A MASSIVE swell of public support for the threatened Hengistbury Head land train has forced Bournemouth council to reconsider taking over the service.

The council had served a notice to quit on operator Joyce Faris and announced it would bring the train service in-house from October, a decision that would have consigned the much-loved “Noddy trains” to the scrap heap.

But a huge public outcry, which saw more than 21,000 people sign an online petition, has prompted the council to think again.

It has now revealed it has started talks with 88-year-old Mrs Faris and will have a further meeting in a fortnight’s time.

The possibility of a reprieve for the 45-year-old train service has delighted campaigners.

As well as the online petition, a Hands Off Our Train (HOOT) Facebook campaign has 2,700 ‘likes” and radio broadcasters Chris Evans and Alex James also voiced their concerns.

Mrs Faris said: “It’s marvellous but I don’t want to get too carried away. It’s encouraging though.

“I’m very grateful to everyone who has supported us, the support has just been marvellous. We just can’t get over it.”

Peter Simpson, who attended the Hengistbury Head residents’ meeting on Wednesday to voice support for the current service, said: “I’m cautiously optimistic we will reach an acceptable solution. I can understand Bournemouth council wanting to run an attractive transport service to Hengistbury Head visitor centre but I cannot see why it’s necessary to take over the existing service – integrate it and link up with it but don’t ruin what’s there at the moment.”

Steve Barratt, the chair of the Mudeford Beach Hut Association, said: “Our position was that we felt it was a hasty decision that was taken without enough thought and preparation.”

Cllr John Beesley, leader of the council, confirmed they had met with Mrs Faris and her representatives on Wednesday. 

“Both parties were keen to work together to find a solution beyond the autumn which meets current operating standards and the council’s aspirations for this environmentally sensitive area, but to continue to retain the nostalgia people hold for the service,” he said.

“Our initial discussions went positively and we will be meeting again shortly to progress details.  Over the past two weeks we have also met with other interested parties and users of the land train and in the meantime the service will continue to operate as usual.”