Published at 14:58 on Wednesday 20th March 2024
Tags: WCR, Jacobite, Main Line Steam, ORR

LMS 'Black 5' No. 44871 is pictured on the afternoon 'Jacobite' working during a previous season. Richard Tuplin

West Coast Railway Company has confirmed that it has suspended until further notice the 2024 season for The Jacobite.

On 8th March, the company applied for a new Regulation 5 exemption that would allow it to run non-CDL fitted rolling stock on passenger trains on the National Network, however such applications can take up to four months to approve. WCRC confirmed to Railway Herald that it has requested an interim exemption to allow Jacobite services to commence on 28th March as planned. However, an ORR spokesperson told Railway Herald that it was "assessing an application made by West Coast Railways on 8th March" and that a decision would be made in due course.

As the ORR has not yet granted an exemption, West Coast Railway Company said it had no choice but to suspended The Jacobite service until further notice. James Shuttleworth, Commercial Manager, WCR, said: “The Jacobite service is enjoyed by thousands of customers every year. It boosts the local economies of Mallaig and Fort William and brings an estimated £20 million into the UK’s tourism sector. If the ORR does not grant us a further exemption, we believe this could lead to up to £50 million in lost value to both local and national communities.”

Passengers with bookings for the Jacobite will be offered a full refund.

In response to the latest WCRC statement, an ORR spokesperson said: “All heritage operators were told several years ago that in order to operate after 31st March 2023 they either needed to fit Central Door Locking or obtain an exemption from us. West Coast Railway's (WCR) application for an exemption failed and they made a claim for judicial review. A temporary exemption was granted in order to maintain the status quo, enabling WCR to operate while the litigation reached a conclusion."

The statement continued: "Despite this, WCR chose to sell tickets when it was far from certain that a new application for an exemption would be granted, either in time for the commencement of services or at all. It submitted an exemption application on 8th March, which we are now assessing. ORR is disappointed that WCR appears not to have made sensible contingency plans for the benefit of their customers."

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