Dorset

Re-opening of Purbeck rail line services pushed back

Swanage railway Image copyright Andrew PM Wright
Image caption A level crossing has been installed as part of the £5.5m works

Plans to resume regular passenger rail services on a line which was closed for 45 years have been further delayed.

Swanage Railway received £5.5m, mostly of public funds, to link its heritage line in Dorset to the national network and restart regular services.

But the diesel train it planned to use remains in a workshop where it has been undergoing repairs for five years.

The railway said the "protracted overhaul" had been hampered by supply problems but was nearing completion.

Work to restore the closed section of track - linking the Swanage Railway with the national network - began in 2014, with the first train running on it in April 2016.

New wheels

The first trial services ran in summer 2017 but plans to launch a regular service are yet to come to fruition.

The diesel train, which has been in a workshop in Eastleigh, Hampshire, since 2014, is being fitted with modern equipment needed for mainline services such as locking doors, safety systems, radio communication and new wheels.

Mark Woolley, of Swanage Railway, said: "It's been a very protracted overhaul - old stock that's over 50 years old that needs to be upgraded for mainline use - and there's been some supply problems with the wheel sets but, at last, we are nearly there."

The Swanage to Wareham line was closed by British Rail in 1972 and ripped up, although part of it was re-opened as a tourist attraction in the 1990s.

The reopening of the final section was funded by a £5.5m investment by the railway's stakeholders - including Purbeck District Council, Dorset County Council and BP - and a £1.8m grant from the government's Coastal Communities Fund.

It involved the installation of a £500,000 level crossing and replacing 1,200 wooden sleepers with concrete ones.

Swanage Railway history

Image copyright Dr Neil Clifton
Image caption The Swanage to Wareham line was closed in 1972
  • 1885 - Ten-mile branch line from Wareham to Swanage opens
  • 1969 - End of through-trains beyond Wareham
  • 1972 - British Rail closes the line and rips it up
  • 1976 - Volunteers start re-laying track at Swanage Station
  • 1979 - Swanage Railway runs its first diesel train over a few hundred yards of track
  • 1980 - First Swanage Railway steam train runs
  • 1995 - Passenger trains run between Swanage and Norden, via Corfe Castle
  • 2002 - Swanage Railway's tracks meets the national railway system at Motala
  • 2014 - New signalling system between Swanage Railway and Network Rail commissioned
  • 2016 - Norden Gates level crossing officially opens
  • 2017 - Reconnects to the mainline

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