Great Central Railway needs vital help!

Posted by Chris Graham on 19th November 2020

The Great Central Railway has launched an emergency appeal to help assist it with navigating the Covid-19 crisis; can you help?

Great Central Railway

No. 6990 in full cry on the Great Central Railway, in Leicestershire (Pic: Mr D Weaver)

The Great Central Railway (GCR), based at Loughborough, Leicestershire, is in urgent need of funds to help ensure both its future, and essential, on-going maintenance and repair work as it attempts to navigate through the Covid-19 crisis. The railway started 2020 on a firm financial footing, following a successful 2019 but, inevitably, all operations were closed on March 23rd due to the Covid-19 crisis, and remained so until late in July. Since then, the operation has been really challenged to generate any reasonable levels of income at all.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the railway’s management made a conscious decision not to mount a crisis appeal similar to that launched by other heritage railways. The thinking behind this was to avoid the risk of diverting attention and donations away from its other appeals, such as the one for the locomotive works.

However, as the Covid crisis has continued, funds set aside for many other planned projects have been used up to meet the vital, day-to-day, cash flow demands of the railway, and it’s this which has triggered the re-think. So an appeal has been launched in an attempt to replenish some of these funds, and allow for the continuation of essential works.

Specifically, the appeal has three main areas of focus. The first of these is the replacement of Bridge 341, which stands just north of Quorn & Woodhouse station, and carries the Great Central’s line across a farm track. The bridge deck is now over 120 years old, and is scheduled for replacement.

Secondly, important works are required at Quorn & Woodhouse station, including car park resurfacing, continuation of the conversion of the former Goods Shed to a classroom and education centre, and work on the tree line which borders the station.

Finally, there’s a significant amount of fencing along the line that now needs to be renewed, or reinstated. This is a very important requirement as the fencing both protects the railway’s boundaries, and prevents people from straying on to the line.

During recent weeks, the GCR had begun re-opening the cafes at Rothley and Quorn during the week, and operating train services at weekends, but the revenue from this alone isn’t sufficient to cover the on-going costs, due to the restrictions of social distancing and the associated increase in operating costs. Now, presumably, given the latest lockdown, even that small revenue stream will have been closed-off again.

Mike Gough, GCR managing director, commenting on the situation said: “The enforced closure has impacted massively on our operations and available cash flow. We are, however, committed to ensuring that we expand our activities for the remainder of the year as best we can, while still giving our customers the authentic heritage experience they have come to expect, within an environment that’s safe for staff and visitors alike. A successful appeal will help to ensure that all of our operations are well maintained, and that we can enter 2021 with renewed hope for our future, and the preservation of our heritage.”

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