Wet and getting wetter - but SVR passengers beat the monsoons

10th July 2012

IT WAS the wettest June since records began, and ten days in, it looks as though July is making its own bid for an all-time rainfall record too. But the sun is shining on the Severn Valley Railway just now, for despite the monsoon weather, visitor figures and passenger numbers are actually holding up ahead of budget.

The 16-mile Kidderminster - Bridgnorth steam heritage railway had made provision to carry 68,900 passengers by the end of June, but after totting up the figures, SVR General Manager Nick Ralls revealed today that the railway’s steam trains carried 70,387 passengers by the mid-point of the calendar year - almost 1,500 more than expected.

Pound for pound, the figures compare almost exactly with those for the same period last year – but the railway had expected that the ‘double dip recession’ would effect a fall in passenger numbers – and it hasn’t happened.

“We didn’t particularly set out to market the SVR an all-weather attraction, but from the figures, it certainly looks as though a lot of people are now seeing us in that light, and recognising they can have a thoroughly enjoyable day out on the railway while still staying warm and dry” ventured Nick Ralls earlier today.

“A steam train allows you to cheat the bad weather every time – it’s the best umbrella you could possibly have - but since we opened the Engine House Visitor Centre at Highley in 2008, we’ve been able to offer visitors a really worthwhile indoor attraction too with lots to see and do as well. In conditions like those we’ve seen over the last five or six weeks, the combination of the two has worked really well for us.”

The huge overall glass canopy which covers the concourse at the railway’s Kidderminster Town terminus station, has also been a big bonus during wet weather, allowing ‘outdoor’ events like the two recent 1940s Weekends (June 23rd/24th and June 30th/July 1st) to go ahead unhindered by forecasts of heavy rain and wind.

The forecast for the rest of this week offers little respite for pleasure-seeking day trippers in the West Midlands. According to the BBC, today (Tuesday), the Midlands can expect persistent rain with localised flooding possible. Tomorrow (Wednesday) heavy showers and thunderstorms will affect much of central England, while further heavy rain and strengthening winds are predicted for Thursday and Friday. There’s only one thing for it then:  a day out on the Severn Valley Railway!