An historic lease for railway land means an important trial passenger train service linking Swanage and Corfe Castle with the main line at Wareham can run for the first time in more than 40 years.
Dorset County Council has acquired three miles of trackbed from fellow Purbeck Community Rail Partnership member Network Rail, the line running from a quarter of a mile south of Worgret Junction to Motala, half a mile east of Furzebrook, which is the start of the existing Swanage Railway.
DCC has now leased that land to the Swanage Railway on a 99-year lease, enabling the award-winning heritage line to gain access to the three-mile line and upgrade it for running passenger trains at 25 mph.
Estimated to take a year, major work includes track restoration including replacing some 1,700 wooden sleepers, repairs to bridges, clearing six miles of embankments, the examination and repair of six miles of lineside fencing as well as a level crossing and road-rail interchange just west of Norden station.
Swanage Railway Company chairman Peter Sills signed the historic lease agreement at Purbeck District Council’s headquarters in Wareham on Monday 8 September, witnessed by members of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership.
He said: “The signing of the 99-year lease with Dorset County Council is a very important and historic day for the Swanage Railway and the development of public transport in Purbeck.
“It enables the final stage of work to take place to ensure the delivery of a trial train service linking Swanage and Corfe Castle with the main line at Wareham from late 2015.
Thanks to a £1.47 million Government grant from the Coastal Communities Fund, a trial two-year passenger train service linking Swanage and Corfe Castle with the main line at Wareham is set to start from late 2015 and run on 140 selected days over the following two years.
The lease from DCC also includes the six and a half mile Swanage Railway, from Motala to the Northbrook Road bridge at Swanage station which was previously on a shorter lease.
Swanage Railway Project Wareham director Mark Woolley said: “The new lease will enable the Swanage Railway to fully access the Coastal Communities Fund grant to develop a train service to Wareham which has been a founding objective of the Swanage Railway since it was formed in 1972.
“It enables the Swanage Railway to strengthen its position and allow applications for significant grants to be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other major grant-making bodies.”