2020 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic
COVID-19 is a pandemic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. This page will be updated as the situation develops.
A pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China was first reported to the World Health Organisation ('WHO') Country Office in China on 31 December 2019. It spread globally during early 2020. It was characterised by a rapid spread of flu-like symptoms with difficulty in breathing in severe cases, with increased mortality in those over 60 years of age and those with underlying health issues.
On 11 February the WHO announced "coronavirus disease (COVID-19)" as the name of this new disease. The virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003 although, while related, the two viruses are different.
On 11 March WHO characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic, a global outbreak. During March it escalated quickly in Europe and elsewhere leading to several countries prohibiting international movement and ‘lockdowns’ in regions and countries, with measures for ‘social distancing’.
COVID-19 in England
COVID-19 was listed as a notifiable disease in England on 5 March 2020. From 16 March the government began guidance on social distancing, large gatherings, travel and working from home. By 25 March the Coronavirus Act 2020 was passed, emergency powers legislation under which subsequent Orders were made legally to regulate activities.
Three separate ‘lockdowns’ took place: from March to May 2020, from 5 November to 2 December and from 5 January to 29 March 2021. This roughly corresponded with peaks in numbers of daily deaths in mid-2020 and in late 2020 to Spring 2021, and a third wave of infections from late summer 2021.
Outside of lockdown periods, there were frequent changing guidance and rules on activities such as distancing, gatherings, wearing masks, working from home, avoiding venues such as pubs, restaurants and theatres. These were practically lifted in February 2022.
There were restrictions on overseas travel and incoming travellers.
A rapid vaccination programme commenced in December 2020 and extended by the end of 2021 to a 'three jab' programme.
By March 2022 the UK had over 20 million confirmed infections. Deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate exceeded 185,000.
On 18 March 2020 the government announced loan guarantees (CBILSCoronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, a government backed loan scheme) for some businesses. For the hospitality and leisure sector there was a business rates holiday and a £25,000 cash grant per retail and leisure business for those without specific pandemic insurance. This was subsequently extended to include other measures, including a 'furlough' scheme by which the government initially funded up to 80% of wages for laid off staff and which continued until summer 2021.
Timeline of events on the SVRSevern Valley Railway
The railway reopened in February 2020 as planned, operating between Bridgnorth and Bewdley only, due to repairs on Falling Sands Viaduct and track relaying between there and Bewdley Tunnel. It was intended to reopen the line throughout from 4 April.
The last public trains ran on Sunday 15 March. The SVRSevern Valley Railway monitored the developing situation daily and followed Government guidelines, considering the utmost importance was the safety and well-being of volunteers, staff and customers. Due to the changing situation Government advice also changed surrounding gatherings, to which the SVRSevern Valley Railway responded as it felt was necessary and sensible.
- 17 March: it postponed train services for the rest of the month.
- 18 March: it postponed train services and closed The Engine House and Refreshment Rooms for the rest of March and throughout April. It also cancelled the following events: Easter Holidays, Spring Steam Gala, Open House Weekend, Spring Diesel Festival and 50th Anniversary event.
- 20 March: it confirmed that the pubs at Kidderminster and Bridgnorth would close. It also launched an emergency appeal for funding to help the railway survive. By 24 March this had raised £50,000.
- 26 March: an updated appeal was launched for share purchases and donations, seeking £250,000 "to keep the Railway ticking over for the next three months".
- 2 April: the appeal reached £120,000.
- 9 April: the total closure was extended until at least the end of May.
- 15 April: the total closure was extended until at least the end of June, and the 1940s event cancelled.
- 16 April: the appeal reached £416,193.
- 24 April: the appeal passed £565,000.
- 30 April: the appeal passed £650,000.
- 7 May The SVRSevern Valley Railway announced it would apply for a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for £50,000 to help heritage businesses who have suffered because of the COVID-19 crisis. It was also working on the application for a CBILSCoronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, a government backed loan scheme loan. A visitor survey was to be launched to attempt to gauge the feelings of our regular visitors, to give an indication of consumer confidence and what level of visitor numbers in the coming 12 months.
- By 13 May the appeal raised more than £680,000 in donations and share purchases.
- On 21 May the SVRSevern Valley Railway launched a survey, to gauge public attitudes to reopening.
- By 1 June the appeal raised more than £745,000.
