The freehold of West Somerset Railway could be sold after a decision by Somerset County Council yesterday.
A decision was taken by Cllr David Huxtable, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Resources, to dispose of the freehold – subject to necessary consents and approval by the Secretary of State.
The move is in line with the council’s policy of reducing its property portfolio to save money and reduce liabilities.
As the heritage railway line is of economic and social importance to the county, a sale will only go ahead if certain criteria are met.
Cllr Huxtable said: “We have always said that the council is not in the railways business and it makes sense to consider selling the West Somerset Railway to a dedicated group who can completely focus on maintaining and improving the line.
“I’ve received a large number of letters overwhelmingly backing my decision today and in support of the West Somerset Railway Association proposals for the freehold.
“This is not a decision aimed at making money, it is to make sure that this valuable asset is preserved for generations to come.”
The Council will now meet with any interested parties to ensure they meet the criteria for a sale and mitigate any risks.
Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council Cabinet member for Business, Inward Investment and Policy, said: “The West Somerset Railway is extremely important to Somerset, attracting thousands of visitors to the area and contributing greatly to the local economy.
“It’s important that the railway continues to operate as normal while any discussions over a sale take place, and we’re committed to making sure that happens. We will now sit down and work with all interested parties to do the right thing for Somerset council taxpayers and the right thing for West Somerset Railway.”