Volunteers on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) are celebrating two grants from the Cultural Recovery Fund for Heritage: £318,000 for the railway and £26,100 for the Dinmore Manor Locomotive Group based on the line.  Both grants are part of the first wave of grants under the ‘Here For Culture’ campaign, announced today.

The railway is one of 445 organisations across the country receiving a ‘lifesaving financial boost’ from the government during the coronavirus pandemic.

The £1.57bn Fund is designed to help performing arts, heritage sites, independent entertainment venues and museums to weather the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and come back stronger. 

GWSR train

Richard Winstanley, the voluntary Finance Director of the GWSR, says he is “absolutely delighted and relieved” with the grant to the popular volunteer-run railway, which operates steam and heritage diesel trains through 14 miles of Cotswold countryside between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway.

“The grant is intended to help us continue vital maintenance, run the business and pay the bills including the salaries of our seven staff, at a time when the railway has suffered the huge financial impact of cancelling services and special events for five months, during what would have been our peak season. 

“And, although we are running trains once again, fare income is much reduced thanks to the need for social distancing, which halves the capacity of our trains. It will be a vital boost in helping to overcome financial shortfalls as the railway emerges from lockdown, whenever that happens.  The fund is a key initiative and I applaud the government in recognising the importance of underpinning the security of a wide range of organisations, including the GWSR, for the future.”

Of the grant for the Dinmore Manor Locomotive Group, Kenneth Sims, the group’s Chairman said: “This will help us complete one of the most extensive steam locomotive overhauls ever undertaken in the heritage sector, at a time when because of Covid-19 work has slowed significantly.  It also means that important work awarded to contractors can be completed in this £400,000 overhaul, helping to ensure the historic 1942-built Great Western heavy freight locomotive no. 3850 will return to steam as soon as possible.”  

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “As a nation, it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past.  This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounce-back, post Covid.”

The almost entirely volunteer-run GWSR preserves and operates part of the historic Stratford-upon-Avon to Cheltenham railway line, completed by the Great Western Railway in 1906.  It made a vital economic contribution to this rich agricultural region and continues to do so today though tourism. 

This year, the railway expected to attract some 130,000 passengers including families, schools, holidaymakers and those who remember the days of steam – people who also visit other attractions such as B and Bs, pubs, hotels and shops, thus supporting the region’s economic health.

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund which administers the Culture Recovery Fund said: “It is absolutely right that investing in heritage should be a priority during this crisis and this support from the government is crucial.  Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity, is a major driver for tourism and makes our towns, cities and rural areas better places to live.

“All of this is so important for our wellbeing and will be particularly vital when we start to emerge from this incredibly difficult time.”

She added: “Our heritage is facing a perilous future – we are not out of the woods yet.  But this hugely welcome funding and the money we continue to invest from the National Lottery will undoubtedly stop heritage and the organisations that care for it from being permanently lost.”




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