Peter in the driving seat

Over half a century after being scrapped, the Swanage-Wareham rail link has been revived for a trial run over the summer season.

MORE than 50 years after he was a passenger on the final Swanage to Wareham rail journey, Peter Frost drove the train as the service returned.

In January 1972, then aged 13, Mr Frost was aboard the final train before the service was cancelled.

But on Tuesday, April 4, he was the driver and conductor as a 90-day trial of the route got underway.

It will run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until Sunday, Sepetember 10, with passengers able to travel from Swanage to Wareham, connecting with mainline services.

Photo: Andrew PM Wright/Swanage Railway

Photo: Andrew PM Wright/Swanage Railway

The first train leaves Wareham at 11.19am and the last return journey sets off from Swanage at 4.20pm.

“After so many years, here we are,” he said. “There was a trial service to Wareham in 2017 and it was hoped that it would also happen in 2018 but that was shelved due to cost.

“I think we should have bitten the bullet and gone ahead with the trial back then.

“However, getting this far now has been achieved by a pioneer spirit – it’s a stepping stone to providing a full heritage service to Wareham and beyond.”

Also on board was Swanage Railway Trust director Peter Sills who, as a 13-year-old, also travelled on the last British Rail passenger train from Swanage to Wareham – and still has his ticket from that last journey.

The 65-year-old took in the route with his own son, Frederick, 16.

And the conductor guard on the first day of the diesel train service to Wareham was Trevor Parsons, chair of the Swanage Railway Company.

“This is our first trip to Wareham with our own Swanage Railway diesel units,” he said.

“It’s taken a lot of work to get them operational, as heritage trains do literally take a lot of tender loving care.”

Operating through the summer months, the service will allow visitors to Dorset to reach Wareham, before using the service to Swanage or Corfe Castle for the day.

Adult return tickets cost £25, which chair of the Swanage Railway Trust, Gavin Johns, said was dictated by the operating costs of the railway, as well as the fact the scheme received no government subsidy.

“The pricing is determined by the heritage steam service and the operating cost,” he

“Discounts are available. But what is really needed for the future is financial support to reduce the fare price – all the options are on the table.

“We’re doing this trial to test the service. We’ll then gather all the data and then discuss the next steps with key stakeholders like Dorset Council. As a charity we don’t have the resources to service the full cost.”

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