Private railway that caters for car lovers
Sunday 12 December 1993
Board members of the West Somerset Railway are charged with pandering to the whims of car-borne tourists at the expense of trying to connect the 21-mile railway to the BR network four miles away.
The railway carries about 120,000 passengers a year between Minehead, Somerset's biggest tourist resort, and Bishop's Lydeard, a dormitory village on the outskirts of Taunton, the county town. .
It operates several special trains a year when enthusiasts make the journey between BR and the West Somerset over the existing track to Taunton. But to upgrade the service for daily use would cost pounds 1m- pounds 2m, and substantially increase running costs.
Dennis Taylor, chairman of the West Somerset Railway, denied that the goal of a link to Taunton had been abandoned - there were other calls on the company's cash. He said: 'We can't see it happening at this time. We are a tourist attraction and one for the steam enthusiast. We are not a provider of transport to get from A to B'
His attitude did not find favour with the Minehead Planning Action Group. They are incensed by a consultants' report to Somerset County Council on the tourism potential of the railway. It rejects any idea of a Taunton link, even if funds were available, but did not consider the question of rural transport.
Mr Chris Dyer, secretary of the action goup, said: 'The consultants' report is dubious to say the least. Thousands of people bought shares because they wanted to reopen the railway line, not run a tourist attraction.'
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