29th May 2017
New operators of Poole Park miniature railway back on track for summer re-opening
POOLE Park miniature railway’s summer reopening is back on schedule, after the new operators struck a deal to secure the existing track.
The Friends of Poole Park (FPP), the community charity recently awarded a 30-year lease to operate the attraction, has secured the track from former mini-railway operator Chris Bullen.
Borough of Poole chose not to reissue the lease to Mr Bullen following a well-publicised tender process which reached a climax earlier this year.
Now the Friends hope to have the railway running again by mid-July.
FPP chairman Michael Collins told the Echo: “We won the tender and this week, this very week, we have acquired the track. So we don’t need to buy a new track and relay it.
“There is a little bit of repair work needed, a few days, no issue at all.
“Because we didn’t have the track we couldn’t make any firm commitment to anybody about purchasing or hiring.
“We have found many companies, who through different arrangements, will provide us with an engine and rolling stock.”
FPP’s long-term plans for the attraction are ambitious – with a number of community programmes, a 300-metre track extension, a new visitor centre and separate new station planned for the years ahead.
The Friends are even looking at introducing radio-controlled steam boats to the small lake.
Michael said: “There have been question marks over the recent history of the railway, we intend to be open and honest with everyone. People generally don’t mind dealing with the truth – if its good or bad they want to know the facts.
“We’re not perfect but we will do our best, and people are very welcome to come along and see what they can get from this experience.
“The lease we have is for 30 years, which will take us up to just two years short of the hundredth anniversary of the railway.”
Last November the railway suffered a carriage derailment, and issues with health and safety meant the train has not operated since.
Then, after a protracted tender process, negotiations over the track and rolling stock appeared to have stalled.
Now, subject to FPP member agreement, the railway should reopen by mid-July, Michael told the Echo.