TWO of North Wales’ top tourist attractions will have to shed jobs to survive the winter.

The Welsh Highland and Festiniog Railways, which contribute £25 million annually to the local economy, have prepared a survival plan following a dramatic drop in revenue due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

A spokesman said: “We have around 90 permanent staff at present. There will have to be a period of consultation. Voluntary redundancies are a possibility and in addition staff may take early retirement which will affect the numbers. Clearly we want to keep the number to an absolute minimum.”

North Wales Chronicle: A Welsh Highland train at Plas y Nant bridge. Picture: Welsh Highland RailwayA Welsh Highland train at Plas y Nant bridge. Picture: Welsh Highland Railway

The Welsh Highland Railways runs between Caernarfon and Porthmadog and the Festiniog Railways runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

During the latter part of the summer both railways operated a limited service, but their annual income, which normally tops £6m, will be reduced to a forecast of little more than £1m this year.

Paul Lewin, both railway’s general manager said: “We have and will continue to make all possible efforts to protect every post that we can. We have made better than expected progress in respect of protecting jobs, but as the season and the job retention scheme draw to a close we have no choice but to make some reduction to staff numbers in order to ensure the survival of the company.”

Commercial operations will largely cease at the end of the tourist season in November. The company has informed all staff of the risk of redundancy as the focus changes from commercial operations to engineering and maintenance activity for the foreseeable future.

Mr Lewin added: “It is vitally important to the local economy the railway survives the coming winter and is able to open again for the 2021 season. A large number of jobs in the area are reliant on the income generated by the railway, not only our own employees but those in the supplier base, accommodation providers, retail and dining.”

At the time of lockdown, the railway company had very limited financial resources. The government job retention scheme (furlough) helped secure many jobs. The Ffestiniog Railway and Welsh Highland Railway Societies have come to the aid of the company both with loans and a major fundraising drive. An appeal to members has raised over £500,000 to date. The railway has also received support from the National Lottery Heritage Emergency Fund and a Welsh Government grant.

A plan has been formulated to allow all necessary maintenance for the whole railway to be carried out to operate safely in 2021. This will include a major bridge replacement at Plas y Nant near Waunfawr. The railway’s engineering works at Boston Lodge has also secured a number of contracts to complete work for other UK railways.