SEVERN Valley Railway has overcome last year’s devastating floods to win a clutch of tourism awards.

The railway has won the gold medal for Best Tourism Experience in the Heart of England Excellence in Tourism awards and will now compete against other regional winners in next year’s national finals.

SVR was also recognised for an "outstanding contribution to tourism" in the West Midlands this year.

Elsewhere, SVR staff have won the Peter Manisty Award, an honour made by the Heritage Railway Association for the efforts to reconstruct the line, which in June last year was washed out in more than 40 places.

The award is only given in special cases of “extraordinary achievement beyond normal parameters”.

The £3.5 million reconstruction of the devastated 12-mile section of the railway between Bewdley and Bridgnorth, from July 2007 to April 2008, was “without precedent in the field of railway preservation,” said HRA Awards chairman, Ian Smith.

He added: “It was up there with the rebuilding of St Pancras, a phenomenal achievement.”

The awards committee was “in awe” at the way the railway had organised itself for the rebuilding of the affected sites and said it had set an example of leadership which had “galvanized the industry”.

SVR marketing manager, John Leach, said: “At the time of the line rebuilding, we were so stretched, there really wasn’t time to think about much else but just getting on with it and doing what we could to get the railway up and running again in the shortest possible time.

“For nine months we were able only to run a curtailed steam operation between Kidderminster and Bewdley, and obviously revenues were well down as a result.

“But we’ve pulled it back and in retrospect we’re justifiably proud of our efforts, not just to restore the line, but to build it as a better, more robust railway than it has ever been. These awards have put the cherry on the cake for us.”