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Severn Valley Railway in recruitment boost

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The Severn Valley Railway has made big strides towards staving off a possible shortage of volunteer train staff after pulling in more than 30 prospective new guards from a special recruiting day. The Severn Valley Railway has made big strides towards staving off a possible shortage of volunteer train staff after pulling in more than 30 prospective new guards from a special recruiting day. Bosses on the Kidderminster to Bridgnorth steam heritage line revealed last week they expected to lose nearly half of their 75 volunteer guards to retirement in the next 10 to 15 years, and warned services could have to be cut if replacements were not found. But train crew manager Mel Cook - who hopes to recruit 100 new volunteer guards to stave off a crisis - said he had been "hugely encouraged" by the response to the induction day held at the weekend.

The Severn Valley Railway has made big strides towards staving off a possible shortage of volunteer train staff after pulling in more than 30 prospective new guards from a special recruiting day.

Bosses on the Kidderminster to Bridgnorth steam heritage line revealed last week they expected to lose nearly half of their 75 volunteer guards to retirement in the next 10 to 15 years, and warned services could have to be cut if replacements were not found.

But train crew manager Mel Cook - who hopes to recruit 100 new volunteer guards to stave off a crisis - said he had been "hugely encouraged" by the response to the induction day held at the weekend.

"It's an excellent start," he said. "The response, as perhaps you might imagine, has been mainly from people in the 40-plus age bracket who have taken early retirement.

"But several people in their twenties also came, and we have had emails or telephone messages from another half a dozen people who are keen but couldn't make it on the day."

Prospective new guards were given an introductory talk and watched a DVD showing a day in the life of a train guard.

Mr Cook said several also took the opportunity to ride down the line on a train to see first-hand what was involved in being a train guard.

"I am optimistic that the majority of those who came on Saturday will convert to become guards, and in fact some of those who have already signed up are starting their first formal training session today," Mr Cook added.

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"It may be some would prefer to become Travelling Ticket Inspectors, or to work on the railway in some other way - and we will welcome them all.

"One gentleman we spoke to is blind, and obviously cannot be a train guard - but he was determined to become a volunteer, and I'm sure that he can - perhaps in the role of station announcer, or in some other way that is not sight-critical.

"We have never gone out before to recruit new volunteers in this way, but the bottom line is, if we just wait for the world to beat a path to our doorstep, it isn't going to happen.

"We have to be proactive and take the lead."

Anyone interested in becoming a guard or volunteering on the SVR is urged to email melcook@svrtoc.org.uk or call 07532293165.

By Wayne Beese

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