Coronavirus: the future of Swanage Railway “on the razor’s edge”

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Andrew PM Wright

Legend
Swanage Railway started operating steam trains on its line in 1980


The future of a heritage railway rebuilt by volunteers over the past 30 years has been left “on the alert” by the coronavirus crisis.

The Dorset Swanage Railway, which had been run as a tourist attraction since the 1990s, closed when the lockdown took effect.

He said the pandemic had “created the most urgent and potentially devastating challenge” in its history.

So far, an emergency call has raised £ 185,000 out of a target of £ 360,000.

Many other heritage railways across England found themselves in a similar position, including West Somerset Railway, East Lancashire Railway, North York Moors Railway, South Devon Railway and Bluebell Railway in East Sussex.


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Media captionThe first scheduled passenger service traveled the entire 10-mile line in 2017

Swanage Railway would normally cost £ 200,000 per month to operate.

The firm said it had reduced this amount to £ 46,000 by putting staff on leave and putting the railroad on hold, but still had to cover maintenance costs.

The original line from Swanage to Wareham was closed by British Rail in 1972.

Volunteers have rebuilt the 8.8 km (5.5 miles) stretch of Swanage to Norden in three decades and have managed it as a tourist attraction since the 1990s.

In 2017, it reconnected to the main line and the first scheduled passenger service traveled the entire 10-mile line for the first time in 45 years. The railway was trying to test regular service.

Image copyright
Andrew PM Wright

Legend

Although staff have been put on leave and the railway has been put on hold, maintenance costs have yet to be covered


Image copyright
Dr Neil Clifton

Legend

The original line from Swanage to Wareham was closed in 1972


The company has described the effect of lockdown on attraction as “survival on the cutting edge.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic has created the most urgent and potentially devastating challenge in its history,” he said.

President Gavin Johns added: “We have spent over 45 years recreating it and more than 200,000 people a year use it.

“The summer season, which accounts for 60% of our £ 3 million annual revenue, is absolutely essential and with this loss we need to focus on cutting costs to ensure our survival for the next year. “

Legend

Volunteers have run the railway as a tourist attraction since the 1990s


Although it has yet to make a decision, he said the company is considering the cost of locomotive rental, coal, rents and wages.

Nicky Crowley, who made a donation to the call, said, “I love seeing the railroad every year, we stay in Swanage. ”

Another fan, Bev Beldon-Brown said, “I took my kids here a lot of times when they were young, even the Christmas train … Now, some of my kids have taken their kids there. We can’t lose the train, we just can’t. ”

Speaking about the difficulties faced by other heritage lines, Swanage Railway said: “We are all faced with the same situation and we admire the efforts of our friends and volunteers across the country. “

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