Reopening plans - update

31 July 2020


Dear friends, colleagues and members,

It’s just over a month since I last wrote to you and I hope you continue to keep safe and well.

Closure of the railway in mid-March now seems a long time ago when the global, national and local outlook was very challenging. However, as a nation we have come together to face these challenges and it’s pleasing to see further easing of the lockdown restrictions and life almost returning to some normality.

In that context we’re now only one week away from our reopening date of Friday 7 August; a celebration of our formal reopening and our 60th Anniversary. Since mid-July staff have been returning to work and preparing the Railway for reopening with tasks such as locomotive boiler exams, carriage exams, inspection of our infrastructure, cleaning and tidying our stations and linesides and marketing our railway with what we have to offer. We have also been implementing the measures required to comply with the Government guidance so some parts of the Railway might not look the same as they did. Overall though, it’s very pleasing to see activity across the whole Railway and to feel that buzz returning – so a warm welcome back to everyone!

None of this would have been possible though without you supporting the railway during the closure and in particular supporting our Emergency Appeal. So I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of you for your kindness and generosity which has meant our Emergency Appeal is now close to the £400,000 mark.

As a business we’re not immune or alone to these unprecedented times and decisions have had to be made to secure the long-term sustainability of the Railway. Part of this decision-making process was to reduce our overall cost base which has, unfortunately, meant making some redundancies across the whole Railway. We hope this is only a short-term measure but the success of the Emergency Appeal has allowed us to retain those vital heritage skilled staff so we can continue to outshop the locos, carriages and other rolling stock the Railway is world renowned for and present what is a world class heritage railway.

As mentioned above, our opening on 7 August will be a double celebration: being both the 60th anniversary of Bluebell operating trains but also the day that passenger trains restart operations! Our first train on the day will be our Members’ Special which will depart at 9am following a short ceremony – and if you have booked your ticket, I look forward to seeing you. In fact tickets for our Members’ Train sold out in less than 10 minutes!

Public trains will then operate on 7, 8 and 9 August and every weekend throughout the rest of 2020 alongside our catering trains. Please see our website for bookings! We’re also planning a transport-themed special event at the end of October to celebrate our unique locomotives, rolling stock and line. More details on this will follow in due course.

So, with just one week to go, I look forward to seeing you on 7 August and throughout 2020 – and thank you again for your support during these unprecedented times.

  • Christopher Hunford, Chairman and Locomotive Director, Bluebell Railway Plc