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SATURDAY’S first passenger train climbs Crowcombe Bank. PHOTO: Jake Genge.

West Somerset Railway re-opens after 14 months

AFTER being shut since March 2020 as a result of the lockdown, the West Somerset Railway (WSR) finally saw trains running along the 22-mile line from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead on Saturday after the easing of Government restrictions.

Initially, WSR trains will operate out and back from Bishops Lydeard to Williton only. Social distancing regulations will still be in force then and passengers will, therefore, need to travel in pre-allocated seats and remain on board for the entire return journey, similar to the WSR’s Santa services last December.

WSR spokesperson Dick Wood said: “It will not yet be possible to offer train services to any intermediate stations on the line, or through to Minehead sadly. We regret this but are working hard to complete the link again.

“Extensive key infrastructure works between Williton and Minehead have yet to be completed, including rebuilding Seaward Way Level Crossing at the seaside town.

“WSR trains will be fully cleaned internally between services, and seats will need to be pre-booked either on the WSR website on the internet, or by phone to the WSR’s Minehead offices. Advance on-line bookings are now open.

“In order to enhance the passenger offering, a range of at-seat catering options will be made available on selected running days.

“These will include various food and drink choices on different services such as morning tea, coffee and cake, lunchtime fish and chips, and afternoon cream teas. Further catering options will be made available later in the season on specific dates, as in previous years.”

Extending services

Dick Wood added: “As Government restrictions are gradually lifted, the WSR expects to extend the services to Watchet and Blue Anchor after June 2, and then Dunster with a bus link to Minehead.

“If CV-19 restrictions do remain in place, however, it will be necessary for passengers to have fixed return journeys to specific destinations.

“With all of the uncertainty for the year ahead, it may not be possible to carry out many of the popular, quality events that the WSR normally offers, but it intends to announce these later in 2021.

“That said, it’s anticipated that the 1940s weekend will go ahead in some form over the weekend September 11 and 12, along with hopefully normal Christmas services planned to recommence at the beginning of December.

Test trains

“Prior to the re-opening to passengers, several pre-opening trial and test trains have been operating in order for safety critical staff to have refresher duties and receive updated operational information.

“These ‘test’ trains started running in mid-April and the sight and sound of steam locos has also breathed new life into many local residents who have been pleased to have them back again, especially the familiar sound of the locos’ whistles.”

Full details of passenger times and fares are available at www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk

 

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