- Andrew P.M. Wright
Volunteers plan for resumption of Covid-safe steam service – subject to government confirmation
Dedicated volunteers are planning for a re-opening of the Swanage Railway with Covid-safe steam trains resuming between Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage on Monday, 12 April, 2021 – subject to the lifting of Government restrictions.
The Swanage Railway has been awarded ‘We’re Good to Go’ certification by the Visit England tourism body for demonstrating the heritage railway has met the required level of compliance with its Covid-19 preparations and precautions to keep the public safe.
Covid-safe passenger services ran on the Swanage Railway during 2020, including the successful Steam and Lights festive trains in December.
During the latest national lockdown, only essential work has been taking place – track and bridge maintenance along with signalling and locomotive maintenance – with the Swanage Railway following Government instruction and advice.
Swanage Railway chairman Gavin Johns said: “We are pleased that the Government’s plans, and guidance, to bring the country out of the Covid-19 restrictions enable us to plan for the resumption of our train services on Monday, 12 April, 2021.
“The safety of our passengers and staff is our prime concern as we look forward to resuming our train services and open our on-line booking service at swanagerailway.co.uk on Thursday, 1 April, 2021.
“While on the day walk-up bookings will be able to be made at our Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage ticket offices – subject to seats being available – we would encourage passengers to book in advance, via our website, to avoid disappointment as seat numbers are reduced to ensure the prescribed social distancing.
“The Swanage Railway has a great part to play in giving people a wonderful day out in the Isle of Purbeck – whether it’s to visit Swanage and the beach, Corfe Castle and its magnificent ruins or simply to walk and enjoy the fresh air in the beautiful countryside.
“Our train services and stations are fully Covid-19 compliant with regular cleaning taking place.
“Passengers will still have to wear face coverings on our platforms and trains – unless they are exempt – with hand sanitiser points available on our stations. Children under the age of 11 do not need to wear a face covering.
“We are taking all reasonable steps to ensure that our passengers are safe while travelling with us and passengers can travel with us in the knowledge that all fares go towards supporting the re-built Swanage Railway and ensuring its survival for future generations,” added Mr Johns.
It is hoped to re-open the fund-raising shop on Swanage station – in a Covid-safe manner – on Monday, 12 April, 2021, subject to the lifting of Government restrictions and the availability of volunteers to staff the shop.
Subject to the lifting of Government restrictions, the Swanage Railway hopes to re-open its Corfe Castle station museum, return catering facilities to Swanage and Norden stations and re-introduce its dining trains, in a Covid-safe manner, from 17 May, 2021.
The Swanage Railway’s Harman’s Cross station and Herston Halt will remain closed – in compliance with current Government guidance – and are set to re-open when the Government lifts the Covid-19 restrictions regarding social distancing.
Gavin Johns explained: “We recognise the Government’s dates for the reduction and final lifting of restrictions are dependent on progress in reducing cases of Covid-19 and we will be looking for confirmation of these dates by the Government nearer the time.
“The dates published by the Government give us time to complete essential maintenance work and ensure that everything is prepared for us to complete staff refresher training so that the Swanage Railway is ready to resume its train services when we receive the green light from the Government,” added Mr Johns who is also a volunteer signalman on the heritage line.
In preparation for the resumption of steam trains, test and staff training trains – not carrying the public – will be operating on the Swanage Railway ahead of the planned Monday, 12 April, 2021, re-opening which is subject to the Government lifting Covid-19 restrictions.
Details of how the Swanage Railway keeps its passengers safe can be found at www.swanagerailway.co.uk/covid-19-passenger-information.
Up to date train service information is available from the Swanage Railway website at swanagerailway.co.uk where train tickets can be booked from Thursday, 1 April, 2021.
The Swanage Railway always welcomes new volunteers so, for a chat, contact Swanage Railway volunteer co-ordinator Mike Whitwam on 01929 475212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story & photograph by Andrew P.M. Wright,
Swanage Railway official photographer and press officer