With the Santa trains successfully completed and this year's running season drawing to a close this week, its a good time to give everybody who follows the GWSR an update on our progress this year.
I am pleased to tell you 2014 has been another terrific year!
2013 was always going to be a hard act to follow as it was the first full year of operations after the re-opening of the line and was a brilliant summer but, in fact, we will have maintained our momentum in 2014 and when we finally crunch the numbers at the end of January (31 January is our year end) I am forecasting we will have done equally well in terms of number of passengers, revenue and profit from operations.
Well done to all our volunteers who make it happen day in day out, year in year out!
As I always say, our success financially is down to two things of which we can be both pleased and proud;
Firstly, we are a volunteer run railway with, as you no doubt know, only 3 full time and two part time staff so our income is not used up, as in some other heritage railways, on large wage bills but in improving and developing our railway's infrastructure. I'll return to this in a minute.
Secondly, all our special events have proved yet again very popular and all made money starting with the Race trains in March, the Wartime weekend, the Thomas events, the Steam and Diesel galas, the Fish and Chips trains, Fire and Drive and Diesel Drive and culminating with the fantastic Santa season! Wow! I think in choosing one I'd like to talk briefly about the Santas. Thanks to the fantastic energy of Colin and Elspeth Fewell and all the team and the volunteers who worked the trains this season surpassed all records with 9350 passengers up from last year's record of 8650! I talked to many of our Santa passengers, both big and small, and its amazing how many are repeat customers. Why do they come back? Overwhelmingly the big ones say it's because we are so friendly and the little ones clearly think we give good presents!
Life's not all about making money, as the Steam Loco department proved by organizing a free Santa steaming for disadvantaged children (something we will definitely repeat next year), its about giving our passengers a great day out and providing an environment where we are pleased to come and volunteer.
Back to 2014 and, in addition to running all our trains, we moved our goal of getting to Broadway substantially forward this year. As I write, the bridges are all complete and the share appeal generated enough funds at £562,000 to cover their repair costs and give us the confidence to buy the rail to allow our P Way team to extend the railway another half mile to Little Buckland. Next year we are budgeting for substantial expenditure on Broadway station itself, on clearing the track bed completely from Laverton north and, if all goes to plan, on buying more rail to take us to Peasebrook Farm - one mile and within sight of Broadway station! None of that will be to the detriment of the running line as we plan nearly £500,000 for repairs and maintenance on the existing railway.
I can't really finish about 2014 without making mention that the Heritage group, now fully affiliated with the GWRT, have had their first project to reinstate a halt at Hailes Abbey approved in principle. Image that - two new stations by 2018!
So that's about it, another great year!
Very best wishes for the New Year to all our Volunteers, members, shareholders and supporters from your finance team!
Bob, Chris, Dave and Richard