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Full steam ahead for new train company

The Shakespeare Express. Photo: Keith Thursfield.
The Shakespeare Express. Photo: Keith Thursfield.

THE company that runs the popular Shakespeare Express steam train has raised the £800,000 needed to set itself up as a train operating company.

Pleasure services run by Vintage Trains were operated by West Coast Railway Company until the end of last year when it announced that a driver shortage meant it could no longer do so.

The company launched a share offer to raise the money needed to set up on its own - and its board met on Friday when it was confirmed that that target had been reached.

Funds have now been made available to pay for a passenger charter licence from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) and establish its mobilisation plan.

Tyseley Locomotive Works (TLW) will also now begin the carriage restoration plan which will start with undertaking safety and maintenance checks ahead of resuming the Shakespeare Express, Cotswold Express and similar services.

TLW has completed fitting Clun Castle with all the electronic apparatus required to comply with Network Rail’s regulations and, as soon as Vintage Trains receives its steam safety certificate and licence it will begin mainline trials.

ClunCastle was one of the first privately-owned steam locomotives to see service on excursion trains on British Railways and the first to begin the services subsequently authorised by BR after the end of regular mainline steam.

An open day takes place at Tyseley over the weekend of Saturday, 30th June, and Sunday, 1st July, when Clun Castle and other home locomotives will be in steam together with full supporting cast, free depot train rides and the workshop gallery open for viewing.

Michael Whitehouse, chairman Vintage Trains Community Benefit Society, said: "We wish to thank the shareholders for their help and support in subscribing for shares. We are delighted to welcome them as Founder Shareholders in our co-operative."

Last year the Herald reported how more historic steam trains could run along the Stratford-upon-Avon to Birmingham railway line as part of the new £1billion West Midlands rail franchise.

Vintage Trains is pushing ahead with expansion plans at its Tyseley base while land remains earmarked in Stratford for a heritage centre and turning table.

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