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Great Western Railway partners with RNLI to celebrate 200 anniversary

Lifeboats News Release

Great Western Railway will play safety messages at its stations near popular holiday destinations and has applied a commemorative RNLI 200 livery to a train as part of a special partnership celebrating the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s 200 years of saving lives at sea.


GWR Customer Services Director Rachel Geliamassi RNLI CE Mark Dowie and Adrian Carey Head of Region South west unveil new 200th livery

And at special ceremony at London Paddington on Thursday (23 May) an RNLI 200 logo was unveiled on the side of Intercity Express Train, 802008, which was named after the Penlee lifeboat RNLB Solomon Browne.

Solomon Browne was lost at sea on 19 December 1981 when it launched to rescue the passengers and crew of the vessel Union Star. In all, 16 people died, including eight volunteer lifeboat crew.

Current crew members from the Penlee lifeboat will be among the guests at Paddington station.

The RNLI 200 commemorative livery features 172 RNLI locations across the GWR network, stretching from Angle in south-west Wales to Selsey in West Sussex, and from Sennen Cove in Cornwall to Portishead in Bristol.

Following the unveiling, 802008 will form the 1004 service to Penzance. On arrival in the Cornish town (1500), the train will be greeted by colleagues and volunteers from the RNLI and GWR, before a cake-cutting ceremony in the first-class lounge.

GWR Customer Services Director Rachel Geliamassi said:

“Much like ourselves, the RNLI has a long and proud history and we wanted to pay our own special thanks to an organisation responsible for saving more than 146,000 lives over the past 200 years.

“The railway celebrates its own 200th anniversary next year and, with the Great Western Railway serving so many fantastic coastal destinations, it is fitting we have been able to form this very special partnership with the RNLI.

“The safety of our customers is always of paramount importance, and we’re pleased to be able to help the RNLI in spreading their safety messages further by reminding people about the dangers of the sea.”

British naturalist, explorer and TV presenter Steve Backshall is recording the announcements to be played at more than 50 stations across the GWR network. Steve worked with the RNLI’s Water Safety Team to record the announcements that will be played at regular intervals on the station platforms, catching rail users’ attention as they disembark the train, heading towards the coast. He said:

'As a family we take every opportunity to enjoy the water, so I have always had an admiration and respect for the RNLI’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards, and everything they do to keep people safe at the coast.

Catching people as they get off the train, is a perfect opportunity to advise and remind them of how they can stay safe while enjoying our wonderful coastline with their friends and family. Simple tips such as; head to a lifeguarded beach, swim between the red and yellow flags and instructions on how to raise the alarm if they see someone in difficulty, and how to help yourself by using the Float to Live technique.’

Adrian Carey, RNLI Head of Region for the south west said;

As a charity the RNLI has been saving lives at sea for 200 years, through its rescue service and sharing water safety messages with the public about how to enjoy being on and around the water.

‘Kickstarting a long-term partnership with Great Western Railway with the stunning new livery and water safety announcements is an exciting opportunity for the charity to share our important water safety messages with rail users across the GWR network and has the potential to save lives.

‘It’s wonderful to have Steve, who is a longtime ambassador for the RNLI, and his sense of adventure and passion for enjoying the outdoors come through as he delivers the important safety announcements. His instantly recognisable voice will be sure to inspire beach goers and water users to take those extra steps to ensure they enjoy their time at the coast safely.’


Notes to Editors

RNLB Solomon Browne

802008 commemorates two heroic feats and was named during a poignant ceremony at the Long Rock train depot open day in Penzance on 13 April 2019.

It remembers Solomon Browne, the Penlee Lifeboat lost at sea during a daring rescue attempt in 1981, and Rick Rescorla, a Cornishman who saved thousands of lives during the 9/11 terror attacks in New York.

Solomon Browne was launched to the aid of Union Star after the cargo ship’s engines had failed in heavy seas and wind speeds of up to 100mph.

The lifeboat radioed that ‘we’ve got four off’, but that was the last heard from either vessel.

The names of coxswain William Trevelyan Richards, Stephen Madron, Nigel Brockman, Charles Greenhaugh, John Blewett, Kevin Smith, Barrie Torrie and Gary Wallis feature on the side of the train.

Born in Hayle, Cornwall, Rick Rescorla became a US citizen in the 1960s and was head of security for Morgan Stanley, a bank based in the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

When the terror attack happened on 11 September 2001, Rick evacuated more than 2,500 employees, singing Cornish songs as he went. He then returned inside and was last seen on the 10th floor looking for more people to evacuate.

The 62-year-old was one of 2,605 people who died when the two towers collapsed. His body was never recovered.


New RNLI 200th livery on GWR train Solomon Browne


Members of the current Penlee RNLI crew next to the Solomon Browne train at Paddington


RNLI crew from Penlee, Salcombe, Torbay and Minehead at the train unveiling at Paddington station

RNLI/Phil Monckton

Penlee RNLI volunteers and lifeguards greet the Solomon Browne in Penzance


Ceremony at Paddington station

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.