BLUEBELL RAILWAY PRESS RELEASES

Updated: 17th November 2022

Bluebell Railway Gives Away Compartments On Its Spectacular SteamLights Service To Special Guests.

17th November 2022

As we approach the season of goodwill, the Bluebell Railway has marked the occasion by giving away selected compartments on the very special SteamLights service which began running on Friday 11th November 2022 and will run through to Sunday 8th January 2023.

SteamLights is a very special after dark experience at the famous heritage railway in Sussex. After an atmospheric lighting-up ceremony, passengers get on board the extraordinary steam train of lights which then sparkles its way through the Sussex countryside passing beautiful line side displays full of colour and light.

We were pleased to be in a position to offer some space on Sunday 13th of November and Friday 18th of November to individuals and families who might not be in a position to otherwise enjoy our fabulous SteamLights train.

Working with West Sussex County Council representatives, Ukrainian refugee hosts from local villages and a wonderful charity called Reaching Families which empowers families of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, we have filled three trains. To be able to see the pleasure and excitement of those children and adults and to give them such a wonderful start to the festive period has been an absolute honour”.

Lisa Boyle, Chief Operating Officer , The Bluebell Railway

The railway has given away 77 compartments seating either 6 or 8 people, tables for 4 people and various spaces in the wheelchair accessible carriage on three specific services with a value well in excess of £12,000.

During such difficult times with rising costs affecting all businesses and individuals, the railway is setting an example of how a local business can make the most of opportunities to support the Sussex community.

Adult and child residents of local West Sussex residential homes and approximately 70 Ukrainian refugees currently residing in the villages of Horsted Keynes, Highbrook, Newick and Chailey were among the invited guests. All free spaces were quickly booked up, and, unsurprisingly, demand outstripped supply.

SteamLights is a beautiful. magical experience lighting up the night sky, lifting spirits and brightening hearts. We are extremely grateful to the Bluebell Railway for inviting many local Ukrainian families who are sheltering from the extreme horrors of war to enjoy this amazing event. The evening was very special for them and they loved every minute. Thank you so much for your kindness and hospitality.”

Kay Yeowart MBE, Host

For the general public, discover the magic for yourself. There are still some spaces left to book on the SteamLights service which begins and ends at Sheffield Park Station located between Haywards Heath and Uckfield. Find out more about SteamLights and how to book, click here.

 

BLUEBELL RAILWAY APPOINTS FIRST DIRECTOR OF PEOPLE SERVICES

1st November 2022

The Bluebell Railway has appointed Chris Barber as its first Director of People Services. 

Chris comes from a railway family – his grandfather was a signalman on the East Coast Main Line and his father worked on the engineering side of signalling. He has a background in Human Resources and is currently Head of Business Change for Thales UK. 

He brings experience at Director level of transactional HR including recruitment and selection, policy, discipline and grievance procedures. He has applied HR skills including change management, organisational design and development, learning and development, succession planning and talent management. 

He has been HR director, director of music and latterly chairman of the Musical Museum at Brentford in London. Chris has a passion for the heritage movement generally and steam in particular – for many years he was involved in the preservation and running of the Burrell Scenic Steam Road Loco “Dragon”. 

Chris said: “Just like any organisation, the people at the Bluebell Railway are vital to its future success. We have a dedicated team of paid staff and volunteers who make the Railway such a great place for people to work at and visit.  

“I want to build on this by looking at the life cycle for paid staff and volunteers to ensure this is fully aligned to the strategic business and preservation aims of the Railway. I look forward to liaising with – and listening to – people in all parts of the organisation to consider improvements to make the Railway an even better place to work and visit”    

Bluebell Railway plc chairman Geoff Mee said: “Chris Barber’s appointment reflects the importance we place as a business on our people. The Bluebell Railway relies on the dedication of its paid staff and volunteers to provide our passengers with a first-rate experience. This new addition to the board indicates our recognition of the work of all our people. I am sure Chris’s experience will help us all in our efforts to continue to be the premier heritage railway in the UK.” 

