REGULAR train services between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard are a step closer to leaving the platform after £60,000 in funding was secured.

Great Western Railway (GWR) has announced it is handing the money for services between the County Town and the current starting point of West Somerset Railway services to Minehead for weekend trials.

The money comes from GWR's Customer and Communities Improvement Fund (CCIF) after bids were invited last summer.

West Somerset Railway chairman, Jon Jones-Pratt, welcomed the boost.

“We welcome the chance to work with our colleagues on GWR to bring more visitors to this lovely part of Somerset, and to enjoy the sight and sound of steam trains to the seaside," he said.

"What better way to start a holiday or have a great day out?”

Mark Hopwood, managing director of GWR, said: “We at GWR recognise only too well the vital role that rail plays in local and the national economy, and I am delighted that we have been able to continue to support the communities we serve with this funding.

“This year’s entrants include a wide and staggering range of projects, many showing the innovation that the area has become renowned for, and I look forward to them all coming to fruition.”

READ MORE: West Somerset Railway back on track for new season

And Taunton Deane MP, Rebecca Pow, said: “Linking Taunton railway station to the West Somerset Railway makes perfect sense. It will encourage more people to travel to the start of the route by rail as opposed to by car. I am delighted that GWR is supporting this initiative.

“As a local myself I have enjoyed many happy trips on this heritage railway and I hope that many others will be able to take advantage of this wonderful experience by benefitting from this new rail link. The West Somerset Railway really is one of the jewels in Somerset’s crown.”

Two other Somerset bids were also awarded funding.

The three schemes successfully granted funding are:

• Exmoor Gateway: £60,000

Trial summer weekend shuttles between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard on the West Somerset Railway. By providing a scheduled (seasonal) rail link between the national rail network at Taunton and the existing West Somerset Railway (from which trains already run to Watchet and Minehead), it will reduce peripherality and encourage more people to use the link as an alternative to driving on the congested A358 and A39 roads.

• What would you do? £9,500

Supports children aged 9-11, in schools in and around Bridgwater and Highbridge to make informed choices and build confidence and resilience around crime. The programme consists of weekly drama sessions with the aim to: help children identify their concerns around crime; develop children’s understanding of how to keep themselves safe and how to report crime, in cooperation with Crimestoppers charity

• Improving Sustainable travel information: £9,355

North Somerset (NS) has five major cycle routes, four of which are in close proximity to North Somerset railways stations. A range of other cycle paths, particularly around Worle and Weston Milton, offer a well-developed cycle network to enable safe, quick and healthy journeys to train stations. However, no railway station in NS provides information about these cycle routes, with the exception of Yatton Station (the start of The Strawberry Line); and limited public transport information from the stations exists. The proposal sets to fill this gap with two complementary measures.

The proposals were presented to a panel of representatives from GWR’s Customer Panel (made up of local customers), the Advisory Board (made up of local stakeholders), and the executive management team.

Final recommendations were then put to the Department for Transport (DfT) for approval.

Supported by the DfT, the Customer and Communities Improvement Fund (CCIF) was established to recognise and back projects identified by the communities where GWR operates, with projects requiring local authority match funding.

With match funding, the total investment being made in the Somerset community will top £144,000.