- In early June it confirmed there would be no train services in July and Steam on the Road, Classic Car Day and On The Buses events were cancelled. Services for August were provisionally advertised to run on 1, 8, 9, 15, 22, 29, 30 and 31 August.
- On 11 June it announced the railway would gradually bring back its 1,800 volunteers, along with paid staff, 95% of whom were currently on furlough. Gradually works recommenced, with relaying at Foley Park restarting from 15 June. It was planned to reopen pubs on 4 July and recommence passenger services at the beginning of August.
- On 23 June it announced that the King and Castle Pub at Kidderminster would reopen on 4 July. Three days later it announced that the Railwayman's Arms at Bridgnorth would also open on 4 July.
- On 2 July the services were announced for trains from August: travel on set services at specific times from Kidderminster or Bridgnorth; tickets only for compartments purchased in advance (no tickets on the day), and travel in pre-booked compartments accommodating a maximum of six people, reserved for the visitor's exclusive use all day.
- From 3 July subscribers to the SVRSevern Valley Railway’s YouTube channel were treated to a series of 'SVRSevern Valley Railway Comeback' behind the scenes videos showing the build up to the reopening to passengers.
- On 15 July the SVRSevern Valley Railway announced the award of £250,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Emergency Fund, the maximum amount possible under this emergency scheme.
- On 23 July the Railway's gala management advisory group took the decision to cancel the Autumn Steam Gala and Autumn Diesel Gala as there seemed little prospect of being able to mount safe and financially viable events that would appeal to a gala audience.
- On 27 July three days of test running started, with staff and volunteers as passengers to test operations prior to the public restart.
- On Saturday 1 August passenger services restarted as planned, with the day being a sell-out. The Fight Back Fund total was more than £800,000.
- By 6 August the Fight Back Fund total was more than £900,000.
- During August Comberton Place offices were closed to visitors. The same month the SVRSevern Valley Railway submitted an application to the Historic England Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage. Tickets went on sale for an amended Christmas services programme.
- On 20 August services for September were announced, on a Wednesday to Sunday basis, and also including a diesel diagramme (the first diesel passenger services in 2020). A limited number of seats in open carriages was included, for groups of 1-4 passengers. By mid-September variations on the plan were announced for October (Friday to Sunday, plus half-term and Ghost trains) and November (weekend) services.
- On 9 October the SVRSevern Valley Railway was awarded £906,000 from the Culture Recovery Fund.
- 2 November: it postponed train services for a month, including the start of Christmas services.
- 26 November: The Railway confirmed that Christmas services would operate as planned from 3 December, the published statement being "The Railway is in an area that has been designated as Tier 2 in the new post-national lockdown restrictions. This means that we’re able to open December 3rd and Christmas events will go ahead as planned. If you have bought event tickets, or are interested in buying event tickets, but you live in a Tier 3 area we strongly recommend that you read the Government guidelines before you travel out of your Tier 3 area".
- 31 December: As a result of both Shropshire and Worcestershire moving to 'tier 3', all public services were suspended until further notice, although only 4 days running remained.
- January 2021: February half-term services were cancelled, with the next intended services being Easter from 2 April 2021. Staff were again furloughed and non-essential voluntary work deferred. The first special event of the year was announced, the Spring Steam UpIn reference to the direction of travel means towards the major terminus (i.e. towards Kidderminster on the present day SVR) replacing the Spring Steam Gala in April, with continuing restrictions on travel such as pre-booked compartments and tables only. The Fight Back Fund total had reached £930,000. The Trust submitted a further application to round 2 of the Culture Recovery Fund.
- February 2021: The railway announced it planned to restart its public services with regular excursion services from 12 April and other facilities opening when permitted, with previous COVID-19 safe measures continuing.
- In March 2021 the SVRSevern Valley Railway's bid for a second Culture Recovery Grant failed.
- On 2 April 2021 Arts Council England awarded Kidderminster Railway Museum £19,025 through Government's Culture Recovery Fund.
- 2021 events restarted, but with restricted numbers and fixed bookable itineraries.
- On 15 August the SVRSevern Valley Railway hosted its first observation saloon experience since before the beginning of the pandemic. Footplate Experiences restarted the following month.
