Severn Valley Railway - Battered, Bruised, But Still Running

By Caroline Lewis | 27 July 2007
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photo of heavy machinery before a section of railway track that comes to an abrupt end

Repair work underway on a damaged section. Courtesy Severn Valley Railway

Despite a series of landslides in June that devastated swathes of the historic Severn Valley Railway (SVR), and another impending landslide of huge proportions, the show goes on at the track near Kidderminster.

Railway staff are distraught at the damage, but keen to point out that all planned events are going ahead as usual with the exception of the Diesel Gala in October.

“The message is that the line from Kidderminster to Bewdley is still very much alive and kicking,” said SVR Press Officer David Wilcock, who lamented not only the damage but the loss of about four-fifths of passenger traffic.

photo of a railway track with a large crack running through the ground next to it

An ominous crack. Courtesy Severn Valley Railway

Every effort is being made to get repairs going and it is hoped that closed parts of the line will be reopened in late 2007 and 2008. The Railway’s Traffic Manager, Dewi Jones, said he and his colleagues were hoping to have the section from Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade up and running again as soon as possible, but it could be some months. Station facilities at the former are currently open.

The railway was first struck by the elements on the night of June 19, when floods led to 45 separate landslides and slips, affecting almost the whole line running between Bewdley and Bridgnorth. Silt and mud covered the line entirely in places, and elsewhere the ground had moved. In about ten places, major works are needed to restore the line. Initial estimates put costs at £1,000,000.

photo of a railway station

Bridgnorth Station on a busy day in 2005. Photo: Jon Pratty © 24 Hour Museum

While reconstruction work began, July brought more havoc and culverts and drains that had been cleared by volunteers got blocked up again with silt, rock and debris.

The most serious setback came when an aerial survey of the damage revealed a saturated hillside near Northwood Halt was threatening to collapse onto the line. Cracks up to 40 metres long, like those seen in earthquakes, had opened up on both sides of the track and beneath the line, it was announced this week. Nearby residents were evacuated and Northwood Lane was closed.

SVR consulting civil engineer Jonathan Symonds has estimated it may cost £600,000 to secure the Northwood slip alone, driving total repair costs up to a huge £2.5 million.

photo of a collapsed section of railway

Devastation caused in June. Courtesy Severn Valley Railway

SVR general manager Nick Ralls pledged it would not halt the drive to re-open the railway, and called for continued support of the railway’s flood appeal.

“Although we have enjoyed fabulous support from Advantage West Midlands, the European Regional Development Fund, our insurers, volunteers, members and supporters,” he said, “we are dependent upon continued generous support to raise half a million pounds, to put towards resolving all these problems.”

To support the Flood Appeal and read about the latest progress, visit www.svr.co.uk

The railway usually gets about 250,000 visitors a year, but numbers might struggle to reach over 50,000 this year. If you were planning on attending the Autumn Steam Gala (September 21-23), be assured that it is still going ahead as things stand.

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