Rusty rails will get a shine once again from 13th April (pic Ian Crowder)
Government ‘roadmap’ heralds railway reopening
Steam train services resume on Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway from Tuesday 13 April
Covid-19 restrictions expected to remain until end of June
Return of trains marks GWSR’s 40th anniversary
“Light at the end of the Covid tunnel”
Winchcombe, Wednesday 24 February 2021: The Government’s much-anticipated ‘roadmap’ for easing Covid-19 restrictions has opened the way for the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) to reopen, on Tuesday 13 April, coincidentally marking the 40th anniversary since the railway company was formed. It is the first British heritage railway to announce a post-lockdown return to operation.
Trains will resume following the same Covid-secure precautions as last year, when the railway safely carried families by steam train through the Cotswold countryside between Cheltenham and Broadway. The resumed service will again comprise pre-bookable round trips of the 14-mile railway, starting and finishing at Toddington.
Explains Richard Johnson, the volunteer Chairman of GWSR “This is the news we have eagerly been waiting for. The restart is later than we had hoped and it misses Easter but naturally, it’s important that restrictions are eased cautiously and safely as the national vaccination programme is rolled out.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming families back to the ‘friendly line in the Cotswolds’!
“Of course, our visitors and volunteers will still need to wear masks while on our station platforms and when on the trains, unless in their own social bubble in a closed compartment.”
Trains start and terminate at Toddington station, GL54 5DT* and will only be pre-bookable online at www.gwsr.com. Services will run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays with Covid restrictions in place. These restrictions are expected to continue until late June, depending on further Government guidance.
“Last year, we carried 29,000 passengers – a huge drop from the 125,000 carried the previous year. But to coin an entirely appropriate term, there is certainly light at the end of the Covid tunnel,” adds Richard.
“We have become well practiced in managing trains safely and securely, with a strict and effective cleaning and train fogging regime to minimise any risk of contamination and that continues.”
Trains comprise six carriages, five of which are of the ‘old-fashioned’ corridor compartment type. Compartments can be booked to seat a minimum of two and up to six people, accessed through a sliding door from the side corridor. This creates a natural ‘bubble’ for a family to enjoy. An open coach is also provided for individuals and couples who are socially distanced and are required to wear a mask unless eating.
Meanwhile a very limited number of volunteers have been working on the railway undertaking essential maintenance tasks, including preparing locomotives for their annual insurance examinations and infrastructure repairs and maintenance. As restrictions are eased a greater number of volunteers will be making preparations for the coming resumption of train services.
“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our 40th Anniversary. Our company was formed in 1981, after British Railways had abandoned the route and removed all of the track and infrastructure. Many people thought the task of rebuilding the railway was an impossible dream. But without the vision and determination of those early volunteers, we wouldn’t have the wonderful Cotswolds railway we have today and which people will be once again be able to enjoy, from 13th April.”
Train services from Tuesday 13 April 2021:
One train timetable (steam)
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays to the end of April
Trains depart Toddington at 10.00 and 13.20 (round trip takes approx. 2.5 hours)
Two train timetable (steam)
Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday (2 May) and from 4 May, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 30 June (except 25 April, 23 May and 27 June**),
Trains depart Toddington at 10.00; 11.40; 13.20 and 15.00 (round trip takes approx. 1.5 hours)
** Heritage Diesel Days Sundays 25 April, 23 May and 27 June
Trains depart Toddington 10.00, 12.30 and 15.00 using a variety of diesel motive power
Details of train services from the end of June will be published on www.gwsr.com when available.
Ends / More
Ian Crowder, 07775 566555 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bryony Exton, email@example.com
Catherine Johnson, 07920 406630 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT GLOUCESTERSHIRE WARWICKSHIRE STEAM RAILWAY
The award-winning Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) operates over 14 miles through the Cotswolds between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the railway has, since 15th August operated round trips when permitted under government guidance only from Toddington station, bookable in advance and that continues from 13 April until the end of June, unless restrictions are eased earlier. Subject to Covid-19 lockdowns. Turn-up-and-go tickets have been available subject to space being available on trains. Services have and continue to reflect prevailing Government guidelines. The GWSR is on part of the former Great Western Railway route between the West Midlands and Bristol, South Wales and the West Country. The line between Cheltenham and Stratford-upon Avon closed in 1976 and the infrastructure was removed in 1979, the formative GWSR beginning to rebuild the line 40 years ago in 1981.