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The Severn Valley Railway has announced a new fundraising appeal, aimed at supporting its operational resilience in the coming years. Called the SVR Resilience Fund, it is replacing the railway’s Survival Fund appeal, launched last year.

“We are indebted to everyone who supported the Survival Fund,” said Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster, the SVR’s managing director. “It raised a very substantial £500,000, and has helped us turn things around from what was, without doubt, a time of crisis.

“We’ve now wound up the Survival Fund, but there’s still a long way to go before we can say we’ve fully recovered. We’re going to need ongoing support to meet our running costs for some time to come, so that we can build the railway’s resilience and confidence, and safeguard assets such as rolling stock and infrastructure.”

The SVR Company Limited is leading the new SVR Resilience Fund. This volunteer-run member of the SVR family of companies is separate from SVR (Holdings) Plc, the train operating company.

“Because we’re a volunteer company, we’re able to keep overheads to a minimum,” explained Diane Malyon, the chair of the SVR Company Limited. “And that means we’ll be able to pass on to SVR (Holdings) every penny possible to support the railway’s operational resilience, and to secure its future for many years to come.”

“The costs associated with running a heritage line can be very high,” continued Diane. “For example, the railway has to spend £500 on coal for a steam locomotive’s return trip along 16-mile line, and a new set of points will be an eye-watering £10,000.

“Those are some of the higher costs, but donations of all sizes will help, and will be very welcome. A ton of granite ballast costing £25 will stabilise the track for example, and with £50 we can buy three litres of specialist paint for a locomotive or one of our heritage carriages.”

A 1,600-strong volunteer team carries out most of the roles at the SVR. “Seeing how much people enjoy themselves when they visit tells me just how important this place is.” said Alex Cleall, 17, who recently qualified as a volunteer ticket inspector. Volunteer guard Dawn Adams, 32, echoed this support, adding, “The SVR really is something special and I’d like to think it’ll be here for our children, and generations to come.”

“We suffered a huge loss of income during Covid when we had to shut down for extended periods,” said Gus. “And the current cost-of-living crisis has damaged visitor numbers, whilst the price of coal, diesel, electricity and everything else we need continues to rise.

“We’ve made massive savings with scrupulous spending controls and by reducing our paid staff, and we’ve found new ways of earning income by undertaking contract work for main line railway companies. But operating the SVR is a costly business, and we need every bit of help we can find right now.

“Next year, we’ll be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the SVR pioneers coming together to save this wonderful line. Will we be running in another 60 years? We think so, and we hope we’ll get the support we need to achieve that ambition.”

There’s more information at svr.co.uk, where you can also make a donation to the SVR Resilience Fund.

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