THE future of the popular Severn Valley Railway (SVR) in the West Midlands is at risk unless it receives an urgent cash boost, bosses say.

The heritage railway has launched a £1.5 million Survival Fund appeal in a bid to help it overcome financial pressures.

Senior SVR managers say that the railway has been profoundly affected by changes in the financial climate as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, post-Brexit supply chain issues and the cost-of-living crisis.


Earlier this year, the railway, which runs from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth, announced plans to make up to 18 people redundant and recruitment freezes as part of several cost-saving measures.

Hereford Times: The SVR's flagship loco 4930 'Hagley Hall'The SVR's flagship loco 4930 'Hagley Hall' (Image: Kevin Whitehurst)

Chris Walton, who recently took on the role of interim chairman of SVR (Holdings) Plc, the railway’s operating company, said: “We’re facing the double whammy of escalating costs and lower revenue.

“Costs across the railway have spiralled, including utilities, coal, diesel, steel, copper, catering supplies and interest rates. For example, in the past 12 months alone, our electricity bill has more than doubled, and this year it will not be far short of £500,000. All of these factors are outside our control.

“Put this against the fact that passenger numbers were down last year by about a third, compared to pre-Covid. That equated to around £1.5 million in lost revenue, which has left us badly weakened".


He added: “We place huge value on the support the SVR has received over the years.

“This has helped it to grow from its humble beginnings in the 1960s into one of the UK’s leading, award-winning and much-loved heritage railways.

It’s meant the preservation of our buildings, infrastructure, locomotives, rolling stock and artefacts for future generations to enjoy, and it brings pleasure to many thousands of people each year, generating tremendous economic benefit for the surrounding communities.

“We would not be making this appeal if it wasn’t completely necessary for the survival of the railway, and we hope our supporters will understand the difficulties we face, and give us their backing.”

The Survival Fund appeal has been launched jointly by the three companies that form the Severn Valley Railway – SVR (Holdings) Plc, the SVR Company Ltd and the SVR Charitable Trust.

People can donate to the fund via the SVR's website.

Jonathan ‘Gus’ Dunster, SVR’s interim managing director added: “We’ve made sure our offer to passengers for 2023 is as exciting and varied as you’d expect from a leading and award-winning heritage railway and visitor attraction, and we’re confident that we can deliver on and surpass visitor expectations.

“However, operating a heritage railway is a cyclical business.

“For several months at the beginning of each year, there’s very little income, because we’re not open to the public. Pre-Covid, we got ourselves through this lean time by having a cash reserve in the bank. But that option has been taken away by the combined financial challenges of the past three years.

 “Unless we address this situation urgently, we won’t be able to lift the railway out of the financial difficulties it’s now facing.

"The Survival Fund will help us through the coming, very difficult year, in order to start 2024 with a sufficient ‘reserve’.

"Then we’ll stand a real chance of getting the railway properly back on its feet, so it can thrive and be fit for the future.”