Finance

How much will it cost and who will pay for it?

The proposed rail link is just one mile in length. Funding for reinstatement of the railway, utilising the original existing track formation, would come from a number of sources, depending on the input of the site developers, individual supporters, local businesses and interested volunteer groups.

Funding of the proposal would probably take the form of a ‘Community Benefit Society.’ The purpose of a community benefit society is to serve the broader interests of the community and to “carry on a business, industry or trade that is conducted for the benefit of the community.” In common with all societies, community benefit societies are expected to have members who hold shares. The Financial Conduct Authority expects community benefit societies to be run on a democratic one-member-one-vote basis. Any profit made by a community benefit society must be used for the benefit of the community and profits cannot be distributed to members of a community benefit society. The assets can only be used for the benefit of the community. If a community benefit society is sold, converted, or amalgamated with another legal entity, its assets must continue to be used for the benefit of the community and must not be distributed to members. Membership is open to any person who supports the purpose of the society.

This success of a “self-help” approach to raising finance for projects such as this may be seen elsewhere:

  • Llangollen Railway – the railway, abandoned in the 1960s, saw a phased volunteer rebuild which included replacement of track, buildings and infrastructure. The line is now a sustainable tourist attraction between Llangollen and Corwen, bringing additional jobs and income to the area.
  • Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway – in the 1980s a group of interested parties embarked on a rebuild of the defunct line. It has been gradually reopened and extended and will soon link Broadway with Cheltenham Racecourse, bringing sustainable tourism to the area whilst reducing any negative impact caused by tourists.
  • Welsh Highland Railway – the successful Ffestiniog Railway decided to extend their operation by rebuilding the narrow-gauge line through the mountains of Snowdonia. They raised the capital and with the help of several funding agencies and supporters, managed to reconstruct the 25-mile line using local companies and volunteers. This is now a significant tourist attraction which has helped to arrest the decline in the region’s tourism.

These projects are supported by local authorities who recognise their importance to the regions economies. There are many other examples of community heritage railways throughout the UK which have reopened through self funding schemes, grant aid and the support of local councils.