THE operators of the Hengistbury Head land train, who have been given notice to quit after the summer, have refuted council claims they have not invested in the service.

Mechanic Alan Barnard, who has worked on the ‘Noddy trains’ for around 20 years, said thousands of pounds had been spent upgrading the trains and carriages and improving the service to passengers.

Bournemouth council claims it is necessary to take the service in-house to enable improvements to be made and ensure the service is fit for purpose.

The council said they had consistently asked 88-year-old owner Joyce Faris for a business plan but had not received anything from her.

But Alan said they had made improvements nearly every year. “We’ve shown them and told them over the years what we have done,” he said. “Last year we spent £25,000 on nine coaches and back in 2008 we spent probably about the same having six or seven closed carriages made.

“We’ve always invested – every single year we’ve added something major to keep it up to date.

“We know our trains are special and now we know that nearly 20,000 people agree with us.

“But the council will not listen.”

Michael Rowland, Bournemouth council parks manager, said they were ‘duty-bound’ to give residents and visitors the best experience possible and said it was ‘untrue’ that Mrs Faris had upgraded her equipment to match ever-increasing regulations.

Meanwhile, East Southbourne and Tuckton councillor Eddie Coope, who represents Hengistbury Head, has backed the council’s decision to run the service themselves.

“I don’t know really what all the fuss is about,” he said.

“As ward councillors we have been consulted on this, we have kept residents updated and everyone seemed happy with it.”