Saturday, 4 August 2018

Passenger numbers to the end of July

You will I am sure be interested to know that as at the end of July, we saw almost 72,000 passengers (not including the race trains, fire and drive and evening specials.) This compares with just over 46,500 at the same point last year. So, we are up 54% year on year.

Looking at our special weekends,  all have been extremely successful with significant increases on previous years. As reported earlier, the wartime weekend was up 11%, the steam gala 66%, real ale weekend 69%, the bus rally 10% and so it goes on. The recent diesel gala was amazingly successful at a 28% increase when one considers the unbelievable weather that weekend! (One day I burnt and the next got soaked!)

The one event that has bucked the trend this year  was "Day out with Thomas" where visitor numbers were down. No one knows the reason for this but it seems families are less excited by Thomas than they were. Our final visit from Thomas will be in September so it will be interesting to see how numbers stack up that weekend.

That's the good news! It means we are able to rebuild our reserves that were seriously depleted by our opening to Broadway at Easter and look at a number of important maintenance and development projects.

However along with the good news I want to remind everyone that this is a mostly volunteer run railway - something a large number of our passengers don't realise. It can only be successful if we continue to provide a rewarding hobby for our 950 volunteers - we must all want to come to the railway! As we start to plan next year's timetable we will be taking account  the many concerns volunteers are now expressing so that we can continue to be the "Friendly Line." Please don't expect any increase in services!

Colin Fewell
Commercial Director

Monday, 4 June 2018

Visitor numbers to the end of May

The massive increase in visitor numbers since we opened to Broadway  shows how important this extension is to our line, and is a reward to every volunteer who put in so much hard work to make it happen.
Overall, the total number of passengers who  travelled with us on service trains up to the end of May  has grown to over 40,000 as against 26,000 last year. The most spectacular increase was the May Day weekend where our numbers more than double last year's total.
April and May are always very busy months with not only our Wartime in the Cotswolds weekend, our bricks event, the real ale weekend  and most recently our fabulous  steam gala all of which produced record numbers of visitors.
What is clear from analysing the figures is that passengers are now, more than ever, using our railway to "get somewhere" rather than use it for a round trip. Just look at the numbers getting on at Toddington or Winchcombe who are travelling to Broadway for lunch and shopping and you can see what has changed.
As always, thanks are due to all the volunteers who not only made this happen but are now facing the "marauding masses" on a daily basis. We are going through exciting times
Colin Fewell
Commercial Director

GWSR makes splendid Financial Progress in 2018 season!

Dear supporters of the GWSR,

It is sometime since I wrote to update you on progress at the railway but there is now much to say.

Firstly, the railway had a terrific financial year to 31 January 2018 with record passenger numbers at 101,000 and record turnover oft UKP1.7M. These figures have grown along with profits for 5 years in a row since the line was re-opened in 2012 after the land slip.

During last year steady progress was made toward opening the Broadway station, with the first train crossing the bridge and easing into the station for the first time in 58 years on 23rd December - a very nice Christmas present!

However, all 2017 activity feels like ancient history since so much has happened in the new operating season which commenced in March with the trains for the Cheltenham Festival.

We carried a record 3,000 passengers to the races which was slightly more than 1% of the 262,000 people who visited the race course! We had terrific publicity by carrying Chris Evans and his guests as part of his Children in Need appeal and, in fact, Chris will be repeating this event at next year's Gold Cup Day when we will also be putting on an extra train!

Then followed the low key but nevertheless exciting official opening to Broadway on Good Friday, 30 March, at which I expect many of you were present. Richard Faulkner cut the ribbon and then Foremarke Hall, in beautiful condition, headed off with the train full of passengers for Cheltenham for the first time in 58 years. Truly a great achievement after 10 years of work by our volunteers! 

April saw our weekend Wartime in the Cotswold event grow significantly with more than 3500 attendees (2017 3100).

In May we had the biggest steam gala ever, far surpassing the records set for attendance and turnover in 2016. For the 3 days we had 4 guest engines and the added attraction of Broadway combined to attract 6000 passengers! Most trains were like the real railways with standing room only!

However, Broadway has also contributed to an enormous growth in our operations on regular timetabled days - comparing year on year so far, passenger numbers are up 57% and ticket revenue 74%! How many businesses are doing better than that?

