Shropshire Star

Heritage railway warns its future is under threat

It should have spent the weekend ferrying visitors up and down the tracks but instead a heritage railway is fighting for its future.

The Llangollen Railway is appealing for help from supporters

The Llangollen Railway spent Easter with its classic trains motionless and silent, with coronavirus movement restrictions shutting down the tourism attraction.

The impact of the lockdown has been keen and the railway's general manager, Liz McGuinness has pulled no punches by warning that 45 years of effort to build the railway up could be lost due to the impact of the crisis.

Operations on the line ceased on March 23 with full time staff laid off and volunteers at home, unable to help.

An appeal to supporters has raised £10,000, but if it is to survive, more help will be needed.

Ms McGuinness said: "Forty-five years of endeavour in rebuilding the railway as a tourist attraction is under threat. Yes, the railway is closed and may never reopen its doors if we don’t receive enough donations or grant funding. We are extremely grateful for the donations we have received so far and they are helping to keep us alive for now.

"Easter marked 30 years since we reopened to Deeside Halt, as an extension from Berwyn and an occasion which was then celebrated as a major advance with the preservation project, prior to further extensions to Glyndyfrdwy in 1992 and Carrog in 1996. It would be a travesty if we were never to see our 46th year and completion through to Corwen.

"As a major attraction in the Dee Valley, Llangollen Railway puts approximately £8.5 million in to the local economy every year and to lose that would be a massive negative to all the town's businesses and the surrounding area which benefits from visitors to the local stations and access to the Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural beauty.

"Llangollen Railway is an integral part of Llangollen and a prominent feature as seen from the river Dee bridge. It will also be a massive boost to Corwen once we open our new station there in the centre of town.

"In appealing for help from our many supporters I say, we cannot let this beautiful Heritage Railway die as we owe all those who have contributed to the project over many years. We support too many businesses and jobs in the area to let that happen but help is needed if we are to see the way through this difficult period."

The suspension of operations has not only hit the running of trains but also the station construction site at Corwen, where the volunteer workforce is no longer able to attend from their many home locations.

The spokesman for the Corwen Railway Development project, George Jones, said: "The need to suspend work on the new station is a total frustration of the volunteer endeavour to complete the final stage of building the new platform.

"The recent spell of fine and dry weather would have allowed rapid progress on work to pave the platform surface if surface drainage and lighting had been completed as planned. Ballasting of the track through the station loop has also been put on hold and the completion of the project will have been set back by however many weeks the lock-down extends."

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