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More than 1,000 visitors so far on GWR Taunton to Bishops Lydeard train trial

MORE than one thousands visitors have so far used a trial train service which links Taunton to West Somerset.

The first Great Western Railway trial service between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard took place on July 28, linking the main line to the West Somerset Railway heritage line.

Across the first three days of the trial, which have only been taking place on Saturdays, the service has seen more than 1,000 visitors, with many continuing on to Minehead.

The visitors have travelled from more than 50 other mainline stations across the country, from as far as Newcastle upon Tyne.

Chris Austin, chairman of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust, who has been leading the Taunton shuttle project on behalf of WSR Plc, said: "The first trial shuttle trains run jointly by GWR and the WSR have seen visitors flocking to West Somerset and Minehead from around the country.

"The new shuttles have brought rail visitors from no fewer than 50 main line stations all around Britain so far, ranging from as far away as Penzance to Newcastle upon Tyne.

"First survey result figures just released by the railway show more than 1,000 visitors have travelled from Taunton to Bishops Lydeard over the three days the shuttle has been running so far, and last Saturday's figures show two thirds of these passengers going through to Minehead.

"And interestingly, around 13 per cent of those visitors have said on survey forms that they have never been to the WSR before, while almost half , 46 per cent, were infrequent visitors.

"People have come from far and wide, the longest journey being from Newcastle upon Tyne, while visitors also came from Cornwall, Kent and South Wales while most came from Bristol. One passenger travelled from Stone in Staffordshire to Stogumber just to visit friends.

The next services are set to run on August 31, September 7 and 21 and October 5.

Mr Austin added: "For local people, the 10.05am WSR train departure from Minehead allows time for lunch or a spot of shopping in Taunton before returning later on the 3.37pm train from the county town.

"This boost for the West Somerset economy was in addition to the 400 visitors from a charter train from Paddington on Saturday August 17 hauled by mighty LMS pacific locomotive 'Duchess of Sutherland'.

"The special charter train was hauled on to Minehead by WSR locomotive 53808 from Bishops Lydeard, where the Duchess was turned and serviced and it then arrived in Minehead later in the afternoon ready for the return trip to London."

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