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MINEHEAD Town Council has agreed in principle that a viable fully-operational rail link with Taunton would be beneficial to the town – news hailed by rail campaigners as a “major first step in stopping Minehead falling off the map as a tourist destination”. “We are delighted that the town council have finally woken up to the fact that a direct rail service to Taunton could make a massive difference to the fortunes of Minehead which are now at such a low ebb,” said Alex de Mendoza, chairman of Minehead Chamber of Commerce, who is leading the Minehead Rail Link Group campaign. “We have absolutely no criticism of the West Somerset Railway operation, but bringing much-need- ed revenue into the town with crosscountry excursions and regular services is a no-brainer.” At its recent meeting, Minehead Town Council adopted a proposal by Cllr Oliver Harvey to accept the principle of a viable rail link into Taunton. He told councillors: “Initial feasibility studies have indicated a range of potential benefits for the people and businesses of Minehead and also for the West Somerset Railway. “A further feasibility study will be necessary to fully consider all the various technical, operational and financial issues that present themselves. “However, I am confident that this is a worthwhile practical proposal and I hope that all the interested parties concerned will be able to work together to achieve a consensus.” Mr de Mendoza said: “I am delighted that the town council is at last taking us seriously. People who come here are amazed that the line stops three miles from Taunton. “With a proper link we could be running 30 or 40 throughtrains a year, bringing in people prepared to spend money. A recent excursion train from Oxfordshire gave traders one of their best days of the year. “In contrast, the Flying Scotsman visits were a damp squib so far as local traders were concerned – they brought in what were dubbed ‘the sandwich and flask brigade’.” Mr de Mendoza said he envisaged a regular service of three-car sprinter trains, running at around 40mph and making eight to ten trips a day. “When people say this is impossible, they should remember that this was precisely the service British Rail was providing in 1967,” he said. “I am just hoping that with this encouragement from the town council we will see some real progress before too long.”

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