IT’S full steam ahead for Severn Valley Railway as they plan a grand reopening in April – Covid permitting.

The charity launched an emergency fundraising appeal last year after the first lockdown hit them hard, but the operation bounced back with a fantastically successful sell-out Christmas programme.

And while the latest lockdown is bad news, the timing could have been a lot worse and the charity are using it to carry out a comprehensive maintenance programme.

Kidderminster Shuttle: The Falling Sands Viaduct in the snow. picture by Craig TileyThe Falling Sands Viaduct in the snow. picture by Craig Tiley

The one thing that is definitely not happening is the half term service planned for February.

Instead all the planning is going into the railway re-emerging from the long tunnel of the latest lockdown with a Spring Gala in April and a Diesel Gala in May.

The railway was due to be shut as part of a planned closure, so the new lockdown has not come at a bad time.

It’s very different from last March, when SVR had to rely on a fundraising appeal that brought in £900,000, plus £250,000 for the Lottery and support from the local council.

Kidderminster Shuttle: The Santa train last month. picture Ian MurrayThe Santa train last month. picture Ian Murray

Staff were furloughed and, in August, up to 40 redundancies were announced, mainly for zero-hours contract workers, as the railway took ‘sensible measures to secure the financial position.’

But the railway bounced back at Christmas, and even managed to complete the massive restoration of the Victorian Falling Sands viaduct in mid-December.

Over the next few months SVR will make use the extended closure by completing an accumulation of maintenance projects, including stabilizing stretched of trach, sidings and signalling work.

Kidderminster Shuttle: Capping stones on the Falling Sands viaduct. Picture by Philip ChatfieldCapping stones on the Falling Sands viaduct. Picture by Philip Chatfield

The operation still needs to work hard to keep going, and still needs to raise money, so are appealing for people to buy tickets for their re-opening events.

The business is being boosted by a switch of coal suppliers, away from Welsh coal to buying from abroad.

The new coal is sustainable, reasonably priced, but also produces fewer CO2 emissions – leaving SVR looking spick and span for its re-emergence from lockdown.