The West Somerset Railway (WSR) has launched an emergency SOS funding appeal for £1 million to ensure it can continue to operate through until next May after an unsuccessful bid to the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage for financial support.
The WSR was hoping to receive a further DCMS grant of up to £432,200 from the fund after the heritage line was forced to close in March last year due to COVID restrictions.
The railway’s first bid for support was successful, securing £864,900 last October.
However, the failure of the second bid has led to the launch of the SOS appeal.
A WSR spokesman said: “The rejection of the WSR’s second application bid to the CRFH was very significant for the railway as the money would have enabled the WSR Plc, along with the support of WSR ‘family’ support organisations, to prepare for and fund the reopening of the railway and the operations for 2022 and beyond.”
The WSR Plc Board is also actively researching the costs and feasibility of another Share Issue appeal to help raise funds from its existing 8,000 plus shareholders or new subscribers for specific projects needed on the line.
It will also seek the active support of both of its two support charities, the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA) and the West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust (WSRHT).
WSR Plc Chairman, Jonathan Jones-Pratt, said: “Naturally, we are bitterly disappointed not to have gained this valuable and much needed second round grant support from the Department of Culture Media and Sport, despite lodging two very strong appeals against their earlier rejection decision.
“This additional CRFH money would have provided a vital, further financial lifeline needed for the railway’s survival and we are confident that all of the projects we put forward for support were needed to help get the much-loved West Somerset Railway back up and running normally again.
“We are still receiving donations money every week because people believe so strongly in our railway. Long may that continue to be the case and let’s try to raise the £1 million as soon as possible, maybe more!”