After 15 long weeks of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, Swanage Railway has finally reopened with a limited timetable to ensure the safety of passengers.
The special fund-raising train service will run from today, 11th July 2020, operating a round trip from Swanage to Norden and back, four times a day.
Swanage Town Mayor, Councillor Mike Bonfield was there to wave off the very first train departure from the station platform in Swanage.
Watch the first train departure after lockdown
Class 33 diesel-electric locomotive, Lieutenant Jenny Lewis RN
Initially it will be a heritage diesel service and the locomotive to have the honour of being the first departure from the station was the Class 33 diesel-electric locomotive, Lieutenant Jenny Lewis RN. This 1960 loco regularly hauled London trains down to Swanage and after it was retired from mainline operations it came to Swanage Railway in 1999.
Councillor Mike Bonfield said:
“The reopening of the railway is such a great thing for the town because it shows that things are slowly starting to open up and I think the railway is brilliant. We need to get back to near normality as we can. Places like the railway, the museum and the pier are finding it hard because of the unknowns but the town needs the income so the restarting of the train service is good news.”
Vigorous health and safety assessment
The resumption of service has only been possible after the railway completed a vigorous health and safety assessment to ensure that social distancing was possible and high hygiene standards could be met. Measures include:
- Hand sanitiser available in entrance hall
- Trains regularly cleaned and surfaces wiped while also being sanitised with a long-
- lasting spray proven to kill the virus
- Seating on trains limited to ensure that social distancing can be maintained
- All passengers and staff on trains will be required – unless exempt for health reasons – to
- wear face coverings
- All seats will be pre-booked in blocks of four to prevent overcrowding and ensure that social distancing can be maintained
- Any purchases on the day to be made by contactless payment card
“Ticket sales are building up”
The chairman of the Swanage Railway and Trust, Gavin Johns said:
“It’s quite an exciting day for us to have worked our way through all the coronavirus restrictions and made the railway safe for our customers and our staff, so that we are able to provide a good day out for people.
“Ticket sales are building up which is encouraging and I hope when summer holidays proper start, we’ll see even more ticket sales. In August we are going to change our train service to open another station and people will be able to make end to end journeys, which will be another step in our recovery plan.”
Much needed income
It’s intended that the limited service over the next few months will provide much needed income for the railway, which had to continue to cover monthly running costs of £46k while it was closed.
When it was clear at the beginning of lockdown that the heritage railway may not financially survive the crisis, the Save Our Service fundraising appeal was launched. The appeal has now reached £237k but is still short of its target of £360,000, so fundraising is still continuing.
Bookings for rail journeys can be made via the Swanage Railway website
To donate to the Save Our Service appeal go to the Save Our Service fundraising website