Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heritage Rail paid a visit to the popular Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway who laid on special train for them on Friday.
The group saw stations and workshops and met staff and volunteers of the railway, which attracts many visitors to Mid Wales and has links with other railways around the world.
The VIP visitors included former Education Secretary Baroness Morgan of Cotes, who set up the group in 2011 and is a director of the Great Central Railway and Leader of Powys County Council, Cllr Rosemarie Harris.
The Heritage Railway Association (HRA) was represented by president Lord Faulkner of Worcester, chief executive Steve Oates and deputy chairman Chris Price.
Lord Faulkner presented the HRA award that he sponsors for Young Volunteer of the Year to Oliver Edwards, a trustee and volunteer on the Mid Wales line.
“The future of heritage railways lies in the hands of young volunteers like Oliver and they bring so much to their railways in terms of enthusiasm, drive and understanding of Britain’s unique railway heritage,” said Lord Faulkner.
The railway also received a highly commended certificate in the internal communications category of the HRA Awards, for its digital members’ newsletter ‘The Earl’. This newsletter proved vital during the Covid pandemic, keeping members in touch with the line while they were unable to visit.
Group chair Liz Saville Roberts, MP for Dwyfor Meirionydd, said:
“The 12 Great Little Trains of Wales are a main attraction for visitors to Wales. They also provide valuable jobs and skills training for young people, so it is great to visit the railway today and hear at first hand how they have built this successful business and survived the Covid pandemic.”
Montgomeryshire MP Craig Williams, who lives in Llanfair Caereinion, was proud to show fellow Parliamentarians the railway, a major tourist attraction in his constituency.
“The railway is much loved by the local community here and is a magnet for visitors to this very lovely part of Wales,” he said. “With so many holidaying in Britain, we all hope this will be a good year for our heritage railways and for tourism.”
Railway chairman Steve Clews said:
“We are proud that for what was effectively its first visit post Covid, the group came to us, as we are not one of the larger lines in the UK heritage railway movement.
“We welcomed the opportunity to discuss the challenges facing railway preservation in today’s environment and to celebrate the many achievements of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway both locally and on the wider stage.”