Severn Valley Railway clarifies photo charters position

Popular SR Bulleid Pacific No. 34027 Taw Valley is among the steam locomotives available to 'adopt'. SVR
Popular SR Bulleid Pacific No. 34027 Taw Valley is among the steam locomotives available to ‘adopt’. SVR

Following speculation about the Severn Valley Railway’s (SVR) stance on lineside passes for photographers and photo charters, the railway has now outlined its position.

The SVR suspended passes last year because of COVID-19, no photo charters took place last season or have been planned for the 2021 season.

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The railway has now clarified its long-term position on both of these issues. In the future it will not issue any new lineside passes, or accommodate any privately-run photo charters.

Helen Smith, the general manager of Severn Valley Railway, said: “I know that this news will disappoint some people. However, I ask you to step back and understand the extremely difficult position the railway faces.

“The income we receive from lineside passes and privately-run photo charters is insignificant when compared to the potential risk these activities naturally contain.

“This means that to continue them makes little financial sense. As the landowner, train operating company and infrastructure provider, if SVR Holdings continues to permit such activities we also hold liability for any accidents or injuries that the participants have.

“The Office of Road and Rail has ceased its ‘light touch’ approach to heritage rail and is beginning to apply more rigorous standards to all heritage operations. The SVR is of particular interest to the ORR because of the two fall from height incidents that have happened in less than a year.

“Put these factors together and you will see why it would not be in the SVR’s interests to allow these high risk activities to continue. Only a handful of heritage railways currently do so, and I expect that soon there will not be any.”

Holders of existing SVR lineside passes will be able to use them until they expire, and the railway will remove the temporary ban that was put in place because of COVID-19.

Once expired, lineside passes will will not be renewed. The railway has asked anyone with a valid pass to use it responsibly in the meantime.

The SVR acknowledges that it needs high quality images of rolling stock, both for its own use and for publication in the heritage and general press.

It plans to establish a small group of official volunteer SVR photographers who will have lineside access, and who will undertake rigorous and regular safety training. In return, they will be asked to give the railway full and free access to their work.

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