Dorset

Charity to renew ageing mini-railway in Poole Park

trains on lorry Image copyright Save Poole Park Railway
Image caption A lorry removed the trains and other equipment in January

A miniature railway, whose previous operator was given 24 hours to shut down in January, is to reopen under new management.

Poole council said the charity Friends of Poole Park had successfully tendered for a new lease.

It said the group "offered the best opportunity to modernise" the 68-year-old attraction.

Chris Bullen, who took over the railway in 2004, said he was "devastated" his bid has been unsuccessful.

In January, he said people were "in tears" as a lorry removed his trains and other equipment following the "shock" ultimatum.

Image copyright Save Poole Park Railway
Image caption Previous operator Chris Bullen (left) said renewing the railway would be a "monster task"

Mr Bullen said the railway needed expensive safety improvements, including a new bridge and work to move lampposts and trees which were too close to the track.

He said: "It could be the end of the railway. It's very difficult to renew, it's a monster task."

Donors pledged more than £2,300 on an online fundraising page to allow Mr Bullen to replace the track.

He said the money would now be given to three charities.

Poole Borough Council said the January ultimatum followed the expiry of Mr Bullen's lease.

It said the Friends of Poole Park would invest in a new track as well as the development of the station and engine shed.

The authority said the railway was due to reopen in time for the summer holidays.

Image copyright Row17
Image caption The track in Poole Park was laid in 1948 with the first trains running the following year

Poole Borough Council said Mr Bullen had been "aware for some time that his tenancy at will was liable to be terminated to allow the tender process to begin".

Councillor John Rampton, in charge of consumer protection, said the trains had to be removed so that no bidders would be discouraged.

He said the council was "absolutely committed" to having a railway in the park and he was "not in any way fussed who operates it".

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