All of the above have contributed to rebuilding the finances after our very extensive winter capital expenditure program which saw the completion for operations of  Broadway station, a new pumped sewage system at Toddington and the rebuilding of Bridge 34 at Gotherington. 

The cash from operations has arrived just in time as, for the Board, the recent bridge strike at the Broadway bridge, where a lorry loaded with an agricultural baler crashed against the side of the bridge leaving the baler broken in half in the road, was the last straw (pun intended)! We have now ordered a bridge crash protection beam system for erection in August to protect this vital bridge from further damage by reckless drivers.

Also welcome is the steady progress by Wychavon, mostly behind the scenes, on the development of the car park on railway land adjacent to the Broadway station which we anticipate being open by the start of next season at the latest. I think the above passenger numbers show that the decision by Wychavon to invest in the car park in support of tourism was, indeed, a good decision.

That's probably enough superlatives from me - do please visit the railway often and, if possible, before the Blue King leaves in about a week!

All good wishes,


Chris Bristow
GWSR PLC Finance Director

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Wartime in the Cotswolds

Yet another record broken! A 10% increase in visitors this weekend which is remarkable considering the appalling weather. Lots of praise from everyone for what is clearly the leading Wartime experience locally. And with Broadway getting involved this year, there is more to come in the future - but hopefully under blue skies
Colin Fewell


Friday, 27 April 2018

Asparagus Express

The start of the asparagus season is very important to the Vale of Evesham and they celebrate it in style. This year they chose our railway to take the first spears to Cheltenham to present to Edward Gillespie and the Riding for the Disabled. The day started for many with breakfast at the FAleece at Bretforton then a ride in Morgan cars to Broadway Station from where they travelled - many of them slightly inebriated - to Cheltenham Racecourse. A good time was had by all as these photos show.
Colin Fewell

Monday, 23 April 2018

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

A very successful weekend

After a very exhausting few months, and a particularly exhausting Easter weekend, I can report that our opening to Broadway was a tremendous success. We were very worried about overcrowding on the platforms and on our trains and had numerous meetings to plan for the "worst" where we might even have to close down stations. However the Great British weather intervened and passenger numbers were absolutely at the right level - roughly 1000 people a day. And with trains every hour and one extra carriage on two of our sets, everyone could be seated comfortably. I heard no negative comments from anyone, nothing but praise about our friendliness, the quality of our locos and rolling stock and most importantly the work done to (almost) complete Broadway Station. There is no doubt that  the goodwill generated by everyone, and I do mean everyone,  this weekend will put us in a great position for the future. And if anyone has doubts, have a look on social media!
A great weekend
Colin Fewell
Commercial Director

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Volunteer and major shareholder and donor specials

8 trains , 2 days and about 1750 people! I hope everyone got the same kick out of being on a train arriving at Broadway Station as I did. There were tears in people's eyes and lumps in throats. It just makes the tremendous efforts by everyone over the past few years so worthwhile. And what publicity we got! Although BBC and ITV filmed the event, Midlands Today had a feature on the Wednesday evening of last week and ITV central yesterday on Good Friday. And now lots to see on social media.
Colin Fewell

Good Friday

Just a quick note here as there is still much to do, but Good Friday was absolutely brilliant. Yes the weather was a disappointment but actually it benefited us greatly as it meant we didn't have to restrict entry and everyone got a seat. Over 850 people came to the railway - well over double on the same day in 2017,  and the atmosphere was terrific. Thanks to everyone for making this day extra special. I won't mention names but you only have to go onto youtube to see how successful it was. Now to prepare for the rest of the weekend!
Colin Fewell

Monday, 19 March 2018

Race trains for Cheltenham Festival start the season in fine style!

Dear GWSR supporters,

With volunteer and shareholder trains to Broadway now just over a day away, and the official opening to the public next week on Good Friday, I am pleased to let you know that the race trains kicked of our season in fine style!

It was another record year with, for the first time, all trains sold out and 3000 passengers carried. Revenue reached a new record as did cash profits and this was partly based on the sale of 600 bottles of champagne and 1200 cans of Guinness - race going is thirsty work apparently!

The result was a huge credit to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly and professionally to make this the most enjoyable experience possible for our passengers.

Needless to say the three rostered locomotives looked fantastic; P&O, Foremarke Hall and Dinmore Manor were a great credit to the steam loco department.

