Shropshire Star

Severn Valley Railway steams into tough times ahead as it appoints boss to permanent position

A regionally important heritage railway organisation has confirmed the appointment of its interim managing director to the job permanently.

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Jonathan 'Gus' Dunster

Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster has been holding the interim role at Severn Valley Railway since March 1 last year but now SVR has approved the permanent appointment as MD at SVR (Holdings) Plc with immediate effect.

Mr Dunster has been at SVR following his retirement from his previous role as Avanti West Coast’s executive director of operations and safety. He was already an extremely well-known face at the SVR, having volunteered there for more than 30 years.

“This is great news for the railway,” said Chris Walton, the chairman of SVR (Holdings) Plc.

“It’s yet another step in stabilising our organization, as we continue to meet the many challenges we face.

“Over the past year, Gus has worked closely not only with me, but also the rest of the board, the senior leadership team and our paid staff and volunteers.

"He has made a huge contribution to the railway’s operation, galvanizing the entire team, and putting many new measures in place to secure the future of the SVR.

“He has brought in new board members, who have significantly strengthened our leadership, and he has also been instrumental in forging the SVR’s landmark partnership with Network Rail, the first of its kind in the UK.

"His experience and connections with main line rail companies continue to yield invaluable benefits for us, and enable us to secure diverse income streams, and benefits in kind.”

Mr Dunster thinks SVR is on the right tracks to take on the challenges of the time but tough times still lie ahead.

He said: “It’s been a pleasure to be the SVR’s interim MD for the past 11 months, as the railway works hard to counteract the long-term impacts of pandemic lockdowns, rocketing costs, and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis that threatens visitor numbers.

"It’s still early days, but there’s a very real sense that we are now firmly heading in the right direction. I want to pay tribute to everyone across the SVR who has ‘done their bit’ in recent times.

"Despite the challenges we have much to look back on with pride from the 2023 season. I am very proud to be part of the team at this important time in our railway’s history.

“I must reiterate the message that tough times still lie ahead.

"We cannot be under any illusion that things are ‘back to normal’. Like all heritage railways, we face continuing challenges, but I am confident we can meet these, if we all work together for the good of the SVR.

“As we approach our 60th anniversary in 2025, I hope everyone associated with the railway will share my optimism, and my determination to safeguard the SVR’s future.”