March 09: The Great Western Society might be forced out of its home, where it’s been for over 40 years, one of the best if not the best preserved railways in the country. Don’t let Network Rail force the closure of the GWS and Didcot and destroy a GWS as we know it.
Sign the petition by 21 November 09 http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Save-the-GWS/
The Great Western Society has held a lease for the site since the 1970s which runs until 2019; however there is a clause enabling Network Rail to give the Society six months notice to quit if it so chooses. The Society’s management has always felt that they should attempt to secure the long term future of Didcot Railway Centre by acquiring the freehold or a long term leasehold.
In 2002 the Society opened negotiations with Network Rail to achieve that aim which culminated in a letter from them in May 2007 saying they were prepared to sell the site subject to ORR approval, which would be submitted following confirmation that there would be no knock-on effects in the Didcot area from the rebuilding of Reading station. Having clarified the site would not be required in connection with either the construction of a new diesel depot (Reading was the chosen location) or, subsequently, the Inter City Express project, it was assumed the projected purchase could proceed.
However, they have now received a further letter from Network Rail saying there has been a change of policy and the offer to sell the land is withdrawn. After six years of effort to achieve long-term security for Didcot Railway Centre they appear to have gone full circle rather than progress forwards. For the moment the status quo has not changed; the security of tenure remains as it always has been but therein lies the problem, it has not been improved which is their aim. A new lease has been suggested but w ith the short notice break clause which frustrates the larger site development plans they wish to undertake. At present they are awaiting a response from their MP.