A NEW train service from the mainline at Wareham into the heart of the Isle of Purbeck is starting next month.
The trial, run in a partnership between the Swanage Railway and South Western Railway, will see a heritage diesel service from Wareham to Swanage and Corfe Castle run between April and September.
Tickets will be available through South Western for the Purbeck stations, for the first time since British Rail services to the stations were cancelled in 1972.
In another first, the Swanage Railway will be using its restored and upgraded 1950s heritage diesel trains, used by British Rail across its network from the 1950s to the 1990s, to operate the 11-mile route.
The new trial service will operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from April 4 to September 10, with the first of four trains departing Wareham at 11.19am and the last train leaving Swanage for Wareham at 4.20pm – giving visitors the opportunity to spend four hours in Swanage or Corfe Castle.
Gavin Johns, volunteer chairman of the Swanage Railway Trust, said: “This trial train service is the result of working in partnership with the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund, the Department of Transport, the former Purbeck District Council, Dorset Council, British Petroleum, Perenco, Network Rail and South Western Railway.
“I would like to thank our valued stakeholders for their far-sighted investment of £5.5 million to re-connect Swanage and Corfe Castle with the main line at Wareham which included £1.8 million from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund so we could restore and upgrade our 1950s heritage diesel trains for running on the main line directly into Wareham station.”
Regional development manager at South Western Railway, Andrew Ardley, said: “SWR is proud to support the Swanage Railway by giving customers the ability to buy tickets through to Corfe Castle and Swanage from any one of the 189 stations on our network.
“This is a historic moment for the Swanage Railway and we look forward to seeing the results of this highly anticipated trial.”
The trains will be operated and staffed by West Coast Railways on behalf of the Swanage Railway.
Trevor Parsons, volunteer chairman of the Swanage Railway Company which runs the trains for the Swanage Railway Trust, added: “I would like to say a big thank you to our valued stakeholders for their invaluable help and patience with a complicated and detailed project that has been as ambitious as it has been challenging.
“This trial train service would not be possible without the former Purbeck District Council committing £3.2million from housing developers’ transport improvement contributions for re-signalling improvements between Wareham, Worgret Junction and the Swanage Railway as part of Network Rail’s Poole to Wool re-signalling scheme in 2013.”
Chairman of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership, Councillor Mike Whitwam, said: “This trial train service to Wareham marks an important opportunity to return to a fully-functioning and sustainable rail service that meets the needs of local communities, visitors and businesses.
“The trial service holds the prospect of Isle of Purbeck residents travelling anywhere possible by rail, leaving their cars at home and taking traffic off the congested A351 road,” added Mike, who is a Swanage Railway Trust trustee and Swanage Town Councillor.
The latest trial comes after one in the summer of 2017, when the Swanage Railway operated a 60-selected day trial service from Wareham using hired-in diesel locomotives and carriages operated and staffed by West Coast Railways.
Tickets for the trial heritage diesel train service between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage will be available at swanagerailway.co.uk from Monday, March 13.
Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering should contact the Swanage Railway volunteer recruitment and retention office on 01929 475212, or by email to email@example.com.