Piling taking place at the site of the embankment slip near Gotherington, 23rd March 2020 (Picture by Jonathan Taylor)


  • Railway appeals for help as embankment slip and Coronavirus spell double-trouble

  • Embankment repairs near Gotherington to cost over £500,000

  • Coronavirus line closure: no income from train ticket sales


Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, Monday 23 March: The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR), which operates steam and heritage diesel trains over its 14 mile line between Cheltenham and Broadway, is facing a cash crisis – and is appealing for help from supporters.

Sheet piling taking place on 23 March 2020 (Pic: Jonathan Taylor)


Hundreds of 'soil nails' have been driven many metres through the embankment into the ground beneath to stabilise it and prevent future movements.  The heads of the soil nails can be seen in the foreground (Pic: Jonathan Taylor) 

Thanks to both an embankment slip and closure of the line because of Coronavirus, the railway is unable to fully fund the necessary civil engineering work to repair the damage and has today (Monday) launched an emergency appeal for help.


Work on repairing the slip, which is about half a mile south of Gotherington station, is already under way thanks to a substantial contribution from the railway’s supporting charitable group, Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust (GWRT). 


But this doesn’t go far enough.


Repairs had been carried out sufficiently for trains safely to pass the site of the slip when the railway reopened after its winter break on 7th March.  Special trains laid on for the Cheltenham Festival were also able to run.


But the problem has rapidly escalated because, based on Government advice, the line has been shut until further notice.  There is therefore no revenue from passenger ticket sales or catering.  It also means cancellation of special events such as ‘Wartime in the Cotswolds’ and the ‘Cotswold Festival of Steam’ both of which attract thousands of visitors.


“Black hole”

Nevertheless, work on the embankment – which is undergoing ‘soil nailing’ and ‘sheet piling’ using specialist contractors to permanently repair the slip – must continue in order to ensure the future of the railway.


Richard Johnson, the voluntary Chairman of GWSR Plc explains: “Standing at the top of the affected embankment, we are in every sense staring into a black hole that is fast sucking in cash.


“We can’t halt work on the slip, which has turned out to be more severe than originally thought.  We believe it was caused by persistent heavy rain following a dry summer. The ground is continuing to move.  


“If we halt works now to save money, the eventual repair cost will be considerably greater than if work continues now.


“And, as if this wasn’t bad enough, the escalating Coronavirus pandemic has meant that the line has had to close.


“What’s more, a high proportion of the volunteers on our volunteer-run railway, are unable to offer their time because they are in the ‘high risk’ category and must self-isolate.”


He points out that the railway has just six employees but over 950 volunteers who operate the railway on a day-to-day basis.


“Closing the railway means that money will very quickly run out and we are therefore appealing to supporters, shareholders and the public, who gain so much enjoyment from the operation of trains, to generously respond to our appeal. 


“We need to raise at least £250,000 as quickly as we can.  Otherwise the consequences are unthinkable: we would face a stark future for our line.”


Mr Johnson explains that had the railway been running, income from ticket sales could be ploughed straight into the embankment repair costs.  Last year, the line carried over 125,000 passengers.


“This is a real double blow,” he says.  “We believe we could have funded most of the embankment repair cost had trains been running and we could have planned for an appeal for support over a longer period.  But trains are not running and we need to replace that lost revenue: and fast.”


The GWSR is offering a range of ways to support it through this crisis.  Full information is available on www.gwsr.com or on social media.


Ends / more


Media contact: Ian Crowder, 07775 566 555 or press.office@gwsr.com




1: Donations can be made by Bank Transfer to Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust sort code 30-90-89 account number 47638368 using the reference 'Support the GWR'; or by sending a cheque payable to GWSR addressed to The Chairman, GWRT, Churchward House, Winchcombe Railway Station, Glos GL54 5LD

2: The GWSR is almost entirely restored and operated by volunteers and has won several awards since it started running a simple steam train service, over a few hungred yards of track, at Toddington in 1984.  It has since steadily grown and now opeerates main-line steam and diesel trains over the 14 miles between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway.  Broadway station, entirely built by volunteers, opened on Good Friday, 2018 scooping the main Award at the Heritage Railway Awards that year.  The line last year (2019) carried over 125,000 passengers making it one of the leading tourist attractions in the Cotswolds.  The GWSR has overcome past difficulties includeing landslips, one at Winchcombe dividing the railway for more than a year and costing over £1m to repair.  The cause of the latest slip near Gotherington is thought to be a combination of extremely wet weather saturating the ground after a dry summer, combined with histoirc drainage problems.  It is expected to cost over £500,000 to repair.  The railway has over recent years invested heavily on drainage improvements.