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Severn Valley Railway MD Helen Smith set to leave

The managing director of one of the region's most popular tourist attractions has confirmed she will be leaving the organisation.

Helen Smith will leave the organisation in the next few months
Helen Smith will leave the organisation in the next few months

Helen Smith, managing director of the Severn Valley Railway, has today announced her departure from the organisation to take up another role elsewhere.

It comes just one day after railway leaders announced voluntary redundancies amid rapid rising costs and a drop in visitor numbers.

The heritage railway said a significant drop in visitor numbers – and increasing energy costs – had prompted 'proactive action' to 'protect its business'.

Ms Smith will remain in post for the next few months and will be working closely with SVR's chairman, Mike Ball, and vice chairman, Jonathan Dunster, to ensure a smooth handover.

The railway says it will release more information as soon as possible.

Mr Ball said: “Helen has made a phenomenal contribution to the SVR.

"In the three years that she’s been with us she has steered the railway through the devastating impact of Covid, ensuring we secured substantial government support and emergency grant funding to keep us going when we were unable to operate.

“She successfully oversaw the reopening of the railway in very changed and testing circumstances, with the country still in partial lockdown.

"It’s a testament to her leadership that we won a national VisitEngland excellence award for Resilience and Innovation last year.”

Meanwhile, the Severn Valley Railway announced yesterday its plans to make sure it survives the economic challenges of the coming year.

Railway leaders confirmed they are considering a range of cost-cutting measures including changes to staff working patterns, a recruitment freeze and voluntary redundancies.

The railway said says it hadn't ruled out compulsory redundancies, but is working hard to avoid these.

Commenting on the announcement yesterday, Ms Smith said: “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 life-blood 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.”

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