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Heritage railways ‘relying on emergency funding for survival’

UK News | Published:

The coronavirus pandemic extinguished the income of heritage lines just as they were preparing for normally busy periods.

Many heritage railways are relying on emergency funding to help them survive the impact of Covid-19, according to the National Lottery

Many heritage railways are relying on emergency funding to help them survive the impact of Covid-19, according to the National Lottery.

The coronavirus pandemic extinguished the income of heritage lines just as they were preparing for normally busy periods around Mothering Sunday and half-term.

Eleven railways have been given support from the lottery’s £50 million heritage emergency fund.

Lottery funding has enabled maintenance to continue
Lottery funding has enabled maintenance to continue (Charles P. Friel/National Lottery/PA)

Organisations which have received funding include Nene Valley Railway, Cambridgeshire (£47,000); Isle of Wight Steam Railway (£39,300); Strathspey Railway, the Highlands (£45,500); and Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, West Yorkshire (£50,000).

This has enabled railways to develop reopening plans, maintain tracks and trains, and pay bills and salaries.

David Pearson, fundraising co-ordinator at Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, said the funding “means the difference between oblivion and survival”.

Kim Shaw, acting general manager at Nene Valley Railway, said: “The lockdown started at exactly the wrong time, just before the beginning of a new operating season.

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“Our bank balance was at its lowest, making the situation even more precarious.”

Eilish McGuinness, an executive director at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said the railways are “totally reliant” on the summer months for their income, and some are “facing a bleak future”.

She added: “Thankfully we have been able to support a number of them with emergency funding thanks to National Lottery players but there are still many challenges ahead as they look towards adapting, reopening and recovering in what will be a very different world.

“The heritage sector will be so vital for tourism, jobs and wellbeing as we emerge from this crisis and our heritage emergency fund remains open to help.”

According to the Heritage Railway Association, heritage railways and tramways provide 4,000 jobs and are worth £400 million to the visitor economy.

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