Voluntary redundancy is one of the measures being implemented by The Severn Valley Railway to ‘survive and thrive’ – and compulsory redundancies have not been ruled out.
A significant drop in passenger revenue and secondary spend post-pandemic, alongside escalating costs within the business – made worse by the cost-of-living crisis – means the SVR must look at ways to adapt.
Changes to staff working patterns and a recruitment freeze were also among the measures announced by the railway today. A statement released to the media said that it is ‘working hard’ to avoid compulsory redundancies.
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“When we planned our programme and budgets for 2022, it was on the basis that we would see a gradual return to ‘normal’ pre-pandemic levels of activity as the year progressed. This did not happen, and the economic outlook suggests that 2023 may well be worse than 2022,” said Mike Ball, chairman of SVR (Holdings) Plc.
“What we believed were temporary changes are going to be longer term ones, and we must adapt in order to survive now and thrive in the future.”
The railway’s leaders reassured the public that the line is ‘entering the coming year with strong resolve and a determination to meet the challenges it expects to encounter’.
The statement read: “The measures announced include changes to staff working patterns, a recruitment freeze, voluntary redundancies and pro-active steps to save energy usage across the business. The railway says it hasn’t ruled out compulsory redundancies but is working hard to avoid these.”
It added: “Tourist attractions across the UK continue to be impacted by up to 30% drops in visitor numbers since Covid and this has been made worse by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
“The SVR is taking pro-active action to protect its business and ensure it comes through to thrive in the future.”
Steps to save energy usage across the business are also part of the measures. The cost of utilities, the SVR said, is one of the biggest expenses it faces. Managers are ‘clamping down’ on wastage across the 16 miles of the SVR’s line. They have asked volunteers to consolidate their working patterns so that premises only need heating and lighting for minimal times, as well as encouraging work to be put off where possible until the spring and summer, to save on costs.
Helen Smith, the SVR’s managing director, added: “We are facing the double problem of a significant drop in passenger revenue and secondary spend alongside escalating costs across all areas of the business. The current situation in Ukraine means the cost of utilities to heat and light our premises has rocketed, along with the cost of coal and diesel to power our locomotives.
“We want to make these important changes, in the coming year and beyond, to ensure our award-winning attraction continues to offer an excellent value-for-money experience for visitors.
“The resourcefulness and dedication of the SVR’s staff, both paid and volunteer, is truly marvellous. They are literally the lifeblood of what makes this railway tick, and we’re working actively with everyone to achieve our objectives this year. We’re also grateful to our wonderful visitors who choose us to spend their time with. We want to make sure they have a heritage experience to cherish in 2023.”
The SVR is currently in its annual maintenance shutdown period and will reopen on Saturday, March 4.
Mike added: “The SVR has been running as a preserved railway since 1970, and it has an inspirational and glorious history. We’re determined to do everything we can now to protect it for future generations to enjoy. The year ahead is going to be critical to achieving that aim.”
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