One of Staffordshire’s largest tourist attractions has said it will not be re-opening to the public on the 12th of April. Churnet Valley Railway is waiting until June. The April date to welcome back visitors may not come soon enough for other visitor attractions across the country, but the heritage steam railway is opting to hold off a little longer.
The railway, one of the county’s principal tourist attractions wants to see the great British public regain their confidence before stoking the engines and getting back on track. Gregory Wilson, general manager and volunteer of 23 years has confirmed the railway plans to commence services in June.
Like all tourism and hospitality businesses in the UK, Churnet Valley Railway has been hit hard by the tier restrictions and lockdown measures. The once busy heritage railway suffered a financial blow after it progressed, with enthusiastic support from the local authority, with the planned annual Santa and Steam 2020 event only to see it cancelled literally days before. A sold-out month-long timetable was derailed when it was announced that Staffordshire Moorlands would move from a tier 2 to tier 3 area following the November lockdown. Having invested tens of thousands in Christmas presents all wrapped for the children and re-designing the event to make 2020 extra special (given the terrible year 2020 was), the forced cancellation of the biggest event in the railway’s calendar was a great disappointment.
“We understand completely why past events could not go ahead. The biggest letdown was for the kids” said Jack Ilcyszyn events manager. Upon hearing the event had to be cancelled, he recalls standing in front of piles of presents feeling so sorry for all the children who look forward to their railway ride at Churnet Valley Railway as part of their family tradition.
Having allocated additional funds in 2020 to ensure the trains meet COVID health and safety measures, the railway was not only facing lockdown closure but staring at the loss of thousands of pounds.
The railway is run by volunteers for the most part, and while they are keen to get back on track, Wilson reiterated “Safety is paramount, and we are really pleased that most of our volunteers have had the vaccination or are inline for it shortly, so this should give our customers more assurance. We are however waiting that bit longer to shunt our locomotives out of hibernation to ensure that we are that bit further on the road to recovery.”
Ilcyszyn added, “ We have an exciting summer schedule and events programme to announce, which includes the much-loved Rail-Ale event and dining trains offering afternoon tea’s, Sunday lunches and themed curry nights.”
General manager Wilson also hinted that the railway has some exciting news to share and will be making a special announcement on 1st May, Staffordshire Day.
Photo credit: Churnet Valley Railway