Storm Eunice: New West Somerset Railway barriers damaged

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WEST Somerset Railway is ‘determined’ to ensure trains can run to Minehead next month, despite Storm Eunice damaging three new barriers at the Seaward Way level crossing.

Passenger trains are due to start running on the line to Minehead for the first time in two years on March 19, when West Somerset Railway’s (WSR) 2022 timetable begins.

Railway staff and volunteers were called to the crossing during Storm Eunice to assess damage to three of the four barriers.

Discussions are currently underway between WSR, the contractors who installed the new equipment last year, and Somerset County Council about repairing the barriers.

The council allocated around £1.2million in funding for the level crossing’s reconstruction last year, allowing training and maintenance trains to travel to Minehead station for the first time since 2019.

The crossing was rebuilt after reaching the end of its useful life and no longer met requirements for the number of vehicles using it.

WSR: 2022 company schedule to start on Saturday, March 19

Frank Courtney, the line’s communications manager, said the barriers installed at Seaward Way are standard across the national rail network and should not have failed as they have.

During the storm a large tree fell onto the tracks at Crowcombe Heathfield station dislodging a large platform name sign, but the debris was quickly cleared.

Other damage to the rail line from Storm Eunice was limited.

SWR company chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt said: “I would like to thank everyone who has worked to keep the railway safe and minimize damage during this extremely difficult time.

“We are all determined to ensure that the railway opens until Minehead on March 19, and I am sure that with the dedicated team that we have this will be achieved.

At this time, WSR has no indication of the cost of repairing the barriers or the breakdown of the bill.

Somerset County Gazette: SEAWARD WAY: The level crossing in September 2018 - before work was carried out to install new equipment last year (Image: Google Maps)SEAWARD WAY: The level crossing in September 2018 – before work to install new equipment last year (Image: Google Maps)

Across Somerset, the County Council’s Highways team has witnessed 258 incidents related to falling trees since Storm Eunice swept through the county on Friday morning.

This year West Somerset Railway is set to bring a Pannier Tank locomotive No. 9466 designed by GWR to the line to haul passenger trains.

The decision to introduce the new locomotive follows detailed investigations into the load capacities of the track and the bridges.

The surveys will help the WSR board consider other guest and long-term resident locomotives using the same weight safety checks, meaning rail enthusiasts could soon see more locomotives on the railroad than in recent years.

the county gazette has contacted Somerset County Council for comment.


Read more: West Somerset Railway returns with one year of rail services

Read more: Volunteers raise £20,000 for Stogumber station on West Somerset Railway

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