Popular Welsh railway to remain closed until at least August, say bosses

A Welsh railway line popular with tourists has announced it will not be operating any passenger services until at least August.

The Earl departs Llanfair Caereinion for its overhaul at the Vale of Rheidol Railway, June 2019.  Photo by Phil/Ellis/W&LLR
The Earl departs Llanfair Caereinion for its overhaul at the Vale of Rheidol Railway, June 2019. Photo by Phil/Ellis/W&LLR

The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway's line closure resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has been extended through July, as bosses make the decision to not reopen its passenger service.

Announcing the further closure following the latest review of the situation, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR) chairman Steve Clews said that the railway would begin working on its reactivation plan from the start of July, responding to likely further easing of lockdown measures in Wales.

“Wales continues to ease the lockdown in a careful manner, trailing the measures by the UK government by between one and three weeks,” Steve said.

“The latest notification of the planned easing has brought some clarity and cheer to then tourism sector. Importantly it looks as though the five-mile ‘stay local’ travel limit will be removed early in July and some self-contained holiday accommodation will open in mid-July.”

The line’s paid staff are all currently furloughed, with the railway being looked after by suitably qualified local volunteers. However an extensive and detailed plan is being prepared to enable the reopening of the line when it is possible to do so, the priority being to ensure the safety of visitors, staff and volunteers.

While the line remains closed, people are being urged to stay away from the route and not use it as a footpath. Works trains have been operating to carry out essential roles such as weedkilling, and anyone walking on the line will not only be trespassing but putting themselves in danger.

All involved with the railway have been greatly cheered by the response to its ‘Tracks to Recovery’ appeal, set up to help alleviate some of the significant losses resulting from having no revenue during the closure period. The appeal has raised more than £50,000, a significant aid while the trains are not running.

Having helped the railway navigate the closure period, the appeal has now been re-purposed to ensure that one of the original 1902-built locomotives, ‘The Earl’, is able to haul trains again in 2021. In mid 2019 the locomotive was sent for its mandatory 10-year overhaul at the Vale of Rheidol Railway in Aberystwyth, allowing the W&LLR’s own workshop team to tackle other pressing maintenance and restoration work.

Overhaul of ‘The Earl’ was planned to be funded out of existing revenue and donations, including a large legacy of uncommited funds. However the closure of more than four months resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic will mean that the railway will face much greater demands on its existing funds over the coming winter, leaving it needing to raise £95,000 to complete the overhaul of the locomotive.

The ‘Keep the Earl on Track’ appeal has already raised more than £30,000.

To donate to the fundraising appeal, visit https://cafdonate.cafonline.org/9557#!/DonationDetails

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