WEST Somerset Railway has boasted of making a sea-change in the railway's finances before the coronavirus broke out.

This week the WSR plc published its draft trading results for 2019/20 with a profit figure of £311,000.

The previous year's figures, which showed a near £800,000 loss, had cast huge doubt over the long term viability of the railway.

However WSR plc chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt says that having just managed to make steps to secure the financial future of the heritage line, the coronavirus pandemic has once again left the railway in a perilous predicament.

As reported in the County Gazette, having missed out on trading throughout the main season so far, the railway has issued letters to 43 of the 45 staff members informing them the company is now consulting on making members of staff redundant.

Mr Jones-Pratt said: "Were it not for last year's good trading figures and profits, the railway simply would not have been able to keep going, and would have gone into liquidation, but we still need more cash, help and support to survive.

"The WSR Board understand that there have been concerns over the new direction the railway has taken in the last year.

"We hope the financial results speak for themselves and go some way to reassuring our supporters that the board have the best interests of the future of the railway at heart, and are actively striving to build on this success in these unprecedented times."

However Mr Jones-Pratt said the railway was in a position where donations will be vital to help the line survive the coronavirus pandemic, adding it was 'very unlikely' that trains would operate again until next year.

The Minehead Rail Link Group has reiterated its belief that a community diesel train service to Taunton is 'the only measure' that can guarantee the railway's future and save some of the jobs on the line.

MRLG say the service could be operated by First Group by extending some of their Cardiff, Bristol and Taunton services to Minehead.

“The railway has been run as a hobby, rather than as a professional business or as a public transport service and has left itself open to failure, as recent events have shown," said MRLG publicity officer, David Latimer.