The Swanage Railway is to operate a trial heritage diesel train service from the main line at Wareham into the heart of the Isle of Purbeck.
Operating from April to September this year, tickets for the service will also be available from main line train operating company South Western Railway so its passengers can add tickets for Corfe Castle and Swanage to their main line tickets.
Saturday, 1 January, 1972 was the last day of British Rail passenger trains between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage before the branch line was controversially closed. This will be the first time in 51 years that such a main line ticket facility for travel to Swanage has been possible.
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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 eleven mile service – one mile of which will be on the Network Rail main line from Worgret Junction and directly into Wareham station.
The trial service will operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 4 April to 10 September, 2023, with the first train departing Wareham at 11.19am and the last train leaving Swanage for Wareham at 4.20pm.
Gavin Johns, the 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,” added Gavin who is also a volunteer Swanage Railway signalman.
South Western Railway’s regional development manager, 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 an 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.
The four trains a day service from Wareham will be formed of a three-carriage heritage Class 117 diesel multiple unit that can have a one-carriage heritage Class 121 diesel multiple unit added at busy times, giving a total of 292 seats.
The two heritage diesel trains have been restored and upgraded for the Swanage Railway by specialist contractors who fitted the same technical, signalling and safety equipment that is installed on all other trains running on the national railway network.
Trevor Parsons – the volunteer chairman of the Swanage Railway Company which runs the trains for the Swanage Railway Trust – explained: “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,” added Trevor, a volunteer Swanage Railway signalman and train guard as well as a Swanage Railway Trust director.
The 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.
Tickets for the trial heritage diesel train service between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage will be available at swanagerailway.co.uk from Monday, 13 March, 2023.