Minehead sets late winter break for major upgrade

NEW West Somerset Railway plc chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt has vowed to make a complete spring clean of the line in order to bring it into the 21st century.

Appointed as acting chairman two months ago but now having taken on the position permanently, Jonathan has arranged for Britain’s longest standard gauge heritage railway (22¾ miles) to be closed from January 2 until March 30, in order to enable infrastructure to be modernised where appropriate, along with a thorough review of all administrative and financial procedures and practices.

He has brought in Tyseley powerhouse Bob Meanley as acting head of mechanical engineering to assist with the major revamp of the line. As reported last issue, Bob has stepped down as Tyseley Locomotive Works managing director after around 25 years in the post.

On September 29, during the West Somerset Railway autumn steam gala, WR 4-6-0 No. 7822 Foxcote Manor arrives at Blue Anchor with the 5.40pm from Minehead to Bishops Lydeard. JOHN LABRUM

He is remaining as consultant technical director and will continue to be a trustee of 7029 Clun Castle Limited (the Tyseley collection’s owning charity).

Furthermore, former long-serving WSR plc managing director and Heritage Railway Association vice-chairman Mark Smith has agreed to rejoin the board as policy & business development director. Another recent appointment is of Danny Scoggins as safety & compliance officer.

He also runs the HOPS system used by several heritage lines.

The closure and remedial work follows a visit by the Office of Road and Rail (ORR), which, it was believed, was prompted in part by comments posted on a social media site. The ORR subsequently compiled a report outlining several recommendations to the WSR, and said that it had a ‘significant number of important actions to take.’

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