200,000 fLock to ELR iN REcoRd yEaR
A record 2016 at the East Lancashire Railway saw visitor numbers pass the 200,000 mark for the first time in its 29-year history, writes Andy Coward. The success was partly thanks to two successful operating periods by the National Railway Museum’s Gresley ‘A3’ No. 60103 Flying Scotsman, which attracted more than 30,000 people to the line. The railway experienced growth in all areas of its operations during 2016, including general visitors, special events, dining trains, footplate experiences, group visits and Bury Transport Museum attendances, along with other ancillary activities. The ELR has been developing its events and activities to help increase the number of visitors, which for a number of years plateaued at around 110,000. The appointment of a full-time marketing manager and a commercial manager has helped the ELR realise year-on-year growth for the past seven years. In 2008, the East Lancashire Railway Trust employed Locum Consulting to carry out a detailed study and suggest ways for the line to reach a wider audience. The report highlighted a number of ways in which the railway could introduce new initiatives and attract additional visitors, setting a target to achieve visitor figures of 200,000 by the year 2020. ELR Marketing Manager Kate Walker acknowledged that the two visits of Flying Scotsman in 2016 had been the main factor behind the record-breaking figures. Discounting the visitors brought in by the ‘A3’, the railway increased its visitor statistics by over 8,000 on the 2015 figures and is now looking at introducing a wider range of new, non-railway specific events, aimed primarily at the family market. ❚❚Read more about the ELR on page 36.