Is this the future of WSR?
It would be if the Minehead Chamber of Commerce had their way. Below is reproduced the copy from the
Railfuture web site.
Train operator Great Western, the West Somerset preserved steam railway and local authorities are being urged to work together to find ways to extend some
Cardiff-Taunton trains from the national network to Minehead on the preserved line.
West Somerset Railway is a unique living steam museum, this proposal would dramatically change the look and feel of the railway. Eventually the steam aspect of the railway might only be reduced to running at the week-ends. The WSR Plc have been in talks with a local MP to bring modern diesel mulitple units, to Bishops Lydeard and transfer passengers to trains hauled by steam locomotives and onwards to Minehead. The Railfuture web site clearly states " the new society have pulled together a formidable group of local people including councillors, business people and local rail supporters", will this group be seeking to aquire the freehold of the line from Somerset County Council. If so, Councillors could be very sympathetic, to their cause. If this is the case, it makes the lack of initiative of the Plc chairman Mark Smith and the board in 2010 not to accept the offer of the freehold from the local authority, and further offer a few years later, a very large missed opportunity. To add more to this situation, when the West Somerset Railway Association tried to purchase the freehold a few years later, the WSR Plc threw a tantrum. If the Plc had encouraged the WSRA to purchase the freehold, instead of trying to make politcal capital out of the situation, the risk of a third party being involved would have been averted, and would have made the future more secure for the WSR. The Plc have encouraged groups like the reform group to accuse the WSRA of "losing their way", when you have the WSR Plc turning their back on opportunities like the freehold offer from the local authority, it really does not make any good business sense at all. it would appear that Mark Smith and the WSR Plc board were loosing their way.
What period should you set a ‘heritage’ railway in? Obviously it includes the steam locomotives but should it include the preserved diesel locomotives as well. There are diesel locomotive groups on the railway now, would these groups be more sympathetic in allowing modern diesel traction right to Minehead. It seems ironic that in 1970 the government gave up the railway but through the goodwill and hard work of many dedicated people the line stayed open. Now it would seem they want it back! The reason being it’s a cheaper option than upgrading the road from Taunton to Minehead. There is a possibility that West Somerset Railway is being lined up to be one of the first experiments in using heritage railways across the country to make hybrid transport systems. There seems to be a proliferation of ex-BR staff within the management structure of the WSR, they may not be averse to combining the modern traction with steam locomotives on the same line. This puts the living steam railway museum at risk. People like John Cronin of ORS are well placed to advise on this type of merger, he is already on the West Somerset Railway Partnership Development Group and the Diesel & Electric Preservation Group. There also could be large financial inducements, from private rail operators to come to Minehead with regular diesel services, also central government could become involved with grants to open up a regular services. Is this the motive behind all the problems on the West Somerset Railway?
There are rumours circulating, regarding moving the Minehead Station, to the other side of the level crossing gates. If this was to come to fruition, surely the heritage aspect will be lost. Whether the rumours are true or not remains to be seen.
There will be more on this subject to follow as we are, this watching situation very closely!!!