WEST Somerset Railway (WSR) has launched a £1million funding appeal.

The railway has had two formal appeals turned down, the most recent being a rejection of its bid in the second round of the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage (CRFH).

WSR was hoping to receive a grant of £432,200 from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) funding.

This would have helped the railway to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

And so, WSR has launched an SOS appeal to help the railway survive into 2022 and beyond.

They have said the money is needed because the 2021 season's projected income is not sufficient to cover all costs.

A WSR spokesman said: “The rejection of the WSR’s second application bid to the CRFH was very significant for the railway as the money would have enabled the WSR Plc, along with the support of WSR ‘family’ support organisations, to prepare for and fund the reopening of the railway and the operations for 2022 and beyond.”

Due to the revenue shortfall and reduced numbers on trains because of Covid-19 restrictions, as well as the Seaward Way crossing delays, the WSR Plc board has made three urgent decisions:

  • To launch the emergency £1million appeal
  • To research the costs and feasibility of another Share Issue appeal to help raise funds from the 8,000 shareholders or new subscribers
  • To seek support from the West Somerset Railway Association and the West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust

WSR Plc chairman, Jonathan Jones-Pratt, said they were "bitterly disappointed" not to have gained the CRFH funding.

“This additional CRFH money would have provided a vital, further financial lifeline needed for the railway’s survival, and we are confident that all of the projects we put forward for support were needed to help get the much-loved West Somerset Railway back up and running normally again," he said.

“So, given this bad news, we simply had to launch another ‘SOS’ emergency survival fund appeal for up to £1 million.

“We are still receiving donations money every week because people believe so strongly in our railway.

"Long may that continue to be the case, and let’s try to raise the £1 million as soon as possible, maybe more.

“It’s worth noting that we have now raised or received a total in financial help of an amazing £1.4 million from all sources to date since last March, so this appeal target is achievable.

The WSR Plc board also decided to defer any developmental work on creating a new over-arching charity, as suggested in last year's Bailey Report.

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“We had no choice sadly but to defer and pause the proposed new structure for the WSR and proposed creation of an over-arching charity, because of so many doubts about it, plus doing so would have cost us such a lot of money to implement, and that’s cash we simply don’t have available right now in the business," added Mr Jones-Pratt.

“We have to pay the bills from our suppliers, pay the wage bills for our dedicated staff, and try to generate as much revenue as we can in an impossibly short season with fewer trains and restricted passenger carrying capacity due to Covid restrictions.

“The WSR family is so very, very grateful to everyone who has helped us raise money in whatever way they could in the last year, and hopefully they will help us again now."

To donate visit west-somerset-railway.co.uk/donations.