Shropshire Star

Severn Valley Railway's interim boss gets permanent role at attraction

The man named interim boss of the Severn Valley Railway as been given the permanent appointment.

Jonathan 'Gus' Dunster has been made SVR's permanent managing director

Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster was made interim managing director of SVR (Holdings) Plc in March last year, 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 Severn Valley Railway (SVR), having volunteered for more than 30 years.

His role has now been made permanent, the heritage line has said.

​Chris Walton, SVR chairman, said: "This is great news for the railway. 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.”

Gus took over the interim MD role at a tumultuous time for the visitor attraction, which saw redundancies last year after financial struggles.

On taking on the position permanently, Gus 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.”