TRAINS will run between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard from later this month as part of an experiment to link up the national rail network and the West Somerset Railway.
The initiative should give a boost to tourism in West Somerset and could also attract customers to travel to the county town to do their shopping.
The first shuttle service trains will run on Saturday, July 27, with others scheduled on Saturdays, August 3, 17, and 31, September 7 and 21, and October 5.
If successful there could be further services later in the year.
Great Western Railway already offers through tickets from its staffed stations to the West Somerset Railway, and they will be valid on the shuttle train or on the No. 28 bus between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard as an alternative to the rail service.
Tickets can also be bought on the shuttle train from Taunton to any station on the West Somerset Railway - book and check timetables at west-somerset-railway.co.uk
Great Western Railway managing director, Mark Hopwood, said the use of the trains will be monitored and analysed to see if there is a basis for running a service in future years.
He added: "This new regular, timetabled GWR shuttle service from Taunton to the WSR at Bishops Lydeard is an exciting opportunity for both railways in a joint venture.
"It is funded (with £60,000) through our Customer and Community Improvement Fund as a trial, and we hope that visitors, enthusiasts and local residents will use the new Saturday service this year so that we can jointly evaluate its success."
Jonathan Jones-Pratt, chairman of the West Somerset Railway plc said: "The new GWR shuttle link is another good reason to visit the West Somerset Railway this year.
"Coupled with great scenery, the friendly welcome and our steam trains, and you have an unbeatable day out. We are proud to be running our heritage steam trains alongside their Great Western successors."
British Rail’s Minehead branch line closed in January 1971 and the West Somerset Railway opened between Minehead and Blue Anchor in March 1976.
This is the 40th anniversary of the line reopening to Bishops Lydeard and the boundary of the railway next to the main line at Norton Fitzwarren.
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