Shropshire Star

People of Bridgnorth stress importance of town's under-threat Cliff Railway

Leaders in Bridgnorth have stressed the importance of the historic Cliff Railway to the town and the urgent need for it to reopen, after it was closed due to a "dangerous wall" on a neighbouring council property.

Engineer Barry Evans above the track

Bridgnorth Cliff Railway was forced to close on December 21 due to the condition of a retaining wall which posed serious safety risks to the railway.

As a result of this, the railway faces months of closure until the repair works can be done, and the business has been forced to enter the first stage of redundancy consultations.

Fourteen out of the 16 staff members at the funicular railway are set to lose their jobs as a consequence of the closure.

Steve Robbins, chairman of Bridgnorth's Chamber of Commerce, said: "The railway is important to the town, it's a major tourist attraction.

"Although people don't come to the town on the railway, they do enjoy riding it when they arrive in town.

"Hopefully we're going into better weather and spring's coming, so the sooner it's open the better."

Former mayor of Bridgnorth, Ron Whittle, was frustrated that a danger posed by a council property had closed down one of the town's largest tourist attractions.

Mr Whittle said: "This problem has been around for quite some time - it was there when I was mayor. When I left the council almost two years ago, I thought it was all in hand to get it done but clearly not.

"It's the second biggest tourist attraction for the town after Severn Valley Railway and now it will be closed for months.

"I've spoken to the director of the railway, Malvern Tipping, and he told me that they always lose money over the winter months and they rely on the summer months to make that money back - but the way it's looking, it'll be closed for the start of the summer.

"They've known for ages about this - why not do something before now? Instead of doing it as an emergency job, it should have been planned."

Clive Gwilt, a historian of the Shropshire town and expert on the Cliff Railway, said: "It's a very important facility in the town, mainly for people who can't walk up Cartway or Stoneway Steps to get into High Town and vice versa into Low Town.

The "dangerous" retaining wall on a neighbouring council property which has forced the closure of the Cliff Railway

"It needs to be open before Easter ready for the influx of tourists."

Speaking on the history of the railway, Mr Gwilt said: "The railway opened on July 7, 1892. The ceremony was performed by the mayor, William Burton, accompanied by the corporation and on the occasion the borough held a public holiday.

"Between July and September 1892, 50,000 passengers used the railway. For nearly 41 years the railway provided a useful service until April 1933 when it was decided to close the railway down. In May 1934 it was promptly reopened by new shareholders."

The railway has remained a popular attraction and an iconic face of the town ever since, until the threat of the wall put its future in jeopardy.

Spokeswoman for Bridgnorth Town Council, Clare Turner, said: “Bridgnorth Town Council are in the process of undertaking investigations, including discussing next steps with various stakeholders, including specialist engineers, Shropshire Council and, of course, the Cliff Railway.

“Once those investigations and discussions have taken place, we propose to set out our substantive position."