The Severn Valley Railway has launched a £1.5m survival fund appeal to enable it to continue to operate in the future.
The heritage railway states that a viable future for the railway will be at risk unless there is an urgent injection of cash.
It has reassured passengers that it is fully committed to delivering the highest standards of quality and experience over the coming year, but says it needs additional funding to enable it to survive in the future.
Senior Severn Valley Railway managers say that the railway has been affected by changes in the financial climate over the past three years. These have come about as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, post-Brexit supply chain issues and the cost-of-living crisis.
“We’re facing the double whammy of escalating costs and lower revenue. Costs across the railway have spiralled, including utilities, coal, diesel, steel, copper, catering supplies and interest rates,” said Chris Walton, interim chairman of SVR (Holdings) Plc, the railway’s operating company.
“In the past 12 months alone, our electricity bill has more than doubled, and this year it will not be far short of £500,000. All of these factors are outside our control. Put this against the fact that passenger numbers were down last year by about a third, compared to pre-pandemic. That equated to around £1.5m in lost revenue, which has left us badly weakened.”
The heritage railway says it has already put many cost-saving measures in place, including recruitment freezes for non-essential roles as well as voluntary and compulsory redundancies. Services have also been reduced to fewer days per week than last year in order to cut back on operating costs.
“Unless we address this situation urgently, we won’t be able to lift the railway out of the financial difficulties it’s now facing,” said Jonathan Dunster, the Senior Severn Valley Railway’s interim managing director.
“The Survival Fund will help us through the coming year, in order to start 2024 with a sufficient ‘reserve’. Then we’ll stand a real chance of getting the railway properly back on its feet, so it can thrive and be fit for the future.”
The Survival Fund appeal has been launched jointly by the three companies that form the Severn Valley Railway – SVR (Holdings) Plc, the SVR Company Ltd and the SVR Charitable Trust.