Swanage Railway gets over £200k in government COVID-19 recovery grant

The Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage has just announced that it’s awarded Swanage Railway £223,200 to help it cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The heritage steam and diesel railway based in Swanage, is one of six organisations in Dorset to receive funding from the first round of payouts from the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

Other Dorset recipients include the Great Dorset Steam Fair near Blandford Forum that got £236,200 and the Shire Hall Trust in Dorchester that received £109,800.

Swanage Railway summer 2020
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Meet its COVID-19 requirements

Swanage Railway, that is among the 445 heritage organisations in England to benefit this time, will spend the cash on improving its systems to enable it to meet its COVID-19 requirements.

This will include a new online bookings system, extra hygiene measures, new information screens, provision of PPE for staff, further seating dividers in carriages and to enable Equalities Act training for staff and volunteers.

Diesel train going past Corfe Castle
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“This is a lovely surprise”

Randy Coldham, the Swanage Railway’s fund-raising chairman, said:

“We’ve only just heard the news and we are very happy. When you put in a grant application you’re hopeful but you only really expect about one in 10 to be successful, so this is a lovely surprise. We got just under half of what we asked for but it’s still very good news for the railway.

“Most importantly the money will go to revamping our online booking system, so it will be able to cope with all the additional passenger information needed for Track and Trace.

“We’ve had such a good response to our Steam and Lights Christmas extravaganza but at times we’ve had to close bookings for a time, to help the system cope with demand. We should have a new system in place after Christmas.

Randy Coldham in the signal box at Swanage Railway
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Randy Coldham in the signal box at Swanage Railway

Vital to keep raising money

While the government grant funding is a substantial boost to funds, Swanage Railway says that its still vital to keep raising money for its SOS appeal. Randy Coldham added:

“I have to emphasise that our SOS appeal is still very important. We’re approaching the £300k mark but we still need to reach the full £360k to help keep the railway going.

“Our income is still down and we are having to operate with less than 50 percent of the normal number of passengers because of social distancing.

“Our SOS appeal is the foundation to keep us going and the grant helps us build on that foundation. So we still need donations!”

Train going past Corfe Castle on Swanage Railway summer
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“Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“It is absolutely right that investing in heritage should be a priority during this crisis and this support by the government is crucial. Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity; it is a major driver for tourism and makes our towns, cities, and rural areas better places to live.

“All of this is so important for our wellbeing and will be vital when we start to emerge from this incredibly difficult time.”

Steam engine on Swanage Railway summer 2020
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