26 Mar 2020

Websites and all media statement regarding Coronavirus outbreak

With great regret, the West Somerset Railway (WSR) was forced to suspend ALL train services this week from Wed 18 March until further notice. The railway was due to re-open this coming weekend on Saturday 21 March 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’. 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 23-26 April. 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 11 April has been postponed too.
We regret the effect that this closure will have on our loyal staff and dedicated volunteers who have been told of the decision already, and they will be informed of how it will affect them in meetings next week. Regular volunteers and staff were consulted about their ability and availability to carry on WSR operations, but the consensus was against remaining open.
Our two principal support organisations the West Somerset Railway Association(WSRA) and West Somerset Steam Railway Trust (WSSRT) have been briefed, and are supporting the plc solidly already with their help.
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 websites for more information and updates. The WSR plc Board and management will continue to monitor and follow the advice provided by the Government and Public Health England to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff, and future of our railway.
The Prime Minister’s statement on 16 March 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 to see many visitors wishing to travel on its steam trains.
In view of this, and despite the Chancellor’s further statement on 17 March 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.
Open Map
Close Map