DEDICATED volunteers who work on the West Somerset Railway have clubbed together to start a petition and campaign.
They aim to ensure the freehold of the line is sold to the railway plc and not the association, who have both made bids to Somerset County Council. The council owns the freehold and leases the land to the plc, but is now looking to sell.
The One Railway Group website has been live for two weeks and has already secured just over 300 signatures for its online petition.
The group, made up of members from both plc shareholders and members of the West Somerset Railway Association, is independent of both, and believes the volunteers have a ‘critical part to play’.
The group says on its website: “We believe that the West Somerset Railway plc is the only organisation who can sensibly hold the freehold of the railway.
“Over very many years, the plc have managed and developed the railway to its preeminent position as a leading heritage railway.”
Mike Rowe, one of eight volunteers who has set up the website, said: “What is important is that the railway should keep running.
“The plc has done a fantastic job of running the railway for many years, and it has done particularly well in the last few years, which during a major recession is admirable.”
Mr Rowe, who has been volunteering with the railway for ten years, added: “The volunteers have not set this up because the plc has told us too; we are simply saying that we love our railway and we wish to continue seeing it run.
“It is a major tourism boost not just for West Somerset but for the whole of Somerset.
“If the county council should sell, it should be to the plc.”
The County Gazette reported an alternative view last week from Robin White, a former chairman of the WSRA and director of the WSR plc.
She said, while transferring to the WSR plc might be simpler, the WSRA has the advantage of being a charity, and so if the railway were transferred into its ownership, it would “undoubtedly be better protected for the future”.
- TO view the One Railway Group’s petition, visit www.wsror.com
A paper version is also available from Michael Rowe by calling 01643-862182.