North Yorkshire Moors Railway say heritage line has 'come through winter with cash headroom' after auditors raised concerns

The trustees of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway have released a further statement about the heritage line’s most recent accounts after auditors raised concerns over its financial situation.

The Yorkshire Post reported earlier this week that the accounts for the year ending February 2023, which were submitted in December, had been published by the Charities Commission last month.

In the report, the auditors expressed the view that they had ‘significant doubt’ whether the 18-mile heritage railway could continue as a ‘going concern’ because it had reported losses of around half a million pounds, reduced footfall and massively increased expenditure on coal.

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The trustees’ own comments included statements to the effect that as a cyclical business, the winter of 2023-4 was expected to be their toughest trading period.

People wait to board the North Yorkshire Moors Railway's Whitby Winter Excursion at Pickering StationPeople wait to board the North Yorkshire Moors Railway's Whitby Winter Excursion at Pickering Station
People wait to board the North Yorkshire Moors Railway's Whitby Winter Excursion at Pickering Station

On Friday the North Yorkshire Moors Railway released statements relating to the winter, confirming that the attraction has emerged from the down period with ‘cash headroom’ ahead of the main summer season.

Finance director Garry Mumford said: “It is important to note the auditor highlighted the notes in the accounts which discussed the difficulties the NYMR was facing at the time the report was written, in July 2023.

"These difficulties were around the cashflow challenges through the winter of 2023/24 (the one we are emerging from now) and the fact that at that stage we anticipated this would be very tight and therefore a risk. Like all businesses of our type, we have a huge cyclical cashflow with the winter having little or no income yet high costs on maintenance whilst we are not operating. The reality is, through good management over the 2023 year, we have come through the winter with cash headroom, so any potential problem has gone away.

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“The NYMR navigated its way through the pandemic, relatively unscathed, however the past couple of years have been challenging with costs rising, post Covid 19. However, between February 2023 and February 2024, we have made some huge changes resulting in a positive movement in profitability of around half a million pounds. I am extremely positive about the 2024 operating season, and we are forecasting that the financial year ending February 2025, will show significant further improvement and that the result should be back to breaking even.”

Acting chief executive Laura Strangeway added: “We are confident that we have a robust plan in place and are absolutely committed to ensuring we can survive into the future but, like all businesses and even individuals, we are having to prioritise and look at how we can make efficiency savings to reduce costs and look at opportunities for generating additional income to cover core costs. We have an excellent track record of securing funding through grants and are continuing to focus on our fundraising efforts and are grateful for all support during this challenging time for all visitor attractions.”

Heritage railways across the country have suffered from coal supply and cost issues due to the closure of mines in the UK, the war in Ukraine ending imports from Russia and the expense of buying it from outside of Europe.

The NYMR had already told members and supporters that its management expected to pivot to becoming more of a ‘living museum’, with visitors being told stories of the line as the cost of running steam locomotives rises.