Regular train services are to be re-introduced between Swanage and Corfe Castle.
Forgive the heritage railway volunteers if they have a wry smile on their faces today, for 41 years after British Rail axed a major tourist rail line the Government is to spend £1.47 million to bring it back.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will announce this morning that the volunteer-run Swanage Railway Company will get the money to re-introduce a regular train service from Swanage and Corfe Castle to the main line at Wareham.
The historic grant from the Coastal Communities Fund will give an important transport, tourism and employment boost to the Isle of Purbeck, and create 40 new jobs indirectly, and 10 new jobs directly.
The first trains will be running between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage by the spring of 2015. Swanage Railway already runs trains between Swanage and Corfe Castle.
The grant money will pay for the upgrading of track and bridges on the Network Rail three-mile single line from Worgret Junction, on the London to Weymouth main line, to the Swanage Railway at Motala just east of Furzebrook.
The line is currently used by occasional excursion trains to Corfe Castle and Swanage from various parts of the country.
The upgrade will not only improve transport in the area for tourists but improve rail links out of Purbeck to Poole and Bournemouth for residents.
It will also pay for the upgrading of two 1960s heritage diesel rail bus trains to main line running standards as well as the acquisition of legal permissions required before regular trains can run into Wareham from Corfe Castle and Swanage.
A trial rail service between Swanage, Corfe Castle and Wareham is planned for 50 days in 2015 and 90 days in 2016, with the eventual target being an all-year amenity train service.
Swanage Railway Company chairman Peter Sills, who rode on the last British Rail train from Swanage to Wareham in January 1972 as a teenager, said: “We are elated at this tremendous and very historic news because the Swanage Railway has been campaigning to bring back regular trains from Swanage and Corfe Castle to Wareham since 1972 when British Rail controversially axed the service.
"We are working closely with Network Rail and Dorset County Council to ensure that land access and lease arrangements on the three-mile line between Motala and Worgret Junction required by the Coastal Communities Fund grant are put in place as soon as possible.
"I would like to say a very big thank-you to everyone who has contributed towards reaching this milestone in the history of the Swanage Railway. It took British Rail just seven weeks to lift the seven miles of track between Furzebrook, Corfe Castle and Swanage but 30 long years for the Swanage Railway to relay it.
“Rail travel in this country has grown by a third during the past decade and train journeys are currently at their highest level since the 1920s. With petrol prices so high – and still rising – we are confident that a regular train service between Swanage and Wareham will be viable.”