Where do you start to sum up the success of 2016? By any measure it was a memorable year and a tribute to everyone connected with the railway both internally and externally.
The return of the Flying Scotsman back in January got the year off to a flying start and at the end of this special year the ELR welcomed over 201,000 visitors in 2016, the highest number of visitors since the railway re-opened as a tourist attraction back in 1987, achieving its Locum Report target of “200,000 visitors in 2020” four years early. lets also not forget the fantastic achievement of 47,000 visitors to Bury Transport Museum
The ELR’s 2016’s visitor numbers are a 25% increase on the previous year, which was also a record and highlight how the railway has grown over the past few years to become the second most popular paid for visitor attraction in Greater Manchester. Specific areas of significant growth are the railway’s special events and dining experiences.
The ELR’s calendar of events continued to grow in 2016 with new events such as “Scotsman in Steam”, “Sci-Fi on the Sidings”, “The Pirate Adventure” and “The Princess Adventure”, bringing in 28% more visitors than the previous year. Whilst there will be no return of the Flying Scotsman for 2017, we are rerunning the popular Sci-Fi on the Sidings”, “The Pirate Adventure” and “The Princess Adventure”.
The railway’s steam train hauled luxury dining experiences, “Dining with Distinction”, which are now a standalone offering, have seen a 35% increase over the past twelve months, with services running at an average occupancy on 92%, so it may come as no surprise that they are considered to be the best restaurant in Bury and regularly in the top three restaurants in Greater Manchester according to TripAdvisor.
Another factor which has had a positive effect on visitor numbers is the increased amount of press interest surrounding the railway. The railway received around £1.5million worth of free publicity over the “Scotsman in Steam” event in January 2016 and has received a greater amount of interest from production companies, with popular television programmes Peaky Blinders, Tina & Bobby and Deal or No Deal being filmed at the railway last year.
I would like to say thanks and pay tribute to our wonderful working volunteers, staff and visitors, whose passion, dedication and support are helping to preserve the railway for future generations, without them none of this would have been possible.
The East Lancashire Railway is continuing to go from strength-to-strength and we’re really excited about the year ahead with new events and even more unique experiences planned for 2017. Here’s to another record-breaking year!”