A second year of trial services over the Swanage Railway’s northern extension to Wareham has been delayed until next year.
After an initial 60-day trial period from June-September last year, a second, 90-day trial service was planned for 2018, but owing to delays in the overhaul of the railway’s DMUs, the services have been pushed back to Easter 2019.
The Swanage Railway’s Project Wareham director Mark Woolley said: “The extensive overhaul, refurbishment and upgrade to exacting main line standards of our two former British Railways diesel multiple units by several specialist contractors has been very challenging work because of the heritage nature of the trains.”
The units – a one-carriage Class 121 ‘Bubble Car’ and a three-carriage Class 117 DMU – are being overhauled and upgraded by Arlington Fleet Group Ltd at Eastleigh. They are being given new wheel-sets, as well as being equipped with Network Rail-compliant TPWS, OTMR, GSM-R and central door locking so they can run on the main line into Wareham station.
As these were not ready for the launch of the trial service last year, the trains were run mostly using locomotives, rolling stock and crews from main line train operating company West Coast Railways which, in November last year, announced that it was withdrawing its services to third-party organisations.
Mr Woolley said: “The performance of our Wareham trains was good thanks to a robust timetable and our connections with main line trains were well maintained.
“Despite the operational success of the 60-day trial, the service was operated at a financial loss and the use of a contracted third-party operator cannot be repeated in 2018.”
In future, the Swanage Railway plans to run services to Wareham using its own main line-certified motive power and crews. Some diesel and steam-hauled Wareham services may run later this year.