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Business paying £30,000 in insurance to include disease cover has claim rejected

PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:52 16 April 2020

Andrew Barnes is the owner of Bure Valley Railway, and specifically requested a policy to cover the SME in the event of an epidemic.   Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Andrew Barnes is the owner of Bure Valley Railway, and specifically requested a policy to cover the SME in the event of an epidemic. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2016

The owner of a not-for-profit tourist attraction has spoken of his disbelief having had his insurance claim rejected – despite paying £30,000 a year to cover the business in the event of a disease outbreak.

Andrew Barnes is the owner of Bure Valley Railway, and specifically requested a policy to cover the SME in the event of an epidemic having seen the disruption such an event can cause.

Mr Barnes, who has owned the business since 2014, said: “I previously worked for the Royal Bank of Canada and saw the disruption SARS caused – particularly in western Canada. So when my wife and I took over the railway we, and our insurance brokers, made sure we were covered in the outbreak of a disease within 25 miles of the business.

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“We pay £30,000 a year for insurance - at a premium because of the disease clause.”

However, the insurance company has rejected the claim submitted early last month on the basis that Bure Valley Railway’s revenue has been disrupted due to government action, not the virus.

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Mr Barnes said: “We have always paid a premium to have this clause in our coverage, and now they are refusing to support us - citing the social distancing guidance from the government as the reason.”

Mr Barnes said that the claim will be for around £500,000 – enough to continue paying all staff and be ready for the 2021 summer season.

He said: “We have no debts, it’s not the way we run our business. But we have paid all of our suppliers and now we are entering our typically busiest season which provides our revenue for the rest of the year.

“We’ve had staff telling us they’’ll take redundancies to live off their savings to help see us through – my wife had tears in her eyes when we had to talk to them about temporarily closing the railway because of the virus.”

The Financial Conduct Authority has already told insurers they need to be “flexible” in how the treat customers during lockdown.

But Mr Barnes and his staff have written to MPs including Jerome Mayhew, Duncan Baker, and Matt Hancock, to ask for their support.

“The responses we have had from the three have been very supportive. But government saying they need to ‘pay or explain’ as they have today isn’t clear enough,” he said. “Insurers need a direct statement or they will hide behind vague phrases.”


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