Shuttle train service in bid to boost Somerset tourism

Steam train
Image caption The service claims to offer a "stress free and sustainable way" of Saturday shopping in Taunton

A new shuttle train service has started between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard in an attempt to help boost tourism.

It is part of a joint trial between the rail operator GWR and the West Somerset Railway heritage railway.

The services are expected to run on six other Saturdays until the beginning of October as part of a trial which, if successful, could be extended.

A GWR spokesman said it would then look to see if there was a business case for further services on the line.

"The use of the trains will be carefully monitored and analysed to see if there is a basis for running a service in future years," he said.

Travellers arriving at Bishops Lydeard station are able to take another service on to Minehead.

The idea is also supported by Taunton MP Rebecca Pow who described it as "great for Taunton, for Bishop Lydeard and for Minehead."

But Alex de Mendoza, who is the chairman of the Minehead Rail Link Group, said while the trial was a "very great start" it was "nowhere near wide enough for any result to be extrapolated to whether the rail link will be a success financially".

"Honestly, one day a week for a few months a year is hardly going to be a good experimental test of the public's desire for the service.

"It has to be done on a scale that will enable people to actually let people ditch their cars and take the train in and out of where they want to go."

The West Somerset Railway attracts some 180,000 visitors a year on its 20-mile route between Bishops Lydeard to Minehead.

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