THE Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway enjoyed its best year ever in 2018.

The year saw records tumble one after the other, after the Broadway station opened in March, increasing the railway’s length to just over 14 miles.

Since then, many of the Cotswolds railway’s trains have been filled to capacity.

The railway’s steam and diesel trains carried over 144,000 passengers, compared with 101,000 the previous year, an increase of 42.5 per cent. Tickets sales were up 49 per cent to just over 125,300.

Commercial director Colin Fewell said: “This success is astonishing and it has exceeded all of our expectations; we thought we might see a 20 per cent increase in passenger numbers this year.

"Almost every aspect of the railway’s operation has seen significant growth - whether ordinary operating days or special events.

“Opening Broadway station was a very special occasion and it has changed the dynamics of the railway.

"All ticket offices have seen big increases in sales but before Broadway, less than a third of tickets were sold at Cheltenham Racecourse.

"Now it is 35 per cent, accounting for some 40,000 tickets sold compared with 26,000 last year. Toddington still sells most tickets, at 43 per cent, while Broadway accounted for 16 per cent.

“We often see the first train out of Cheltenham filled to capacity as people head to Broadway for the day.

“Those running shops, pubs, restaurants and tea shops in this delightful village tell us the railway has made a noticeable difference to their takings.”

For the 2019 season, which starts on Saturday, March 9, the pay-and-display car park at Broadway station will be open and those travelling will get part of their parking cost discounted with the purchase of a train ticket.

“It will be interesting to see what effect the car park has on ticket sales at Broadway," said Mr Fewell.