WORK has begun to repair a landslip in time for the start of the West Somerset Railway’s (WSR) official 2023 trains between Minehead and Bishops Lydeard.

Contractors were on site in Combe Florey where a mudslide from neighbouring agricultural fields cut the line in two when it caused an embankment collapse shortly before Christmas.

The A358 which runs alongside the railway line was also closed by the debris, the third time the road had suffered a mudslide closure since August.

WSR director Frank Courtney was confident the track would be reopened before train services started in March.

Mr Courtney said: “Fortunately, the railway track itself was not damaged, although some of the ballast needed to be replaced.

“Immediately after Christmas, engineers and technical staff from the railway were on site to assess the damage, and plan the repairs to the embankment.

“Contractors have been engaged for this work and are now on site.”

Mr Courtney said the cost of repairs was not yet known but would not run into millions, which meant it was unlikely the railway would need to appeal to supporters to help meet the bill as at first thought.

He said: “This work is going to cost a significant amount, but at the moment our main priority is to ensure that the railway re-opens on time in early March.

“Work is underway in the background to assess the full cost of repairing the embankment and associated work.

“Various sources of funding are being addressed and we will give more information in due course.

“As always, we welcome support from our many supporters to keep our track in top condition.”

Mr Courtney said steps had been taken with the adjacent landowner to reduce potential run-off to the road and railway and WSR was working closely with Somerset County Council to co-ordinate the response.

He said: “The board of the railway are very grateful indeed to our many friends and supporters across the country, including from the mainline railway, who have offered their help and support in this very difficult situation.”

Anybody who wanted to help could contacting WSR support charity the West Somerset Railway Association for the information they needed.

WSR chairman Jonathan Jones-Pratt said: “Our railway has really pulled together. The results have been outstanding.

“The result has led to a continued WSR steam operation with many happy passengers.

“The concern was a potential risk to income, but in fact our income has increased given continued ticket sales.”

Mr Jones-Pratt was pleased railway board directors had attended a two-hour visit to the site of the landslip just after Christmas to meet contractors and hear advice on what needed to be done.

He said: “One passion I have and is to ensure we are not a remote board. In order to bring the required work together this is going to take a collective team effort.

“We are fortunate that the WSR asset has been maintained as it has been, with full credit to our infrastructure team as our floor prevention works did work, but sadly the run off from the ‘potato field’ was far too great for our infrastructure.

“We will do all within our power to protect the railway with a very clear direction to ensure we are able to run through to Minehead as planned.

“I also wish to ensure our special events will operate as planned and I am confident from the initial correspondence that solutions not problems will be sorted.

“We must not allow a full focus to grow on this one troubled area, we have a busy infrastructure programme to roll out within the shutdown period which we cannot let slip, it is clear there is additional resource required of which we have reached out to the railway community in order to receive some help.

“It has been overwhelming the responses received so far. Calls and emails flowing through our inboxes has provided a lot of comfort.

“This shows that we are not here sat alone and the WSR has some great colleagues and friends.”