Network Rail’s refusal to reinstate West Coast Railways’ track access was followed by a claim from the charter operator that Western Scotland’s economy is “in danger” if the ‘Jacobite’ train cannot run.
The press statement, which was not issued to RAIL, also claimed that WCR’s absence from the main line charter scene would mean an end to main line steam running.
This is not the case, however, because while WCR has historically run 90% of the UK main line steam programme, DB Schenker also runs its own very successful steam charters. These will continue and may even expand to fill any void, should WCR not return to charter operation.
The ‘Jacobite’ steam service normally runs from May to the end of October, from Fort William to Mallaig. It is scheduled for 225 trips over 150 days this year, and its cash contribution is crucial for WCR.
The statement, released by DP Publicity on behalf of WCR, said: “If their ban remains active, then Friday May 15 could see an end to the glorious era of main line steam.”
A WCR spokesman added: “On March 7 this year, one of our drivers passed a red light at Wootton Bassett. As serious as this is, it is an isolated case in the history of our 16 years in operation. However, we realise that measures must be taken to prevent this human error from happening again and put preventative measures and systems in place to ensure just that. We have worked tirelessly with Network Rail to satisfy both parties’ safety requirements, but this takes time.
“We have only until Monday May 11, the start of the ‘Jacobite’ season, to regain our track access. Failure to do so will be a bitter blow to all passengers and people relying on the service locally for an income.”
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