On Gold Cup day we welcomed Chris Evans, his wife and the eight winners of his charity auction of a Day at the Races for Children in Need. Also in his party were the two-time Olympic gold medal cyclist, Victoria Pendleton, now a jockey. The attached photo shows Chris and Victoria enjoying a chat with P&O's crew of Andy Beale and Ben Evason.

You probably know that it was Andy who first prompted Chris's interest  in including us in his race package by phoning in last year to the Radio 2 show to talk about his fabulous job of being a steam engine driver - well done Andy!

I think all our guests enjoyed the experience and we hope to welcome them back in the future.

So, for now it's goodbye to the races and hello to Broadway!
  All the best,

Chris Bristow
GWSR PLC Finance Director

Monday, 12 March 2018

Asparagus Express

St George's Day Monday April 23rd is the traditional start to the Evesham asparagus season. This is always celebrated with a special presentation of the first spears to someone well known. This year the GWSR has been chosen by Wychavon District Council as the means of transporting the spears to Cheltenham. Full details are on their website
Colin Fewell
Commercial Director

Opening to Broadway

It's a very hectic time for all of us at present so this is a fairly brief update on our plans for the Broadway opening in a few weeks time.

You will have seen that we started selling tickets on line for the 4 days of Easter some while ago. This was done partly to gauge public interest and give us an idea how busy the trains would be and partly to reduce queuing at booking offices. You may also have seen that we have now stopped selling advance tickets for Good Friday due to the exceptional demand. Obviously for safety reasons we have to limit final numbers on trains and although we have stopped selling  in advance, we will be making tickets available  on the day up to the point when trains do become full. We have a plan in place to check numbers at each station and on each train so that if we are in danger of being overcrowded at any time, we will stop selling tickets until that full train has departed.  At present, we anticipate the very first trains out of Broadway and Cheltenham Racecourse (both timed at 09:40) will be the most crowded. It should get easier as the day progresses.

On the very first train from Broadway will be Lord Richard Faulkner (who will unveil a plaque) and a number of local council officials and major supporters. On the 11:00 departure from Toddington will be ex Chairmen of the plc plus a special guest - Peter Taylor who at the age of 94 has expressed a wish to join us. He drove Cadbury no. 1 on the very first day of steam passenger services! We very much look forward to hearing his memories of that famous day. Overall, the celebrations on that day are being kept very low key as we still have a lot of work to do to complete the station at Broadway.

Sales of tickets for the rest of the weekend are going well but there doesn't appear to be the same high demand. We therefore don't at present anticipate overcrowding and hopefully we will be able to continue to sell tickets all the way through.

As an added attraction on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there will be an exhibition by loco owners groups in the newly opened Tim Mitchell building at Winchcombe. On the Easter Monday we have our usual Easter eggspress with lots of activities also at Winchcombe.

Once we get past the initial excitement of Easter, we start our regular services and from talking to people, I think these will continue to be very busy!

Colin Fewell
Commercial Director

Monday, 29 January 2018

Broadway Car Park - some answers to your questions

Dear Fellow Supporters of the GWSR,

I am pleased to say that the correspondence I have received, both here on the blog and by email, about the car park is overwhelmingly positive.

Several important points have been raised by a number of you, so here goes with a general reply;

1. The railway's right to vehicular access on the west side of the embankment just south of Broadway Station bridge will be retained and available to the GWSR at all times.
2. The car park will be for 99 cars (2 disabled spaces), the part nearest the station will be tarmac and the further part chippings, like Wychavon's Childswickham Road car park.
3. The council have budgetted £650,000 for the car park's construction and they plan to have it open in August 2018.
4. The contract with Wychavon will require that the use of the land by Wychavon may only be for car parking.

I trust the above covers certain legitimate concerns raised which, for clarity, I had left out of my original post.

Thanks for your comments.


Chris Bristow

Saturday, 20 January 2018

GWSR has another record year in 2017!

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway has record year in 2017 – the fifth in a row!

