AROUND £30k has been raised in a month for a railway thanks to the public and a generous energy company.

On June 7, West Somerset Railway (WSR) launched their £1million SOS appeal and since then has managed to raise three percent of their overall funding needs.

As well as this, WSR received an unexpected boost just days after launching the appeal, thanks to Meercat Associates. They investigated WSR’s energy systems and managed to save the railway £12,800 off their gas and electric bills.

Andrew Childers, CEO of Meercat Associates, said: “When we heard about the plight of the West Somerset Railway and their SOS appeal, we just had to help. Our energy manager spent a great deal of time gathering all the information so he could ascertain the best course of action.

“He decided that our ‘Reverse Auction’ platform was the one best suited to bring down the WSR’s costs. This is where we get over 40 energy suppliers to compete with each other for supplying their services, driving down the price with each bid in order to secure the business.

“There is no charge for using our services because, like most brokers, we are paid by way of commissions from the supplier. As we can drive these costs down so effectively, and our commissions are low, this ensures the greatest savings are realised for the end user.

“We’re so pleased the WSR is now making this sizeable saving to contribute towards their big SOS appeal. We wish them well with all their ongoing fund-raising efforts, and look forward to working with other heritage railways.”

The funding appeal started after WSR had two formal appeals turned down following the rejection of the bid for £432,200 in the second round of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

WSR have said the £500,000 will help to keep the railway going, and the second £500,000 (if successful) will go towards developing the railway’s infrastructure over the winter.

“We operate 10 stations, gift shops and cafes, but had multiple energy and other suppliers with an array of contracts ending on different dates,” said Jonathan Jones-Pratt, chairman of the WSR plc, which operates the line.

“Managing our supply costs is very complex and time-consuming for us so, as well as the annual savings gained so far which will go towards our SOS appeal, we’re delighted that Meercat is now monitoring our ongoing consumption of core services and will give strategic advice as and when we should switch suppliers again in the future.

“With the cost of energy continuing to rise, it’s re-assuring to have this important support and expertise in place, and all of our meters are now aligned with common end dates, and managed through Meercat’s portal.

“This not only allows the WSR full access to all meter details, usage and forecast costings, but also peace of mind when the contracts are approaching renewal that Meercat will drive the prices down for us.

"I’m delighted that Meercat are now keen to offer their free-of-charge services to other heritage railways.”