Published: 15th October 2013
The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway’s new share issue was launched on September 30. The £0.5million ‘Bridges to Broadway’ share appeal aims to finance dealing with five bridges on the two mile route of the line’s next extension from Laverton to Broadway. Appropriately, the campaign was officially kick-started at the site of Broadway station.
The railway has battled landslips and line severances in recent years. With these trials mercifully overcome and consigned to history, the heritage line in the Cotswolds is determined to set about resuming its planned expansion programme, the immediate target being Broadway with the longer-term objective of reaching Honeybourne and a main line connection still very much on the agenda.
During the time the GW-R was temporarily ‘stuck’ at Laverton, north of its Toddington HQ, while the more pressing issue of reinstating its line where an embankment had collapsed at Chicken Curve (just outside Winchcombe) was dealt with, a ‘Friends of Broadway’ group continued with the initial stages of reviving the old station. Platforms are under construction with an application for planning permission for new buildings to replicate the originals as closely as possible recently submitted.
With the Laverton/Toddington/Winchcombe/Cheltenham Race Course line fully back in operation, preparations have swung into action aimed at covering other works and the capacity required to provide services over what will become a 14 mile railway when a connection is made through to Honeybourne.
Expanding the line to a ‘proper’ location (Laverton is inaccessible other than by rail) brings the expectation of a major increase in passenger numbers. Research encompasses works (bridges, track, signalling, the station and adjacent car parking) and service planning, for which a Director has been allocated the task which embraces timetables, locomotives and carriages (three steam trains per day and three rakes are seen as essential), extra volunteer capacity, services at Broadway and maintenance plans.
Crucially, there are five bridges on the route between Laverton and Broadway which have received little attention since BR closed the line 40 years ago. Upgrading them to current standards is expected to require expenditure in the order of £550,000 – although £50,000 is in hand from an insurance claim.
Learning lessons from the embankment collapses the railway has adopted a policy that all trading surpluses are used for the renewal, repair and improvement of present assets and infrastructure. This includes current projects covering gulley and drainage repair, fencing, track replacement, building a second platform at Cheltenham Race Course station, concrete flooring of the loco shed and a paint shop extension to enhance C&W facilities at Winchcombe.
Consequently, funding for extending the railway and new facilities has to be secured from external sources such as grants, donations, partnerships and share sales. A joint fund raising partnership has been set up with the charitable Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway Trust (GWRT) – the Development Foundation - led by a full time Development Manager. Three grants have already been secured and long term donation commitments received.
Now, the new share offer has been launched to raise the required £500,000 with a minimum purchase of £100. The offer is under the Government Enterprise Investment Scheme, meaning there is 30% tax relief on any purchase by tax payers – buying £1,000 of shares only costs £700. Purchasers of shares will receive free travel concessions and a unique share certificate. For full details see www.gwsr.com.
“During the last few years the G-WR has really got its act together at every level,” commented Chairman, Malcolm Temple. “The Railway is a success, its fun to be a volunteer and the public love our working steam railway heritage museum. Our turnover for 2013 will be comfortably over £1million. We are all excited about the Development Foundation and what we can achieve with the donations and share purchases of supporters old and new.”