Severn Valley Railway staff help a disabled passenger onto one of their trains
The trust took part in a national ‘Dragons’ Den’ style competition, pitching their project to a panel of senior government figures, including Lord Faulkner of Worcester, Sir William McAlpine, Mark Garnier MP, and Deirdre Wells of UK Inbound.
More than 200 organisations applied for funding from the DfT’s Heritage and Community Rail Tourism Innovation competition, and the Severn Valley Railway was one of those shortlisted to pitch in person to the Dragons.
Severn Valley Railway General Manager Nick Ralls said: “This award means we can transform our facilities for disabled visitors.
“We think it’s essential we offer all our passengers, regardless of their mobility level, the same level of convenience and access, along with the on board heritage dining facilities for which our railway is so well regarded.
“This funding from the DfT gives us the key to make that happen, and we’re extremely excited about getting started on the work.”
Rail Minister Claire Perry, who announced the award, said: “We want to show the best of British to our visitors and Heritage and Community Railways are part of that package.
“I am delighted that the Severn Valley Railway is one of 17 national winners across Britain. I look forward to seeing the scheme develop, providing another great reason to visit Worcestershire and Shropshire.”
The Severn Valley Railway’s scheme involves the restoration and conversion of two 1950s carriages, and the purchase of lightweight, portable ramps for each of the railway’s wheelchair-accessible carriages.
The first phase will involve the restoration and conversion of a currently unused British Rail vehicle into a dedicated wheelchair-accessible carriage, providing accommodation for five wheelchair users and their companions, along with a disabled toilet.
The team of staff and volunteers at the Railway has extensive experience in this type of adaptation, having carried out similar projects in recent years.
Trust chairman Hugh McQuade said: “We learn from every one of our restoration projects, and we’re constantly adapting our approach. We pay great attention to getting an authentic match to each carriage’s period style. It’s about giving passengers the richest heritage experience that we can.”
This carriage will complete the Railway’s fleet of adapted carriages, and will mean that there are wheelchair facilities on every timetabled train on the Railway. The second phase of the project involves rebuilding a second carriage to provide dining accommodation for up to 16 wheelchair users.
The DfT’s £75,000 will form part of the project’s overall cost. The remainder of the funding comes from the trust’s own funds, those of Severn Valley Railway (Holdings) plc, and also includes more than 3,000 volunteer hours that will be used to put together the project.
Source: Shropshire Star