EVENTS have been cancelled and a three-month closure announced after a safety inspection at West Somerset Railway.

The Office of Rail and Road, the government body responsible for maintaining and monitoring safety standards, visited the railway and highlighted a 'significant' number of 'improvements' to be made.

It has been announced the railway will be closed from January 2 until April 1 next year, and two events will be cancelled, while work is carried out to improve the service.

Chairman of West Somerset Railway PLC, Jonathan Jones-Pratt, said work is being done to ensure its 'long-term' future.

He said: "We have now received a letter which outlines the steps it requires us to take.

"The ORR will be publishing its own public statement about the visit, so it would not be appropriate to pre-empt that.

"However, we can say that while we have been allowed to retain our licence to operate we have a significant number of important actions to take. "

The chairman said the closure is viewed as 'essential' - but it will mean two events are cancelled and trains won't run during February half-term.

He added: "The board has taken the view the railway should close completely from January 2 until April 1 next year.

"This will mean the spring gala and the proposed ACE event will now not take place.

"There will also be no trains during the spring (February) half terms.

"The board consider this short period of closure as essential, both to give infrastructure teams additional time to undertake maintenance but also to allow paid and volunteer staff to focus on qualifications and effective record keeping.

"It is also clear that from a commercial point of view we need to refocus our operation and business processes. We have already begun discussions on the way forward."

It is currently not clear what aspects of the railway require improvements, but changes are needed in 'several' fields.

Mr Jones-Pratt said: "Changes are needed in several fields and the board is committed to undertake this in the most sensitive and constructive way possible.

"The directors are determined to ensure the long-term future viability of the railway, and all the actions we will be taking are focussed on that objective."

A follow-up visit will take place in March to ensure the changes have been made.

The County Gazette has contacted West Somerset Railway for more information.