Railway centre honoured by Queen

John Harwood, vice lord-lieutenant of Oxfordshire, left, presents the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service to Richard Croucher, chairman of the Great Western Society. Back from left, Cllr Reg Waite, chairman of Vale of White Horse District Council; Glyn Hall, president of Didcot Chamber of Commerce; Cllr Zoé Patrick, chairman of Oxfordshire County Council; Elizabeth Paris, deputy lieutenant of Oxfordshire. Picture: Frank Dumbleton

Having celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, Didcot Railway Centre remains on the right track after scooping a major award.

John Harwood, the vice lord-lieutenant of Oxfordshire, presented the Station Road museum with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services (QAVS) on Saturday.

The award, dubbed the voluntary groups’ equivalent to the MBE, is in recognition of ‘quality outstanding service and achievement’.

Didcot Railway Centre was praised for sustaining the UK’s engineering heritage, attracting lots of visitors and inspiring young people.

Commercial manager at the railway centre Ann Middleton said: “We are honoured and proud to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services.

“This is one of the biggest moments in our 50 year history, and is a great reflection on the work and efforts of the many volunteers that help run and sustain the centre.”

Mr Harwood was full of praise for Didcot Railway Centre: “It preserves and sustains one of the most important parts of our country’s engineering heritage, and does so in a way which attracts large number of visitors, many of them from well beyond Oxfordshire and continues to inspire the young people of today.

“The assessors for the award were impressed by the education links which have been established with local schools and especially the successful efforts which have been made to involve girls and women in all the aspects of the centre’s activities including engineering.”

The QAVS is only awarded to voluntary organisations and charities for outstanding service and achievement.

The standards for the award, instituted in 2003, are very high. Only 30 other organisations in Oxfordshire have received the award.

Winners must be run wholly or predominantly by volunteers, must be local, meet a need or provide a service, do so to the highest standards, and be recognised for so doing.

“The Didcot Railway Centre clearly met all of these standards,” Mr Harwood said.

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