.

“We will need the cash to keep flowing in because the railway simply has no income at present and our insurances do not cover for this type of loss. So, please keep the donations coming if you can, no matter how small, it all helps!”

The WSR plc, WSR Association and West Somerset Steam Railway Trust will be writing jointly to all stakeholders, shareholders and supporters about the WSR emergency funding appeal and will include some of the provisional trading figures to the end of the WSR plc’s financial year at the end of March.

These trading figures will show a considerable and significant uplift in the WSR plc’s fortunes which has been transformed from near bankruptcy in 2018 to profitability again in 2020 during an 18-month period under the Chairmanship of Jonathan Jones-Pratt and a new board of directors.

However, during the current lockdown period, the railway has received alarming reports about increasing incidents of trespass on the WSR at various locations.

A railway spokesman said: “These must be local people who erroneously think it’s safe to walk on the tracks during the Covid-19 lockdown when our passenger trains are suspended, but that is not the case at all and something that we advise local people should cease doing forthwith.

“We certainly don’t want people to think it’s okay to trespass on the railway at any time, but those doing so now should be warned that quieter works trains hauled by diesel locos are still running from time to time.

“Neither we nor the hard-pressed emergency services want to have to deal with someone who has been injured or worse either trespassing on the line or trying to get out of the way of a train bearing down on them. Putting other people at risk through trespassing in hazardous areas is not really socially acceptable.”
A number of incidents have been reported of the public walking in the ‘four-foot’ (between the rails) of the WSR in many different locations, including:
• Two different incidents of families walking through Crowcombe station on the track;
• An elderly couple photographed walking in the track ‘four-foot’ between the Norton Fitzwarren triangle and Bishops Lydeard;
• A dog walker also seen out in the ‘four-foot’ near Blue Anchor station, and another one walking through Dunster station;
• Youths seen on the tracks at Bishops Lydeard station.
Illegal trespassing on the railway lines is not only dangerous it also carries a £1,000 penalty fine, too.

During the closed and lockdown period, the WSR has been posting children’s activity sheets on its website to help keep youngsters occupied and has also been running a regular ‘Find Brunel’ competition on its Facebook pages featuring the WSR’s mascot Brunel the Dog.

West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA) Chairman, Mike Sherwood, added: “The WSR Association wishes to thank all those supporters of the railway who have donated money to assist the railway, in whatever way, over the last few weeks. Your help is greatly appreciated at this very difficult time.”

UPDATE: As of May 4, 2020, the total donations now stand at an amazing £100,901.

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