PREPARATIONS for reintroducing a regular train service linking Swanage to the mainline at Wareham have notched up a gear.

The Swanage Railway has announced the appointment of project manager Frank Roberts to ensure the service, that will operate on a trial basis for 140 selected days over two years, becomes a reality.

It is hoped the first diesel trains will start running in September 2015, following a £1.47 million Coastal Communities Government Grant awarded in February last year.

The last regular British Rail trains ran on the Swanage branch line in 1972.

Mr Roberts, who holds a degree in railway operational management from Glasgow University, has been a volunteer manager on the Swanage Railway for 31 years.

The 52-year-old former Royal Corps of Signals veteran, who after army life worked with South West Trains, said: “I am immensely proud that I have the opportunity to build a team to deliver an historic and pioneering two-year trial train service from Swanage and Corfe castle to the mainline at Wareham.

“I hope that I can use three decades of experience to ensure that the dream of rebuilding the Swanage Railway to Wareham that will make those two generations of people who have gone before us very proud indeed.”

Mr Roberts says there is a very heavy workload to get through – including some three miles of substantial track upgrade work, the construction of a level crossing at Norden and the refurbishment of two diesel multiple unit trains to mainline standards.

But he insists: “The historic project to re-instate a train service to Wareham is really accelerating and while there is a lot of work to do, the implementation of many years of challenging planning is about to pay dividends.”

Swanage Railway chairman Peter Sills says that by connecting with the South West Trains service between London and Weymouth, tourist numbers and employment opportunities will increase.