Modified hall no. 7903 Foremarke Hall will be in charge of the first train on 15 August 2020. It's here seen emerging from Greet Tunnel (Pic: The late Malcolm Ranieri FRPS)
Popular Cotswolds steam railway reopens on 15 August – tickets now on sale!
Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway emerges from lockdown
Tickets ONLY bookable online
‘New normal’ round trips from Toddington station only
Special social-distancing and cleanliness measures in place
First train to be hauled by locomotive Foremarke Hall
Winchcombe, 20 July 2020: The virtual ticket office of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) is now open in advance of steam train services re-starting on Saturday 15 August 2020, as Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
This follows more than 22 weeks of suspended operations at a time when 150,000 passengers were expected to enjoy normal train services and special events on the popular 14-mile line, which runs through the Cotswolds between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway.
Tickets are now on sale at www.gwsr.com and are only bookable online, up to midday before the day of travel (subject to availability) and the railway’s tickets offices are closed.
Tickets can be downloaded to a smart device or printed at home.
Each train is made up of six coaches – including five compartment coaches with a side corridor for parties of a minimum of two and up to six people. One is an open coach available for individuals or couples at designated seats to ensure social-distancing.
The first train is expected to be pulled by ‘Modified Hall’ class no. 7903 Foremarke Hall – one of the most popular engines on the line. It is known to have worked over this route in British Railways days.
Graham Radband, the GWSR’s commercial director says: “Designing a train service that enables us to comply with strict self-distancing and cleaning measures for the safety of both visitors and the volunteers who operate the railway, hasn’t been easy.
“What we have come up with is a steam train service that allows everyone to enjoy the journey and the fantastic countryside that we run through.
“All journeys start and finish at Toddington and most passengers will be accommodated in old-fashioned compartment coaches within their own ‘social bubble’. This means that when in their compartment, passengers may take off their masks – this is the ‘new normal’.
“Individuals can also travel and they will be accommodated at a designated seat in an open coach but to meet Government guidelines they will need to wear a mask except when eating or drinking.
“There is a break of about 20 minutes at each end of the line, at Broadway and at Cheltenham, where our visitors may get off the train and watch the locomotive uncouple, run-round to the other end and re-couple ready for the return trip.”
The Flag & Whistle Tea Rooms at Toddington station will be open, but the volunteer-run cafés at Winchcombe and Broadway and on-train buffet cars won’t be available. However pre-packed snacks and drinks or a picnic lunch can be reserved when booking and this will be given to travellers at their seats, while hot drinks will be available at Cheltenham Racecourse station.
The timetable is modified to either two or four departures from Toddington each day. Fares are £25 per head for individuals and couples. A party of six in a compartment costs a minimum of £50 for two people plus £10 per head up to six (a full compartment costing £90). Unfortunately, as the railway has to rebuild its finances after the pandemic, vouchers and discounted tickets are not for the time being accepted.
Adds Graham Radband: “This is a very exciting first step towards resuming our train services. It has been a very difficult year with no income, yet the bills still continue to come in while we have also had to deal with an embankment landslip near Gotherington.
“The landslip was the subject of an appeal which raised £250,000 in just ten weeks to help the railway meet the £500,000 cost of repairing it – without the generosity of so many people the future of the railway was at stake.
“It’s fair to say that every volunteer on our railway is deeply grateful for every £1 contributed to that appeal – it means that we can face the future and rebuild the business with confidence.”
Ends / More
NOTES FOR EDITORS
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Here are a few ‘frequently asked questions’ which may help!
Can I turn up and buy tickets at your stations? No – at present you can only pre-book online. You will be allocated your seat(s) and you can only start and finish your journey at Toddington.
I don’t have a printer – can I show you the tickets on my mobile device?
Yes, you can download a ‘virtual’ e-ticket on your phone or other smart device, or you can print the ticket at home. You can book up to midday the day before you travel. But if you need a ticket sent to you please book at least seven days before you travel so that one can be printed and posted to you in time – you will find an option to ask for this when you book your tickets
How many people will be able to travel together as a group?
Up to six people can travel together in one compartment. For larger groups you will need to book another compartment.
I want a ticket just for myself – can individuals travel?
Yes, a seat will be allocated for you in an open coach but you will need to wear a mask in order to comply with Government guidelines on train travel.
What is the cost of tickets?
£25 per person for the round trip with a minimum of two people in a compartment (ie, £50). Additional travellers up to a maximum of six per compartment will cost £10 per person, making a total cost of £90 for six people in one compartment. Youngsters under the age of 5 travel free. You can book your tickets here. The cost for an individual travelling in an open coach is £25.
The Government says that face coverings are necessary on public train services. Does this apply to your trains?
Yes, it does. You will need to wear suitable face masks while on our stations and when boarding and leaving trains and on the train if you are in the open coach. However, if you are in a discrete compartment within your own ‘social bubble’, you may remove your face coverings while travelling. Of course, we will respect those who for health reasons or who are under 11, do not wear a mask.
Will the train and station buffets be open?
We are unable to open the Broadway or Winchcombe cafés. But you can pre-book a picnic package to consume while on the train. You can find out what’s available here. You will be able to buy a hot drink at Cheltenham Racecourse station while the locomotive ‘runs-round’ the train. However, the Flag & Whistle tea rooms at Toddington will be open.
Can I get off the train at all when it has stopped?
Of course – part of the joy of our railway is watching the engine detach from the train and ‘run-round’ to re-couple at the other end of the train, ready to take it back. You can get off the train to watch this process at both Broadway and Cheltenham Racecourse.
Will toilets be open on the trains?
Toilets will be open at Toddington, Broadway and Cheltenham Racecourse station. The on-train toilets will be closed although if there is an emergency a toilet will be opened for you by one of the on-train staff.
What hygiene measures are you taking?
Hand sanitiser and hand washing facilities are available at Toddington, Broadway and Cheltenham Racecourse stations and we have installed markings to help ensure proper social-distancing. We will be taking extra cleaning measures while deep cleaning and using disinfectant fog in our carriages at the end of each day
I have a disabled relation who is confined to a wheelchair – can they come?
We will be able to take just one wheelchair (plus carer) but it is important to contact us in advance and we can advise which is the best train for your party to travel on. Please phone 01242 621405 to confirm.
Can I bring a push-chair / pram on the train?
Because of the limited accommodation in the carriages we are using, please leave prams / pushchairs in your car.
Can I use my Shareholder / Member / 300 Club / Volunteer or other ticket vouchers?
We much regret that for the time being and because of the need to re-build our somewhat depleted finances we are not immediately accepting any free or discounted tickets. The railway has during lock-down continued to meet a range of expenses as well as the landslip repair cost and it urgently needs to restore income to help build a sound financial footing for the future of the railway. We hope you understand this need and we are grateful for your support.
Is your normal timetable back in operation?
No, we have modified train times and dates. You can see our modified timetable here. If you have a copy of the 2020 brochure the timetable, fares and events information simply no longer apply!