Shortage of steam footplate crew could hit tour operators

by Robin Jones

FIFTY years after the end of BR steam, a growing shortage of main line steam drivers is set to hit parts of the charter market.

West Coast Railways, which along with DB Cargo, is the principal provider of steam operations for tour operators, has said that it will struggle to provide them from the end of this year, unless the situation improves.

A statement issued by the Carnforth-based Train Operating Company on November 7 read: “With the recent retirement of several long-serving steam train-crew, it has become increasingly clear that, in order to service the requirements of both its own in-house operations and those undertaken on behalf of third parties, West Coast Railways’ resources are being stretched to the limit, particularly in the south of England.

“WCR feels that at present it will be unable to provide services to organisations, such as Tyseley-based Vintage Trains, beyond the end of 2017 and has advised them accordingly.”

West Coast’s managing director Pat Marshall said: “It is a shame that we have to make this decision but, when it comes to steam, it is a fact of life that there are fewer and fewer experienced suitably-qualified railwaymen out there. The requirements to train and pass out new crew are becoming ever more onerous and time-consuming and, in the current climate, we don’t see the position changing.”

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