WSR to close for three-month ‘re-group’ after investigation

THE West Somerset Railway (WSR) has made the unprecedented decision to voluntarily close for three months from January 2 to April 1, 2019 in order to ‘re-group’ following a visit by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) and the issuing of its findings.

As a result there will be no running during the February half-term and the annual Spring Steam Gala in March has been postponed. While this will undoubtedly hit the railway financially, and maybe also in terms of morale, the closure equates to only 17 days’ normal running, plus the four gala days, that will be lost.

The WSR confirmed to The RM the visit by the ORR staff stemmed from public concerns raised with them on how the railway was being managed, along with issues aired on internet railway forums.

GWR ‘Modified Hall’ 4-6-0 No. 6960 Raveningham Hall passes Watersmeet with the West Somerset Railway’s 16.15 Bishop’s Lydeard-Minehead train on October 29. QUENTIN HAWKES

However, the WSR plc’s newly incumbent chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt has stressed in a statement issued following the ORR visit that “there has never been any major safety threat or unreported dangerous occurrence”, but admitted the WSR has “been mired of late with the time-consuming distractions of unnecessary conflicts, unattractive messages, bad feelings and PR, both within the railway and beyond, seen by the outside world who rightly wonder what’s been going on”.

The ORR’s visit resulted in an eight-page report of observations and recommendations, but not an improvement or prohibition notice.

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