The West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust WSRHT

Chris Austin Appointed Heritage Trust President

Posted on June 6, 2022

Chris Austin Appointed Heritage Trust President

The West Somerset Railway Heritage Trust is delighted to announce that Chris Austin OBE has accepted the role of President of the Trust. This is an honorary appointment. Chris succeeds Lady Elizabeth Gass who has stepped down from the role on health grounds.

Chris Austin has been a volunteer on the West Somerset Railway for 35 years and a member of the Trust for 14. He is a retired railwayman, actively engaged as a volunteer with a number of railway groups.  He is currently secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heritage Rail, past Chairman of the Heritage Trust and a former PLC Chairman. He is a member and past president of the Retired Railway Officers’ Society and a member of the Avocet Line Rail User Group in Devon. 

He retired in February, 2009 as Head of Public Affairs for the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), after a railway career of 42 years.  Prior to this, he was an Executive Director with the Strategic Rail Authority, responsible for producing the Government’s policy on Community Rail Development.  In retirement he was a Board Member of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships until March 2016.  He worked for British Rail for thirty years, finishing as the Board’s Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs.

Together with Lord Faulkner of Worcester, he has written two books on the social and political history of rail closures (Holding the Line, 2012 and Disconnected! Broken Links in Britain’s Rail Policy in 2015.)

He holds a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge University, is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and was awarded the OBE in 2006 for services to the railway industry.  In 2017 he was given a special contribution award by the West Somerset Railway on completing 30 years service as a volunteer, and in 2018, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Association of Community Rail Partnerships.

© Chris Austin, acting as Brunel during Somerset Day 2019

“We are delighted that Chris has agreed to become our next President and thank Lady Gass as our outgoing President for her invaluable support of the Trust over many years. Chris’s nomination received overwhelming support from the Board and he comes with a huge pedigree in the railway heritage world. He is widely respected across the WSR and the wider railway community, even reaching into Parliamentary circles with his participation in the All-Party Group. His work and influence supporting the Trust over many years is probably unparalleled in our history and I know he will continue to bring huge credibility and respect to the charity as our next President“.

“It is an honour to take over the mantle from Lady Gass whose great great-grandfather was the founder and first chairman of the railway. I’m excited to be taking on the role at the time when the Trust has become more effective in its support for the West Somerset Railway, reaching out to schools and families, providing a museum worthy of the railway and making a start on the huge task of restoring its historic coaches. I shall continue as a museum steward and with carriage restoration, working with the great group of volunteers who, together with the Trustees, provide a better experience for the railways visitors”.

For further information please contact Steve Williams, Company Secretary at or 07748-637209