THE West Somerset Railway, Britain’s longest heritage line, had a far better year in 2021 than forecast despite the ravages of Covid, and now looks to be on track for a full service this year.

Due to lockdowns and a late start to its timetable, officials had budgeted for a loss for last season of well over a quarter-of-a-million pounds which was reduced to £55,000.

A record-breaking month of Santa Specials and new Winterlights trains brought in around £271,000 and £204,000 was clear profit.

This was ‘an incredible success’, said company chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt.

He added: “I must say a big ‘thank you’ to all of our wonderful staff and volunteers who have worked tirelessly for the railway during the past season.

“Overall the income over the Christmas season has provided a lifeline for the WSR and should mean we can re-open for a full season this year with confidence. This has been achieved by an extremely hard-working team and means the business is healthy.”

The company and its two supporting charities – the West Somerset Railway Association and the Heritage Trust – had agreed to put past difficulties aside to work much more closely together, he also said.

With the end of work on the new level crossing in Seaward Way, Minehead, training was underway for staff, and services should be back to normal in the Spring.

Mr Jones-Pratt also said they all ‘are really looking forward to an exciting 2022’.