Dear fellow GWSR Supporters,
Our railway had another record year in 2017 carrying slightly more passengers, 101,000, and earning more revenue, £1.7 million, than the previous records set in 2016. Passenger numbers would have been higher but for the loss of 3 operating days due to snow and ice over the Christmas period – the first operating days lost to wintry weather since 2010.
In fact, since the line was rejoined in 2012 after the landslips at Winchcombe, the railway has enjoyed 5 seasons of steadily increasing passenger numbers, revenue and operating profit. During this time volunteer numbers have grown to around 950 while salaried staff numbers have remained at 5. This year, as always, the  5 resident steam and 7 diesel locos performed excellently.
Some highlights of the year for me were the ‘Broadway – the last mile’ share issue which closed in April with share purchases and donations topping £1,330,000 about £80,000 more than our target amount. Great progress was made in the extension of the railway to Broadway  in order to meet the scheduled opening to the public on Good Friday, 30 March. Tracks were completed and the first train ran into Broadway station on 23 December 2017 an event much covered in the media – see photo. In addition, huge progress was made on the station site, including a new steel riveted roof structure replicating that at Toddington and fabricated in our steam loco department.

Equally exciting events occurred on the running line during the year, with the opening of the beautiful Hayles Abbey Halt in June, for which the railway was highly commended at the National Railway Heritage Awards. In October, the all new visitor centre, named the Tim Mitchell Building, in Winchcombe was opened in time for the Santa season. The building, which won an AVIVA community award in 2016, is designed in the style of the GWR goods shed at Ashburton and looks very much in place at Winchcombe.
Finally, the railway was delighted that Wychavon District Council have approved a new car park on railway land at Broadway, thus showing their support for the tourism the railway brings and easing the parking pressure in ‘the jewel of the Cotswolds’.
Turning to 2018, there is much to look forward to! With Broadway opening on Good Friday, the railway will be operating over a 15 mile route and on many days will operate 3 rakes of 8 coaches to meet anticipated demand.
As you know, all of the railways profits are ploughed back into the infrastructure and, with the current phase of Broadway capital expenditure drawing to a close, the emphasis this year will be on the existing running line. Highlights of the major investment program are a new steam loco facility at Toddington, a Signal and Telegraph workshop and a carriage shed both at Winchcombe!
It promises to be a very exciting year on the GWSR, ‘the friendly line in the Cotswolds’, and I look forward with my fellow volunteers to welcoming you to the railway in 2018!


Chris Bristow
GWSR PLC Finance Director

Friday, 12 January 2018

Wychavon District Council to build car park at Broadway

Wychavon District Council to build car park at Broadway
Dear supporters of the GWSR,

I am delighted to be able to tell you that Wychavon District Council (Wychavon) approved the construction of a car park at Broadway at their executive meeting on Wednesday 10 January 2018. The funds were allocated to the project and the chief executive was given authority to acquire the land from us and build the car park. Privately I have been advised that it should be open by August 2018.
The details of the deal we have done with them are straightforward; we transfer the ownership of the land on the west side of the railway between Broadway Road and Childswickham Road to Wychavon and they build a car park for which they receive the income from parking fees. The board has agreed that part of the cost of parking will be refunded to our passengers who commence their journey at Broadway.
Although I realize that giving up assets, land in this case, can be controversial, the GWSR board felt that, as the railway have neither the funds to build a car park nor the expertise to manage the planning and highways approval processes, it was therefore decided that this was the pragmatic way to proceed with this part of the Broadway extension project – I do hope you all agree.

You may well be interested to view the Wychavon meeting and, in particular, car park decision by clicking on The session relevant to us starts at the 27th minute. What I think you will find remarkable and gratifying is the overwhelming support the various Wychavon council members give to the railway, their recognition of our contribution to tourism and their desire to work with us in the future. To my mind the support of local authorities and communities is vital to our railway’s long term success.

Best wishes for 2018!
Chris Bristow

GWSR Finance Director

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Some figures to make this a Happy new Year

In my November report to the Board,  I said  “Unless things go awry between now and the end of the year, we should at least match  our record final total of passenger numbers in 2016.

Well, we all know what happened weatherwise! The bad news is that things did go awry with a cancelled santa day due to snow (resulting in losing over 1000 passengers and income at £16 per person) and two cancelled days after Christmas due to localised snow and ice and atrocious weather for the remainder of the season. However the good news is  that even allowing for this, the final number of visitors  to the railway during the 2017 season was 100,619 which beats last years total of 100,020.

This is a tremendous result - one every volunteer should be proud of. And if any of us have any doubts, take a look at Tripadvisor.  ok we get occasional negative comments as does every heritage railway and tourist attraction,  but the picture is clearly of a strong well run railway.

Happy new year to everyone - roll on March!

Colin Fewell
Commercial Director