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                                                                                              7 January 2014


Following a detailed inspection by a loss adjuster yesterday (6 January 2014), the South Devon Railway (SDR) received some good news that the line’s insurance policy will cover most of the repair costs and loss of revenue after the recent Winter storms not only led to a serious landslip which blocked the seven-mile line completely from Boxing Day, but also resulted in the suspension of all trains until February.


The landslip blockage of an estimated 500 tons of rock, soil, mud and trees, near milepost 4 ½ between Buckfastleigh and Staverton, forced the SDR to suspend all seven days of its remaining festive period and New Year services resulting in a significant drop in income for the railway and considerable disappointment for several thousand intending passengers.


The SDR landslip took place sometime after the last Santa train on Monday December 23rd and Boxing Day morning when staff undertaking a line safety inspection found their way blocked by the obstruction.


As a result of the insurance inspection, the outline costs, scale, type of work and timescale of the landslip clean up and track repair programme were agreed in principle as the work will now need to be done quickly for the railway to reopen as advertised on 15 February.


Whilst a large part of the damage re-instatement costs and loss of revenue will now be met by insurance cover, the railway anticipates it will still face a shortfall of up to £10-15,000 in order to rectify fully all of the problems, install additional drainage which it prudently believes is required to try and prevent future landslip re-occurrences, together with the normal insurance excess figure it has to bear.


As a result, the decision was taken yesterday NOT to launch a major public appeal which had been considered earlier if the railway’s losses would not be covered by insurance cover, but the SDR will be very pleased to receive any public donations towards its costs.


With the SDR expecting to run steam train services on Boxing Day for the first time in over 50 years -- probably since the line was closed to passengers by British Railways in 1958 -- the enforced closure and loss of business and goodwill has been a big blow to the railway which usually carries three to four thousand people over the line after Christmas and into the New Year on its Mince Pie special trains.


Although the SDR’s Refreshment Rooms and Expressway Model shop were open as normal from Saturday 28th December, the absence of trains has naturally led to far fewer visitors and a big drop in expected takings of some 25-30% over the period.                                                                                


SDR Trust Chairman Alan Taylor comments: “Instead of running some extra steam train services on Boxing Day and Friday 27th December for the first time in our history, our plans were completely dashed by the very bad weather which caused a serious landslip that blocked the line between Buckfastleigh and Staverton.


Thankfully, the major landslip didn't occur until after our Santa trains had finished, but we estimate to have lost about £15,000 in revenue over the post-Christmas period from the enforced closure.


“The landslip is around 40 yards long, but in a very inaccessible place which is going to make the repairs difficult because it will take some time to clear the debris and then re-instate the track.


“We can only apologise to all of those who came to the railway after Christmas and were disappointed to miss their trip out, but we’d like all of our friends and supporters to come back and see us in February for our two Winter Gala weekends during half-term.


“We’ve also been heartened by the many offers of help and support we’ve had from local people and our supporters, local MP Mel Stride, and a number of other heritage railways, including promises of labour and plant machinery.


“With the vast majority of the repair costs being thankfully borne by our insurers, we decided that it would be inappropriate to launch a formal public appeal to help us pay for some of these unexpected and unplanned repairs, but we will have a major appeal later in the year for our big planned improvements at Buckfastleigh.


“Any donations can be sent to the railway at Buckfastleigh Station marked ‘Landslip Appeal’ with cheques made payable to the South Devon Railway.


“A Gift Aid form is also available on our website for UK tax payers which will be of even greater advantage to the railway as we can recover the tax paid from such donations.


“Our seven-mile line running between Buckfastleigh and Totnes was on track to carry well over 100,000 people again last year but, after losing seven days of train operations from Boxing Day to New Year’s Day inclusive, we just managed to break through the 100,000 passenger mark again.                                                             



“All of our supporters and friends can keep up to date with progress via regular updates on our website, and Facebook and Twitter pages.


“Anyone wishing to make a donation can obtain further information by telephone on 01364 644370.”




1)    For further information about the South Devon Railway or to arrange photography or filming, please contact Dick Wood, see details below.


2)    Further information and news about the South Devon Railway can be seen at the SDR’s website:,


Press Release prepared and issued on behalf of

the South Devon Railway by Dick Wood,

tel 07711 552947,

e-mail: or