THE new trial Great Western Railway diesel rail-car shuttle service linking the national rail network at Taunton with the West Somerset Railway at Bishops Lydeard will start on Saturday July 27 and continue into the autumn.
Further trains will run on Saturdays on August 3, 17 and 31, September 7, 21 and October 5, and will transport visitors to WSR’s Steam Rally at Norton Fitzwarren on August 3 and the Autumn Steam Gala on October 5.
Further dates for later in the year are still under consideration by GWR and the WSR.
A WSR spokesman said: “The primary purpose of the trial is to attract people from the national network to visit the WSR and enjoy the scenic line and attractions which will bring big benefits to local businesses in West Somerset.
“For local residents, the new service offers a stress-free and sustainable way of Saturday shopping in Taunton as well as a good connection with the national network.”
Great Western Railway already offers through tickets from its staffed stations to the West Somerset Railway, and these will be valid on the shuttle train or on the No 28 bus between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard as an alternative to the shuttle rail service.
Tickets can also be bought on the shuttle train from Taunton to any station on the West Somerset Railway.
The use of the trains will be monitored and analysed to see if there is a basis for running a regular service in future years.
For information on the GWR shuttle and WSR services, see the West Somerset Rail website or call 01643 704996.
GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said: “This new regular, timetabled GWR shuttle service is an exciting opportunity for both railways in a joint venture.
“It is funded through our Customer and Community Improvement Fund as a trial, and we hope that visitors, enthusiasts and local residents will use the new service so that we can evaluate its success.”
WSR chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt said: “The new GWR shuttle link is another good reason to visit the West Somerset Railway this year. We are proud to be running our heritage steam trains alongside their Great Western successors.”
Cllr Benet Allen, secretary of the Minehead Rail Link Group, said they welcomed the start of the trials but felt that a one-day-a-week service was only a very small step towards a regu- lar Taunton-Minehead link.
“It proves that you can run GWR trains on WSR metals but we are pressing for a much more comprehensive service which will benefit Minehead and the surrounding area,” he said.
The group’s chairman, Alex de Mendoza, also backed the “first tentative trial service” and called on the travelling public to show that such a link was needed by using the shuttle trains.
Full article in West Somerset Free Press 02/07/2019