A year on from the severe floods that hit Britain, a major tourist attraction has praised the generosity of people in the West Midlands who helped get it back on track.
Last June heavy rainstorms caused a landslide which swept away the foundations of tracks on the scenic Severn Valley Railway.
Although it would be overshadowed by devastating floods a month later, the deluge in June – when two weeks’ worth of rain fell in 45 minutes – caused extreme weather conditions across the West Midlands.
And much of the Severn Valley Railway – one of the favourite spots for tourists in the West Midlands – was knocked out of action until a few months ago.
Railway communications boss John Leach said it had been an “awesome achievement” to get the devastated railway back on track and thanked the thousands who donated money.
He said: “It was so nice to come into the office and see there was still a railway. I couldn’t have said that a year ago. Almost from day one we were receiving cash from well-wishers and the public, from schoolchildren coming in with their pocket money to cheques for £500.
“We knew it was going to be a big job, but the public appeal raised more than £588,000 and it’s still coming in.”
The repairs cost £3.5 million, and were completed at the start of this month. The railway reopened at Easter.
Regional development agency Advantage West Midlands invested £750,000 into infrastructural repair.
It said the investment recognised the significant trade generated by the railway, particularly supporting the North Worcestershire and Bridgnorth economies. Mr Leach added: “It’s an awesome achievement to have got the line open in the time we did, at no point did it enter our minds we would have achieved reopening by now. The money was coming in from all over the place, the fact so many people wanted to help was touching.
“I think the public has a real affection towards the railway.”
Last week, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall travelled along the 16-mile stretch of repaired railway between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth. They also visited a surgery in Upton-upon-Severn rebuilt after being damaged in the floods.
The torrential rain in June caused heavy floods across South Warwickshire, Worcester and Shropshire.
Residents in Hampton Loade in Shropshire were stranded when rising flood water swept away the main road. And an ambulance crew in Shropshire was unable to reach a man trapped in his home, because the bridge leading to his house had been submerged.
AWM had to put more than £3.5 million of emergency funding into the area to help the economy recover from the floods which are estimated to have cost the regional economy more than £160 million.
Mark Pearce, corporate director for economic regeneration at AWM, said: “Our response was fast and direct. It had to be. Images broadcast at the time left the impression the region was closed for business, whilst in the majority of cases flash flooding receded swiftly.
“The flooding particularly affected rural tourism and agricultural sectors and caused significant disruption in a large number of market towns.”
Last year’s large-scale flooding followed record wet weather and led to what Floods Recovery Minister John Healey described as “the biggest recovery operation since the Second World War”.
A total of 13 deaths have been linked to the floods across the UK in June and July. Three people died on June 25 alone – a 14-year-old boy and a 68-year-old man in Sheffield and a 28-year-old man in Hessle, near Hull.
The summer 2007 floods affected 48,461 homes, 6,896 businesses and around 850 schools.
As of the end of May this year, 4,716 households were in temporary accommodation, in caravans or living in the top floor of their homes, with more than 1,000 still in caravans.
Much of the flooding was a direct result of unprecedented rainfall between May and July 2007. In England and Wales a total of 414mm (16 inches) fell in this period – double the usual amount and the highest rainfall total for the period since records began in 1766. The previous wettest total for this period was 349mm in 1789.
The additional volume of water which fell from May to July was 31,140 million cubic metres of water – more than four times the amount of water in all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
The Environment Agency estimates about two-thirds of all homes hit by floods across the country in June and July were victims of drains and sewers being overwhelmed rather than by rivers bursting their banks.
The Environment Agency issued warnings to 34,000 homes during the flooding period.
The chief fire adviser’s report said BT tried to route 72,000 calls to one unnamed fire control room in a 24-hour period on June 25.
Sir Michael Pitt, who was commissioned by the Government to investigate what happened during the floods, produced his interim report in December last year. It contained 15 recommendations and 72 interim conclusions.
The Government has allocated £88 million to help the recovery effort in the regions affected, with another £31 million available