Appeal helps steam railway prepare for when trains can run again

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Work under way to rebuild the embankment. Photo: Jonathan Taylor

THERE is something to cheer for the southern section of the Stratford to Cheltenham rail route.

While the debate continues about the case for reopening the Stratford to Honeybourne link, the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust has been boosted in its efforts to restore its lines for when heritage services can resume between Broadway and Cheltenham.

It has now passed the £250,000 appeal target set up to help the railway pay huge bills to repair an embankment landslip – work on which has now almost been completed.

As of yesterday, Sunday, 31st May, about £255,000 had been donated by sympathetic supporters.

While the landslip needed urgent and costly work, cancellation of services due to the coronavirus crisis meant there was no income to help pay for the repairs.

The trust launched its appeal in mid-March and chairman Glyn Cornish said: “The target of £250,000 was the expected cash shortfall the railway would face in paying for the embankment repairs so we set our sights high, hoping to raise a substantial part of that sum.

“To have reached the full amount in just ten weeks and at a time when so many people are facing their own difficulties; and when there are so many appeals for help, is just astonishing.

“I know that all of the volunteers on our railway are deeply grateful for every penny contributed. More than 1,300 people have made contributions and from the bottom of my heart, I want thank everyone who has helped meet our target.

“Whether £5 or £5,000, there is no doubt that it has secured the future of our wonderful railway. Contributors can be assured that every penny raised has gone into the landslip repair.”

Now that the target has been met, the appeal has been closed. Future donations will go into the trust’s funds to support other projects.

The landslip has been repaired by specialist contractors, using both soil nailing and sheet piling techniques to permanently secure the embankment, which is between Bishops Cleeve and Gotherington.

It is built over ancient ridge-and-furrow farmland which has proved unstable and exacerbated by a long dry summer followed by a very wet winter, the embankment started to become unstable.

Mr Cornish added: “While we can’t say for certain that something like this won’t happen again, we know we can effectively repair such embankment slips and we are working continuously on improving drainage to avoid such future occurrences.”

The railway has announced that it will remain closed at least until the end of August because of the coronavirus situation.