 

BLUEBELL RAILWAY APPOINTS NEW FINANCE DIRECTOR

1st November 2022

The Bluebell Railway has appointed Steve Trigg as its new finance director. 

Steve has been a finance director for various companies covering different sectors including housebuilding, recruitment, oil and gas, and most recently mergers and acquisitions. He is now semi-retired. 

He grew up around railways as his father was a rail enthusiast and he spent many hours at GWR’s Didcot centre. 

Steve said: “The Bluebell Railway, like all other businesses, is in a difficult financial position because of the general economic situation. I look forward to meeting the staff and volunteers to see how we can best work together to tackle the economic headwinds and put the Railway on a firmer financial footing.” 

Steve replaces David Burch who has stood down from the board because of work commitments. 

Bluebell Railway plc chairman Geoff Mee said: “We thank David for steering us through the difficult phase of the pandemic and ensuring our survival. He provided us with a path towards better times. We know Steve will build on his work and see us through to a more prosperous railway even though we face more economic challenges in the short-term.” 

The appointment was confirmed at the Bluebell Railway’s board meeting on 27 October. 

Bluebell Railway Welcomes Council Funding Over East Grinstead Housing Access

3rd October 2022

The Bluebell Railway has welcomed a council payment for allowing access to the new housing development at East Grinstead.

Mid Sussex District Council has agreed a one-off payment of £692,500 to the Railway that will enable the creation of a new Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) at Hill Place Farm in East Grinstead.

Councillor Robert Salisbury, MSDC Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “Natural England has advised the council that one of the best ways to protect Ashdown Forest from increasing visitor numbers is to provide alternative areas for people to visit. That’s why, whenever developers want to build new homes within 7km of Ashdown Forest, they are required to provide Suitable Alternative Natural Green space or funding towards the improvement of an existing one. “The new SANG at Hill Place Farm is a wonderful place for local people to relax, exercise and enjoy the natural surroundings. It’s fantastic for people to have such beautiful green spaces right on our doorstep, and it will only get better over the years as more improvements are made. “We’re grateful to the Bluebell Railway for supporting public access throughout the SANG site and I hope this funding helps the railway in its efforts to switch to more sustainable energy sources. The Bluebell Railway is one of the foremost tourist attractions in our District and plays a vital role in preserving our heritage. “The council has provided funding to the Bluebell Railway in advance, so they aren’t required to wait for developer funding to come through and are able to progress immediately with their plans to improve the railway. The council will then retain the financial contributions made by developers until the advance has been repaid.” Geoff Mee, chairman of Bluebell Railway plc, said: “We have always prided ourselves on looking after the environment along the line in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We will use this money to improve our environmental credentials by placing solar panels on top of some of our buildings in order to reduce our rapidly increasing business energy costs.”

In Mid Sussex, developers seeking to build new homes within 7km of Ashdown Forest must pay towards the creation and maintenance of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces. Those developer payments will then gradually repay the council’s investment in the Hill Place Farm SANG. The policy, which is supported by Natural England, helps residents to access green spaces that are close to their homes and protects Ashdown Forest from excessive visitor numbers, which could affect the protected bird species that nest in the forest. The new SANG, which is just off Turners Hill Road in East Grinstead, has been provided by

Developers Taylor Wimpey and Vistry as part of plans for 200 new homes at Hill Place Farm. The SANG is divided into two parts, with the Bluebell Railway line running through the middle of the site. Mid Sussex District Council is providing the Bluebell Railway with a funding advance of £692,500 to provide safe access to the SANG and to support the development of the line. Visitors will be able to access all areas of the SANG by using a tunnel underneath the Bluebell Railway to cross the line. The Hill Place Farm SANG features grassland habitats, natural woodlands, and benefits from stunning views of the historic Imberhorne Lane viaduct. The SANG has been enhanced by a programme of planting that, will complement the existing natural environment as it matures and a new walking route around the edge of the site makes it easier for people of all abilities to enjoy the space.