PLANS to create a community rail service between Minehead and Taunton could cost up to £30 million and “do not stack up”, according to the chairman of the West Somerset Railway.
Jonathan Jones-Pratt pledged to keep the line running as a heritage railway and described the Minehead Rail Link Group’s proposals to run a diesel-car two-hour service as “unsustainable”.
As reported in the Free Press last week, the rail group contacted Somerset County Council calling for talks about backing a service operated under a revised franchise agreement, “using two or three car diesel multiple units”.
The letter, from Minehead Rail Link Group (MRLG) secretary and district councillor Benet Allen, claimed the service could be delivered by extending some of the current Cardiff to Taunton services through to Minehead.
MRLG believed this would attract more visitors to the area, benefit all residents, and result in a reduction in West Somerset’s carbon contribution, and ‘a stress-free’ way of reaching Butlin’s.
The letter added: “The West Somerset Railway is currently in a desperate financial situation and is suffering from declining volunteer and passenger numbers.
“The community rail service we seek could be the lifeline it needs to secure its very survival.”
But Mr Jones-Pratt replied: “Where are the numbers that show this would work? I haven’t seen a business case that shows this stacks up.”
He added: “We currently operate under the Light Railway Order.
“To run the service MRLG are proposing, at the speeds they are proposing, would require a huge overhaul of much of our infrastructure to bring it up to the standards required for running a Network Rail service.
“That alone could cost between £20 million and £30m.”
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