Rail Minister Claire Perry MP has made history after riding on the first train to be run under a newly commissioned £3.2 million signalling system that will enable a trial passenger train service between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage.
Hosted by the volunteer-led Swanage Railway, the special trip in a two-coach South West Trains Class 158 diesel unit saw the Rail Minister, Purbeck Community Rail Partnership members, stakeholders and guests travel from Wareham to Corfe Castle and return on Thursday, 5 February, 2015.
Swanage Railway Trust Chairman Gavin Johns said: “The commissioning of the new signalling system is a major milestone in joining Swanage and Corfe Castle to the national railway network which has been our aim since 1972. It will also enable trial train services to take place in 2016 and 2017.
“I would like to thank our dedicated volunteers and our stakeholders who have worked so hard, over several years, to help bring the new signalling scheme to fruition.
“Purbeck District Council and Dorset County Council, the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance and other members of the Purbeck Community Rail Partnership also deserve thanks because it has been a real joint effort.
“It was a privilege to have the Rail Minister on board the first train running under the new signalling system and a pleasure to show her what working together in partnership can achieve for the improvement of the Isle of Purbeck’s transport network as well as the local economy,” added Mr Johns.
The new Corfe Castle to Wareham signalling system improves the ease and speed of signalling trains between Wareham, Norden Park & Ride, and Corfe Castle.
Using the ‘electric key-token’ system introduced to the country’s railways more than 100 years ago, the new system has been modernised so that a signal box on the main line at Worgret Junction is not required.
With ‘electric key-token’ instruments provided at Corfe Castle signal box and Wareham station – the latter being used by the drivers of trains from the Swanage Railway – the new signalling system is thought to be unique in the country because of its scale and the way it works.