Major delay as rail service between Swanage and Wareham postponed

Swanage Railway has just announced it’s postponing its planned trial diesel train service to the main line at Wareham, until the summer of 2023 because of challenging trading conditions and economic uncertainty.

It had been hoped to operate a 90 day trial service – using restored 1950s British Railways heritage diesel trains – during the summer of 2022.

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Wareham DMUs Corfe Castle 7 May 2021
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It’s planned that heritage diesel trains will operate between Swanage and Wareham via Corfe Castle

Huge disappointment

The surprise news has been a huge disappointment to those who have worked for years to restore the train service from Swanage to Wareham, ever since the branch line was closed 50 years ago by British Rail.

However main line passenger numbers haven’t returned to pre-Covid levels and there was now the challenge of rising fuel prices.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns
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Swanage Railway chairman Gavin Johns

“Trading conditions during 2022 are very unpredictable”

Swanage Railway chairman Gavin Johns said:

“We can only run trains to Wareham when the conditions are commercially viable and it’s important that we operate the trial as economically as possible and when commercial conditions are at their best.

“We will continue with our main line train operating licence application to the Office of Rail and Road as quickly as practicable.

“The Swanage Railway’s business is still recovering from Covid, which badly affected customer and staff confidence, against a background of challenging trading conditions and economic uncertainty.

“Trading conditions during 2022 are very unpredictable because they are being heavily affected by significant price rises being borne by our customers and our business – such as the increased cost of coal – as well as the tragedy unfolding in the Ukraine.

Wareham Tuesday 13th June 2017
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Back in June 2017, Swanage appeared as a destination on the departure board at Wareham Station as part of the 60 day trial

Committed to making it happen in 2023

Gavin Johns went on to say that providing a viable heritage train service between Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross and Swanage remained the Swanage Railway’s first priority and he remained committed to making the trial service to Wareham happen in 2023:

“The business case does not currently exist to place external contracts to provide the trial train service to Wareham but we remain fully committed to securing all necessary consents and commencing services with a view to operating to Wareham during 2023.

“This is the most pragmatic way to proceed.”

Wareham to Swanage train Corfe Castle Wednesday 14th June 2017
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The Wareham to Swanage train as part of the 60 day trial on Wednesday 14th June 2017

Most challenging project in the 45 year history of the Swanage Railway

A 60 day trial train service from Swanage to Wareham via Corfe Castle, operated during the summer of 2017 using hired heritage diesel locomotives and carriages, as well as a contractor to operate the trains.

Gavin Johns added:

“The extensive work required to put in an application to the Office for Road and Rail for operating trains to Wareham has been very detailed and has taken longer than expected – it has probably been the most challenging project in the 45 year history of the Swanage Railway.

“Trading conditions and economic uncertainties permitting, we plan to run a 90 selected day trial train service to the main line Wareham during 2023.

“I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard on the Wareham project which has been a Swanage Railway ambition since British Rail closed the branch line to Corfe Castle and Swanage in January 1972.”

SR Wareham train service summer 2017
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The Swanage Railway trial train service pulls into Wareham Station in summer 2017

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