The Great Central Railway has announced a voluntary redundancy scheme as part of a programme to reduce costs. While much of the line continues to be run by volunteers, a number of positions are filled by paid staff. As it enters a new financial year, staff are being offered the chance to apply for redundancy with a view to saving some £250,000.
Malcolm Holmes, general manager of the Great Central Railway, said: “We are not alone in the heritage railway sector, or indeed the whole leisure industry, in having seen our overall costs increase hugely over the four years since the beginning of Covid-19 and the Ukraine war. In particular, the cost of heating and lighting our sheds, stations and cafes is a substantial unavoidable burden.
“While these costs have at least stabilised, we are forced to pay an extraordinary price for coal for our locomotives, which has soared. In the meantime, families have less disposable income to enjoy days out. We continue to grow, raise funds, and diversify our business so we are far more of a visitor attraction than just a train ride, but the time has come where cost-cutting can’t be avoided. It’s going to be a tough few weeks because I am so proud of our team and the hard work they have invested in the railway.”
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Besides the redundancy programme, the railway has sold its 50% share in a class 8F locomotive to the David Clarke Railway Trust, the official supporting charity of the GCR. Other assets may be disposed of in the coming weeks.
Staff at the railway were notified on January 15. Compulsory redundancies may be necessary if there are not enough expressions of interest in voluntary redundancy. Mr Holmes concluded: “This is absolutely not a crisis situation but a recognition we are not immune to turbulent financial times and we have to plan accordingly. The railway has ambitious plans to grow in the future. We have generous supporters who delight in seeing the line thrive and hundreds of thousands of visitors each year who enjoy travelling on our heritage trains and exploring the line. We want to be a key economic driver in the East Midlands. We hope people will continue to support the railway, by visiting our stations, refreshment rooms and enjoying our vibrant special events.”
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