23 July 2019
This coming weekend, the new Saturdays-only GWR Summer shuttle service trains starts on Saturday July 27 and will then continue through August and into the autumn on selected dates forming a timetabled link between the national rail network at Taunton station and the West Somerset Railway (WSR), one of Somerset’s top tourist attractions.
Details of the new service being run as a joint trial venture between the West Somerset Railway and Great Western Railway are outlined below, and the basic itinerary for the day is as follows:
The party of official and civic guests meet at Taunton station. Time will be very tight but, in addition to a few words to welcome the service by Rebecca Pow MP, we are expecting there to be some pizzazz to help add atmosphere to the event.
The empty coaching stock arrives from Exeter, followed by short photo-call and the train departs after Taunton MP Rebecca Pow flags away the first GWR shuttle train to Bishops Lydeard.
Train arrives Bishops Lydeard and a brief photo-call on platform 2 with more flag waving and other civic guests present to welcome the first train. If time allows, we are hoping Rebecca Pow will walk down the platform quickly to see the 10.15 steam departure to Minehead for a shot of her stood alongside the steam loco before it leaves.
Many of the official party will then depart Bishops Lydeard for Taunton, including Rebecca Pow, but some may want to alight at Bishops Lydeard and stay for an hour and return on the next shuttle to Taunton, or go on to Minehead on the 10.15 steam train and return later in the day.
The WSR will have staff on hand at Bishops Lydeard to help show guests around, including the Gauge Museum featuring the late Peter Barnfield’s art exhibition, and the station is being properly decorated with bunting for the day.
The connecting train arrives at Minehead at 11.35 where the station will similarly be decorated and the Mayor, Town Crier and some other civic guests will meet the train.
Trains will run on Saturdays on the following dates: July 27, August 3, 17 and 31, September 7, 21 and October 5.
These dates will allow for a big influx of visitors to the WSR’s special events on Saturday 3 August for the Steam Rally at Norton Fitzwarren, and the WSR’s Autumn Steam Gala on Saturday 5 October.
Details of the train service are set out below. Further dates for the shuttle later in the year are still under consideration by GWR and the WSR.
The primary purpose of the new trial is to test the water and attract people from the national network to visit the WSR to enjoy the scenic line and attractions which will bring big benefits to local businesses in West Somerset.
The West Somerset Railway itself is one of the largest tourist attractions in Somerset with around 180,000 visitors a year. 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 carefully monitored and analysed to see if there is a basis for running a service in future years.
For information on the GWR shuttle and West Somerset Railway services, see the railway’s website: www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk or call 01643 704996.
For information on connecting services from Taunton, see the National Rail website: www.nationalrail.co.uk or call 03457 484950.
GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said: “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 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.”
Taunton MP Rebecca Pow comments: “I am a firm believer in innovation and in partnership, and it is great to see GWR using their Customer and Community Improvement Fund to link mainline trains to the West Somerset Railway on Saturdays this summer. It is great for Taunton, for Bishops Lydeard and for Minehead, and I hope the trial is a great success.
“In December this year, we will see the biggest timetable change for 40 years on the GWR mainline with faster, more frequent services, but it is great to see that there is also a push to improve our local services too and I commend the staff and volunteers at the WSR for putting together the bid that secured the funding.”
Jonathan Jones-Pratt, chairman of the West Somerset Railway plc added: “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.”
Timetable(please check on the website prior to travelling as times will vary for WSR special event weekends, or ring 01643 704996).
GWR Taunton dep 09.39 10.28 12.10 15.37 16.36
GWR Bishops Lydeard arr 09.56 10.45 12.26 15.54 16.53
WSR Bishops Lydeard dep 10.15 11.00 12.40 16.20 –
WSR Minehead arr 11.35 12.20 14.00 18.00 –
WSR Minehead dep – 10.05 14.30 15.25
WSR Bishops Lydeard arr – 11.30 15.52 16.50
GWR Bishops Lydeard dep 10.03 11.45 12.53 16.09 17.11
GWR Taunton arr 10.22 12.05 13.10 16.26 17.28
Notes to News Editors:
- The GWR shuttle service is supported by a £60,000 grant from Great Western Railway’s Customer & Communities Improvement Fund. GWR’s Regional Development Manager Matthew Barnes and Lord Richard Faulkner (representing GWR Exec as Chair of the Advisory Board) will be available for media interviews, plus WSR representatives and some civic guests.
- The West Somerset Railway is the longest heritage railway in England with trains running the 19.5 miles between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead. The shuttle will run the 5 miles between Taunton and Minehead offering a total of 24.5 miles of scenic line to enjoy.
- BR’s Minehead branch line closed in January 1971, and the West Somerset Railway re-opened party of the line between Minehead and Blue Anchor in March 1976. This year 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.