West Somerset Railway (WSR) plc chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt said that the line’s financial fortunes during the peak summer period were better than expected.
July showed a profit of £49,503 compared to a budgeted loss of £29,036, while income during the month mainly comprises fares of £123,794, retail income of £49,588, locomotive department income of £14,255, and restoration income of £11,264.
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“While the results for July are very encouraging, we still have work to do here,” he said. “When we set the budgets, we were cautious and forecast a loss of £416,458 for the year to the end of July. We have achieved a better result, with a smaller loss of £148,594.
“We don’t yet know the complete fare income for August, though early returns are promising and most trains are well loaded.”
Culture Fund bid
However, he added: “Once we break even on our day-to-day operations, we must raise money to invest in and improve the track, infrastructure and stock for the future. We need to make progress on this through the coming winter to get ready for an even busier 2022.
“We are working on a further Culture Recovery Fund bid and a bid to the Somerset County Council Fund.
“Our own SOS recovery fund, launched in June, is slowly building but more effort is required.
“The recent incoming main line excursions and the servicing were excellent and demonstrate the good reputation we have with external operators.”
The £1 million SOS appeal has passed the £50,000 mark. The WSR is looking to increase this figure rapidly now, with the help of a new fundraising drive to push donations in different ways, plus some specific infrastructure projects that the line’s two charities can also support.
After launching its Christmas programme on August 30 with both the traditional Santa Express and new Winterlights illuminated trains, both seasonal products have been eagerly snapped up; 2650 tickets have been sold, bringing in more than £55,500 in much-needed income.
Winterlights has done particularly well, with 2000 tickets sold at a value of £42,500 altogether, and some trains have already sold out. Early Santa Express bookings have sold 650 tickets, with a value of £13,000.
The WSR remained hopeful that the delayed opening of the new Seaward Way level crossing in Minehead will take place in October.