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,
GWSR PLC Finance Director