Swanage Railway’s plans to join mainline in “state of limbo” due to coronavirus

In a new video just released, Swanage Railway says that the coronavirus pandemic has not only left a black hole in its finances but put the plans to link to the railway mainline at Wareham in a state of limbo.

The mini film, which includes stunning drone footage of Swanage and the railway, sees volunteer fireman Josh Voce interview the railway’s chairman, Gavin Johns, as well as one of the train drivers, Nick Lloyd, who gives an update on plans to run trains all the way up the line to Wareham.

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T9-30120 Steam locomotive
Andrew PM Wright

Nick Lloyd said:

“In March this year the Swanage Railway was on the cusp of being granted a licence to run passenger trains to Wareham. It’s application for a non mainline safety certificate had been submitted and the office of rail and road had indicated that they were minded to grant a passenger train licence based on that application.

“Since then COVID-19 came along and life on the railway, as in the country in general, is completely different. The units that have been delivered for operating the Wareham service are now stored at Corfe Castle. There is some commissioning work that still needs to be done on them but they are stored at Corfe Castle.

“No work can take place on the ground, so it’s brought all staff training to a halt. Ultimately we are in a state of limbo until we know how things are going to go, going forward.”

No trial train service from Swanage to Wareham this year

This means that now there will be no trial train service from Swanage to Wareham later in the year.

Swanage Railway's chairman Gavin Johns
SWanage Railway

Swanage Railway’s chairman Gavin Johns

In the film, Swanage Railway’s chairman, Gavin Johns spells out the dire situation of the railway’s finances. Usually the railway brings in £3m a year and costs £200k a month to run.

Running costs have been reduced to £46k a month

Now while it’s not operating, the running costs have been reduced to £46k a month, partly by furloughing staff but it still has to fund rents, insurance and the salaries for staff that have been retained to do essential maintenance and security.

Gavin Johns said:

“The basic priority is to survive – there’s no getting away from the fact that the railway has been put in a very serious situation because of coronavirus with no income at all but with costs still to be covered. That’s why we still have to focus on fundraising. If we have a summer service that will be great- that will be a bonus but it won’t solve the problem that we are facing in winter and fundraising, from whatever source, is going to be key to that.”

Now raised over half of its £360k target

To that end, Swanage Railway has launched its ‘Save Our Service’ appeal that has now raised over half of its £360k target but still more funding is needed to secure the railway’s future. It’s asking everyone that loves Swanage Railway to donate if they can and to share the details of its appeal to others.

For details of the ‘Save Our Service’ appeal please go to its website.

Watch the Swanage Railway:Survival on a Knife Edge film

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