The National Lottery players have lend financial support to two popular heritage railway lines in North Wales that were temporarily shut down due to COVID-19.
An emergency £250,000 grant has been given to the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways (F&WHR) after the lockdown made them miss out on what would normally have been their peak season.
Moreover, the pandemic led the railways, like other tourist sector services in the region, to close in March and reopen only when the restrictions on travel eased.
This closure has caused a significant loss in profits to the heritage railways across Britain, which typically contribute as much as £400million to the economy.
The Ffestiniog Railway resumed some services on 20th July after easing of coronavirus restrictions. The Welsh Highland Railway resumed operations on 18th August.
However, the virus pandemic has forced them both to cut capacity as the carriages had to be adapted due to social distancing guidelines given by the government.
All these factors have led to a significant reduction in their revenue.
The Heritage Emergency Fund of the National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded £250,000 to the to help reduce the financial impact of the pandemic.
The Fund was raised in response to the coronavirus outbreak and will help pay salaries, fund bills, and make essential repairs.
The Fund is also helping organizations to prepare for reopening of business and getting their staff and volunteers back on board.
Paul Lewin, the General Manager of F&WHR said that having lost four months of their high season, they would not have been able to carry on “this highly important work” without this funding.
He said that the National Lottery Heritage Fund has also been providing support to their project to protect the future of a railway works site at Boston Lodge that has a historic significance.
This ongoing project is aimed at conserving the 19th-century buildings and make sure that they can continue functioning well into the 21st century.
Lewin said that Covid-19 had brought all their efforts to a rapid halt that was potentially very damaging.
But thanks to the vital support from The National Lottery and its benevolent Lottery players, they “are pleased to confirm” the project is continuing, despite the challenging situation, he said.
The GM said that the support from The National Lottery during the emergency period means that they can make a plan that sees their business survive the short-term challenges and goes on to flourish in the future.
The director of the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales, Andrew White said that the two heritage railways are almost totally reliant on the peak months of summer for their income.
He said the lockdown has left many businesses and charity organizations struggling, and some are facing a bleak future.
He said that thanks to National Lottery players, they were able to help several such organizations with emergency funding – including Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway.
He emphasized the importance of the heritage sector saying that it was very vital for tourism, jobs and people’s wellbeing as Britain emerges from the COVID-19 crisis.