Swanage-Wareham rail line reconnection 'a success'
The first regular passenger train services to run between the mainline and a Dorset seaside resort for more than 40 years have exceeded targets.
The original line from Swanage to Wareham was closed by British Rail and ripped up in seven weeks, in 1972.
During the summer however, the first timetabled trains ran along the full 10-mile route as part of a trial.
Swanage Railway said its target footfall was 12,000 passengers but it actually had 13,020.
Volunteers rebuilt the 5.5-mile (8.8km) stretch from Swanage to Norden over 30 years and have been running it as a tourist attraction since the 1990s.
After work was completed on the section of the track from Norden to Wareham, a trial service using upgraded 1960s diesel trains began in June and ran for 60 selected days throughout the summer.
Mark Woolley, of Swanage Railway, said he was "very pleased" with how the first trial had gone.
The Purbeck Community Rail Partnership (PCRP) business plan estimated the trial "could result in an additional 12,000 passengers" which it described as a "modest 6% increase of current heritage passenger numbers".
A 90-day trial of the service will be held next year, which is expected to see an additional 18,000 passengers.
"This is likely to run between late May and late September," Mr Woolley said.
The long-term aim is to make the service permanent.
However, Mr Woolley said: "This is dependent on a number of factors - such as profitability, obtaining additional main line rolling stock and the construction of improved servicing and maintenance facilities for the diesel train used for a Wareham service."
Swanage Railway history
- 1885 - Ten-mile branch line from Wareham to Swanage opens
- 1972 - British Rail closes the line and rips it up
- 1976 - Volunteers start re-laying track at Swanage Station
- 1979 - Swanage Railway runs its first diesel train over a few hundred yards of track
- 1980 - First Swanage Railway steam train runs
- 1995 - Passenger trains run between Swanage and Norden, via Corfe Castle
- 2002 - Swanage Railway's tracks meets the national railway system at Motala
- 2014 - New signalling system between Swanage Railway and Network Rail commissioned
- 2016 - Norden Gates level crossing officially opens
- 2017 - Reconnects to the mainline