- Andrew P.M. Wright
Swanage Railway wins government grant for updated feasibility study into Wareham train service
Dedicated Swanage Railway volunteers have won a Government grant of up to £50,000 to pay for an updated feasibility study and business case aimed at reinstating a train service to reconnect Swanage and Corfe Castle with the main line at Wareham.
South Dorset MP Richard Drax has welcomed the awarding of the grant from the Department for Transport’s national ‘Restoring Your Railway Fund’ as “an important step to ensure our iconic railway sustains its place in our hearts and our livelihoods.”
The regular train service between Swanage and Wareham was controversially axed by British Rail in January, 1972, with six and a half miles of the single track line from Furzebrook to Corfe Castle and Swanage being lifted in just seven weeks that summer.
The Swanage Railway has been rebuilt from nothing since 1976 and in 2014 the heritage line was connected with the national railway system – near Worgret Junction, south of Wareham, on the main London to Weymouth line – thanks to an innovative signalling system linking the heritage line with Network Rail.
Richard Drax said: “I am delighted that the Swanage Railway’s submission to the ‘Restoring Your Railway Fund’ has been successful.
“This will allow a detailed scoping exercise to be done to see how train services can be expanded to the main line Wareham, bringing more trains to the stunning resort of Swanage which, in turn, will bring more economy benefit to the local area.
“More money will be needed before expansion plans can be executed but this is an important step to ensure our iconic railway sustains its place in our hearts and our livelihoods,” added Mr Drax.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “For towns and villages left isolated and forgotten by Beeching cuts, restoring a rail line or a station has the potential to revitalise a community. It breathes new life into our high streets, drives investment in businesses and housing, and opens new opportunities for work and education.
“The dedication and determination shown in Swanage, with volunteers painstakingly restoring the line, underlines just how important these connections are. The potential to transform a steam train service into a modern, reliable link will transform the town.
“By building back with a real focus on better connections, and supporting left behind communities, we are delivering our promise to level up this country,” he added.
Swanage Railway chairman Gavin Johns said: “We’re delighted that a updated and detailed feasibility study and business case into our plans to operate train services from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham have been successful in this round of funding for the Government’s ‘Restoring Your Railway Fund’.
“The grant will pay for a fully updated feasibility study, and we hope a positive business case, for a passenger train service between Swanage and Wareham once the Coronavirus pandemic is over,” added Mr Johns who is a volunteer signalman on the popular heritage line.
Swanage Railway Project Wareham director Mark Woolley explained: “We hope that the new feasibility study and business case – last carried out 12 years ago in 2008 – will be wide-ranging and fully take into account our existing award-winning heritage railway.
“We look forward to working closely with the Government and our stakeholders in the next stages of the ‘Restoring Your Railway’ process as we further develop our business case and plans for reinstating and running a train service from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham.
“Funded by the Government grant, we hope that the outcome of the feasibility study and business case work will provide us with an updated way ahead on how to operate a sustainable train service to Wareham.
“We are also hopeful that the work will also help us identify potential sources of further funding to provide the necessary train servicing and maintenance facilities to achieve this,” added Mr Woolley who has been a dedicated Swanage Railway volunteer for more than 35 years.
During the summer of 2017, the Swanage Railway ran a 60 selected day trial diesel train service to Wareham which saw four trains a day operate from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham.
The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so, for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email him at email@example.com.
Story and photographs by Andrew P.M. Wright,
Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer.