MORE than £1.3million has been given to West Somerset Railway (WSR) to keep it running throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

And the railway is set to run trains this December - after a nine month break.

WSR is not only close to their March appeal target of £500,000 (funds raised by emergency appeals, council grants and site events), they have also received a Government grant which brings the total this year to £1,319, 696.

Now, the WSR have set a fundraising target of £1.5million, and so will need to raise a further £187,000.

A spokesperson for the WSR said: “These appeals continue to be an inspiring achievement.

“It is now almost eight months since the WSR ran its last steam train on March 17, leaving it without a primary source of income from visitors and passengers, so the railway still needs all of the financial support that it can get even though its various appeals and grant bids have all done very well.

“This is the longest period the 23-mile, scenic former Great Western Railway branch line has been closed for over 44 years since it re-opened as a heritage, steam-operated tourist railway in stages back in 1976.”

Care and maintenance of the railway costs £50,000-£70,000 a month, which will increase as staff come back from furlough.

WSR is hoping to run trains over Christmas, from Saturday, December 12 until Thursday, December 24, depending on coronavirus restrictions.

The railway usually welcomes up to 180,000 people a year.

“The WSR has had to ensure the security of stations, engineering facilities and rolling stock, and develop a recovery strategy,” added the spokesperson.

“We will prepare many detailed risk assessments for staff and future visitors, plus all necessary documentation, required by the Office of Rail & Road as regulator.

“This is so the railway can be ready to open again for Christmas trains, and subsequently in the New Year, if and when the time is hopefully right.”