The West Somerset Railway (WSR) has suspended all train services this week from Wednesday, March 18 until further notice. The railway was due to re-open this coming weekend on Saturday March 21 after three months without trains, but will now remain closed.
This decision is a direct result of the ongoing Coronavirus issue and following the latest Government health advice in restricting movements and gatherings, and to employ ‘social distancing’.
A spokesman for the railway said: “We apologise for the disappointment this will cause to our many supporters, friends, locals and visitors alike, and we appreciate people’s understanding of the difficult position we face.
“We have also taken the very sad decision to cancel Easter operations and the 2020 Spring Steam Gala event, too, from April 23-26. Refunds for tickets for the gala event purchased via our website will be automatically processed. Those who have booked via other means will be contacted individually.”
The railway’s Quantock Belle Dining train operation has also been suspended by the outside caterer until further notice, and the Steam Trust’s Gauge Museum opening this weekend and planned official opening on April 11 has been postponed, too.
The WSR relies on over 1,000 regular volunteers to run the railway and some 50 paid staff to keep the wheels turning and it is the biggest tourism business in the area, so the closure decision will have a big impact on West Somerset.
The railway is developing and implementing an immediate emergency budget and action plan as a result of this decision in order to save money and cut costs at this critical time at the start of the running season. It is also investigating the financial help to business and the tourism industry announced by the Prime Minister and Chancellor earlier this week and further details expected today.
All future WSR events will be reviewed in light of developments and continuing medical advice. Please keep an eye on the WSR, WSRA and WSSRT and wsr.org websites for more information and updates.
The spokesman added: “The Prime Minister’s statement on March 16 was very clear: everyone should avoid gatherings and crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres, and avoid non-essential travel. As a result, the WSR did not expect many visitors wishing to travel on its steam trains.
“In view of this and, despite the Chancellor’s further statement on March 17, which listed the offer of Government financial help, we have taken the reluctant decision to suspend operations, but will obviously review the position and our finances frequently in the event anything changes. We will re-open when it is safe and responsible to do so.”