You will have seen from the earlier reports by Finance Director Chris Bristow and Commercial Director Colin Fewell that 2014 has been another great year with excellent financial figures and a year-end bonus of a record breaking series of Santa Specials. 2014 has been a very special year for us as we successfully raised the funds necessary to restore the five bridges between our current railhead at Laverton and our target of Broadway. This, together with related donations, has enabled us to start the next half mile extension north from Laverton. We still need major funding to see us all the way and we will be pursuing this in due course. In the meantime we would like to thank everyone who has made this such a successful year and opened the door to our target of extending to Broadway. When I say everyone, this includes our volunteers who work so hard to operate, maintain and improve the railway, our existing and new shareholders who have contributed so much to our share appeal, our GWRT members for continuing to support our activities and our many other funding contributors who have donated to both general and specific improvements planned or already in progress. This includes the legacies most generously left to the railway and which have paid for major new facilities, such as the paintshop, that we need to operate and improve our expanding railway. And have you seen what the Broadway group have already achieved in rebuilding Broadway station and with more major construction planned for 2015 - a must visit when you are next in the area.
2015 will see a variety of improvement activities with replaced track in Toddington Station – along with a relocated barrow crossing to avoid the problems where a loco is obliged to stop astride the crossing. Toddington will also have a new display ground frame and working signal for our visitors to try and we are collaborating with Stanway House to develop a footpath link from the station. At Winchcombe we will have a new visitor information coach and also regular access to view the model railway even if it is not running. In addition we are working on the feasibility of a new toilet block on Platform 2 and eventually a replacement for the old wooden building on Platform 1 by a structure that is more appropriate to a heritage railway station. At Cheltenham, our volunteers rebuilding Platform 2 are nearing the end of their bricklaying and we aim to have the platform available by the year end if funds permit. A footbridge there is our ultimate objective and we are working with other interested parties to arrive at the most appropriate design.
We are not forgetting our heritage objectives and a new heritage group has been established to pursue this. Its first target is the reinstatement of the old Hayles Abbey Halt – this is still a proposal at the moment and will need detailed planning however it would be a useful addition for visiting the Hailes Abbey site (note the interesting difference in the spelling of station and abbey). The group also aims to tackle the restoration of more of the goods wagons that we have scattered around the railway – and there are many of them!
For the longer term we are looking at the redevelopment of the Winchcombe yard and where we go after Broadway!