THE Swanage Railway is planning to reopen with Covid-safe steam trains next month.

Volunteers at the Purbeck heritage line say that, subject to the timetabled lifting of Government restrictions, rail services will resume between Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage on Monday, April 12.

Swanage Railway chairman Gavin Johns said: "The safety of our passengers and staff is our prime concern as we look forward to resuming our train services and open our online booking service at on Thursday, April 1.

"While on the day walk-up bookings will be able to be made at our Norden, Corfe Castle and Swanage ticket offices – subject to seats being available – we would encourage passengers to book in advance, via our website, to avoid disappointment as seat numbers are reduced to ensure the prescribed social distancing."

The railway has struggled through the pandemic, which forced the shutdown of services and loss of important revenue.

Redundancies were made and an urgent appeal for funds was launched.

However, in the times last year when Government restrictions allowed the railway to operate, it did so in an industry standard recognised Covid-safe way. These services also included the successful Steam and Lights festive trains that ran in December.

Mr Johns said: "Our train services and stations are fully Covid-19 compliant with regular cleaning taking place.

"Passengers will still have to wear face coverings on our platforms and trains – unless they are exempt – with hand sanitiser points available on our stations. Children under the age of 11 do not need to wear a face covering.

“We are taking all reasonable steps to ensure that our passengers are safe while travelling with us and passengers can travel with us in the knowledge that all fares go towards supporting the re-built Swanage Railway and ensuring its survival for future generations."

It is also hoped to reopen the fundraising shop on Swanage station on Monday, April 12, subject to the lifting of Government restrictions and the availability of volunteers.

Subject to the lifting of Government restrictions, the Swanage Railway also hopes to reopen its Corfe Castle station museum, return catering facilities to Swanage and Norden stations and re-introduce its dining trains from May 17.

Harman’s Cross station and Herston Halt will remain closed – in compliance with current guidance – and are set to reopen when the Government lifts the Covid restrictions regarding social distancing.

Mr Johns said: “We recognise the Government’s dates for the reduction and final lifting of restrictions are dependent on progress in reducing cases of Covid-19 and we will be looking for confirmation of these dates nearer the time."