Hengistbury Head’s much-loved train service has been given notice to quit by council bosses.
The popular train service, affectionately known locally as the ‘Noddy train,’ is being axed in its 45th anniversary year so the council can run their own land trains from Hengistbury Head to Mudeford Spit.
The council claims the “time is right” to take over the service from November and eventually aims to run land trains between Alum Chine and Hengistbury Head.
But the shock announcement has left 88-year-old Joyce Faris and her staff reeling. Joyce’s late husband Roger Faris started the service with hand-crafted engines and carriages in 1968 and, following his death in 1990, Joyce kept it going in his memory.
She said: “It’s just part of me now, it’s my life. I do love it, I love the environment and I love the people. It was such a shock to be told we would have to stop.”
Mechanic Alan Barnard, who has worked on the trains for more than 20 years, said he would have petitions available at Hengistbury Head and on the land train’s Facebook site.
But he fears it will have little effect. “It is a devastating blow but it’s clear the decision has been made,” he said. “I feel we have been stabbed in the back.”
Joyce’s son John Jameson-Davis said: “What people love about mum’s train is it’s a link with the past.
“It goes back almost two generations and it’s such a feature of the area.”
The decision has also alarmed Mudeford beach hut owners, as currently Joyce provides a Land Rover service and a towing service for people needing to take a lot of equipment to the beach huts. This is set to end when the train service is withdrawn.
Steve Barratt, chair of the Mudeford Beach Hut Association, said it was an “ill thought-out decision” that had been made without any consultation of the people who use the service.
And Andy Brown, director of the Black House holiday accommodation, whose customers also use the train, said: “We’re not very happy at all and we are very worried it will impact on our business. I don’t think Bournemouth council are planning on offering a comparable service to what we have at the moment.”
Cllr Lawrence Williams, portfolio holder for leisure, tourism and culture, said: “The existing land train service at Hengistbury Head has served the area well for a number of years and I would like to thank Mrs Farris for her dedicated work during this time. With the current licence set to expire and after much consideration we feel that the time is right for the Council to take ownership of the service.
“The Council already has a well run land train service along the seafront and with the opening of the new Hengistbury Head visitor centre we see this is an ideal opportunity for us to provide a joint service. The long term aim being to link the whole of the coast up from Hengistbury Head to Alum Chine on one single land train service.”