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Gloucestershire Business News

Ticket office signals return for railway

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway has reopened its online ticket office ahead of reopening on August 15.

The 14-mile line between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway has been shut for 22 weeks through the coronavirus pandemic lockdown - a time when 150,000 visitors would have been expected.

Tickets for an allocated seat or compartment on a single round trip to and from Toddington Stadium are available from gwsr.com and can be downloaded to a smart device or printed at home.

Commercial director Graham Radband said: "Designing a train service that enables us to comply with strict self-distancing and cleaning measures for the safety of both visitors and the volunteers who operate the railway hasn't been easy.

"What we have come up with is a steam train service that allows everyone to enjoy the journey and the fantastic countryside that we run through.

"All journeys start and finish at Toddington and most passengers will be accommodated in old-fashioned compartment coaches within their own social bubble.

"This means that when in their compartment, passengers may take off their masks."

He continued: "Individuals can also travel and they will be accommodated at a designated seat in an open coach but to meet government guidelines they will need to wear a mask except when eating or drinking.

"There is a break of about 20 minutes at each end of the line, at Broadway and at Cheltenham, where our visitors may get off the train and watch the locomotive uncouple, run-round to the other end and re-couple ready for the return trip."

Each train will consist of six coaches - five with compartments with a side corridor for parties of two to six people and an open coach for one or two people in designated seats.

The first train is expected to be pulled by the Modified Hall class 7903 Foremarke Hall which worked this route in British Railways days.

Mr Radband said: "This is a very exciting first step towards resuming our train services. It has been a very difficult year with no income, yet the bills still continue to come in while we have also had to deal with an embankment landslip near Gotherington.

"The landslip was the subject of an appeal which raised £250,000 in just 10 weeks to help the railway meet the £500,000 cost of repairing it - without the generosity of so many people the future of the railway was at stake.

"It's fair to say that every volunteer on our railway is deeply grateful for every £1 contributed to that appeal - it means that we can face the future and rebuild the business with confidence."

The Flag & Whistle Tea Rooms at Toddington will be open, but volunteer-run cafes at Winchcombe and Broadway and on-train buffet cars will not be available.

Pre-packed snacks and drinks or a picnic lunch can be reserved when booking while hot drinks will be available at Cheltenham Racecourse station

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