'Severe' income loss due to coronavirus prompts Leighton Buzzard Railway to seek public donations

Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway is appealing to the public's generosity as it looks to cope with a "severe loss of income" due to the coronavirus outbreak

Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 4:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 4:48 pm

Last year the railway's activities brought in £130,000, but with 2020 main income streams likely to be wiped out by the pandemic, it has launched a public appeal.

Although the popular attraction is closed - in fact its only operational day so far has been the season launch on March 15 - its costs continue.

In a message to the public, chairman Terry Bendall, said: "You will be aware that the continuing coronavirus situation and the consequent restrictions on movement mean that the railway faces a severe loss of income.

The railway's first (and so far only) operating day of the 2020 season. As is customary, the mayor flags off the first train. Chairman Terry Bendall is flanked by Leighton-Linslade's Mayor and the Town Crier. Photo by Mark Lewis.

"Whilst we have no idea how long the present situation will continue, it is likely that we will lose much, if not all, of our main season income.

"To give you an idea of the situation, in the main season for 2019 our overall income from all sources was around £130,000. This consisted of £99,000 from ticket sales, gift aid of £12,000, shop income of £15,000 and income from the cafe of £2,000.

"Unlike some heritage railways we do not have salaries to pay, and some of our regular outgoings will be reduced, but some costs such as utility bills, insurance, rent, rates and a host of other items still have to be paid. It is likely that we will have to find about £30,000 to cover these costs."

Although the railway could meet such charges from its reserves, to do so would seriously deplete them it has said. Mr Bendall said: "Therefore in view of recent government advice that the situation may last longer than might have been anticipated, we are making an urgent appeal to our supporters for assistance in helping to meet these costs.

"We do of course appreciate that those supporters who are in employment may well have a reduced income at present, and many of our supporters are in receipt of pensions and may have limited funds but we hope that many will be able to assist.

"The restrictions of social contact do of course mean that the sort of excursions and outings that many of us enjoy, be it the sporting event, cinema, visits to another railway or even a drink in the pub cannot be enjoyed so perhaps some of what you might have spent on one of these events could be donated to the railway.

"We are not specifying an amount, but to use again a well-known advertising tag line ‘every little helps’."

Mr Bendall said the simplest way to help would be to set up a standing order at the bank to pay a set amount, perhaps each month or other suitable interval. Additionally, the public can make a one-off donation direct to the railway’s bank account.

Alternatively, he said, perhaps put some cash aside and bring it along to the railway when it finally reopens, or send a cheque or charity voucher direct to the station.

"This will give us a regular income which is what is needed to help with the outgoings," he said. "Please help if you can."

The railway's bank details are as follows:

Account name: Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society Limited. Sort code: 53-70-11. Account number: 07615353

A previous statement on its closure, issued last month, said: "While this is clearly something which no-one wanted to happen, the safety of our customers and volunteers is paramount, and we are unable to operate in a manner that would satisfy the government’s advice, for example on social distancing. We will continue the monitor the situation and are taking steps to ensure we can reopen as soon as it is safe to do so."

Among the events lost so far were the special Mother’s Day trains and the Easter Egg Hunt. It is hoped that a suitable date for the Bedfordshire Gin and Whisky Festival, originally scheduled for March 29, can be found later in the year, as well as the relaunch of popular locomotive Peter Pan which was to happen on April 19.

Any customers who have pre-booked train tickets for the coming months, as well as those who purchased tickets for the Bedfordshire Gin and Whisky Festival, will be contacted by the railway to discuss options.