Severn Valley Railway launches £1.5m ‘survival fund’ appeal

Severn Valley Railway - Survival Appeal - April 2023

THE SEVERN VALLEY heritage railway service has launched a one-and-a-half-million pound ‘survival fund’ to secure the immediate future of the line which runs between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth.

For fans of Survivors, the Severn Valley Railway (SVR) is significant as one of the iconic filming locations used on the third series. In 1977, BBC Outside Broadcast cameras filmed sequences for the episodes Law of the Jungle, Mad Dog, Bridgehead and Power at the Highley and Hampton Loade stations and in the surrounding areas on and close to the line.

The most recent organised Survivors fan visit to the SVR took place in May 2019, during the Mad Dog 2019 event.

Falling visitor numbers – rising costs

The SVR has been hit hard financially by the impact of the Covid pandemic, by the soaring costs of coal and electricity, and by the experience common to many leisure and tourist attractions in the UK: that visitor numbers have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with a resulting loss of revenue.

“Last year, passenger numbers were almost one third lower than pre-Covid,” the SVR confirms. “In 2022 alone, we saw a drop in expected income of £1.5 million. Other heritage railways and local attractions had exactly the same experience. It became obvious that the cost-of-living crisis was really starting to bite.”

In response to the depletion in funding, the SVR announced in February that as many as 18 members of staff would be made redundant, that the early-season timetable would be restricted to fewer operational days, and that other cost savings would be found.

As bank reserves were depleted, overheads have still had to be met. “Our forecast for the coming year and into 2024 shows that we will not have any reserve in the bank,” the company says. “This means we won’t be able to lift ourselves out of the financial difficulties that we currently face.” Hence the need for the ‘survival fund’ appeal.

An Urgent need

“We urgently need to raise £1.5 million to enable the SVR to overcome the current financial crisis and implement longer-term plans for its future,” Managing Director Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster explains.

Dunster emphasises that the financial situation that the SVR is wrestling with is acute, and that the success of the ‘survival fund’ is essential. “Without this help, the SVR may not survive into next year,” he warns.

To find out more about the SVR’s plans to address the financial crisis, and stabilise the heritage railway for the future – and to donate to the SVR ‘Survival Fund’, visit the dedicated section of the SVR web site.

Another obvious way to help put cash in the SVR coffers is to arrange a visit to either end of the line and to purchase a ticket to travel to Highley or Hampton Loade stations or to the Country Park Halt.

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