- Local 'hop on hop off' services were announced on 12 August, initially to restart midweek only in place of excursion trains from 7 September. This soon changed with the announcement on 17 August that from 7 September all regular services and the Autumn Galas would revert to a more traditional operation, either with full-day freedom-of-the-line tickets or on journeys between selected stations with passengers able to choose their itineraries, rather than travelling on designated trains.
- In December 2021 the SVRSevern Valley Railway announced that it had been awarded £1,012,900 as part of the latest round of the Culture Recovery Fund, paying for salaries and running costs for the period between 1 October 2021 and 31 January 2022.
Effects on the SVRSevern Valley Railway
The combination of February's flooding and land movements, the continuing planned work at Falling Sands and coronavirus and meant the SVRSevern Valley Railway was faced with a serious financial challenge. Three-quarters of paid staff were temporarily 'furloughed', volunteers instructed not to attend, and only minimal contract engineering work continued. The railway remained unconnected between Bewdley and Kidderminster.
The SVRSevern Valley Railway also announced it would not be able "to make our crucial annual investment into the Railway. This amounts to £4.5million, and funds essential restorations to our infrastructure and rolling stock, along with apprentice training and a desperately needed overhaul of our IT infrastructure".
With the intervention rate for furlough payments dropping from 1 August 2020 the SVRSevern Valley Railway made up to 40 roles redundant among salaried and zero hours staff who were unable to return to their previous roles, and for whom the Railway was unable to find alternative employment.
In mitigation, it successfully applied to HSBC for a £1.5 million loan under the CBILSCoronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, a government backed loan scheme scheme, which alongside its existing overdraft facility would mean £2.5 million available. The SVRSevern Valley Railway Charitable Trust won a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to support the reopening of the Railway. In 2020 and 2021 respectively it received:
- From Wyre Forest District Council £50,000 and £133,714 under its discretionary business grant scheme.
- £555,484 and £155,231 in furlough payments.
- £906,000 and £1,012,900 from the Culture Recovery Fund phases 1 and 3.
2020 passenger numbers dropped significantly from 239,723 to 59.950. Sales income reduced by £5.25m and, even after donations and grants, it lost £460,559 in that financial year. Its debt was nearly £2,000,000.
The SVR Junior Club, local branch meetings and buffet and dining services were suspended through 2020 and 2021.
In 2021 its February half-term, Easter and services to early April were all lost, with later reopenings for its museums and pubs. It had restricted passenger numbers until 7 September. Passenger numbers partly recovered to 122,001, and turnover to £1.99 million. Its loss was sightly less that of 2020 at 407.453 , net of further Cultural Recovery Fund monies. Repayment of the CBILSCoronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, a government backed loan scheme loan started in October 2021 at £28,000 per month. The financial position contributed to increases in shares thresholds for shareholder travel benefits.
- WHO, ‘Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it’ (Retrieved 18 March 2020)
- Johns Hopkins University (Retrieved 20 March 2022)
- Our World in Data (Retrieved 20 March 2022)
- BBC News, 11 May 2020 (Retrieved 11 May 2020)
- ‘Coronavirus: Economic impact’, House of Commons Library, 17 December 2021 (Retrieved 20 March 2022)
- Bloomberg, 11 March 2022 (Retrieved 20 March 2022)
- 'Deaths in United Kingdom', ONS, Updated 18 March 2022
- BBC News (Retrieved 18 March 2020)
- Shropshire Live 11 June 2020 (Retrieved 21 June 2020)
- Smith, R., 'Severn Valley Railway receives £250,000 funding boost ahead of reopening', Shropshire Star, 15 July 2020 (Retrieved 15 July 2020)
- Branch Lines, August 2020
- Branch Lines, September 2020
- Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (Retrieved 9 October 2020)
- SVRSevern Valley Railway Website (retrieved 30 November 2020)
- Arts Council England (retrieved 2 April 2021)
- Branch Lines, September 2021
- Branch Lines, August 2021
- Rail Advent
- Branch Lines, April 2020 (Retrieved 2 April 2020)
- Holden, M., Rail Advent 17 April 2020 (Retrieved 18 April 2020)
- Branch Lines, August 2020
- SVRSevern Valley Railway(H) annual report and financial statements for the period ended 3 January 2021
- 'Covid-19: Severn Valley Railway gets £1m recovery grant, BBC, 17 December 2021 (Retrieved 17 December 2021)
- SVRSevern Valley Railway(H) annual report and financial statements for the period ended 3 January 2022