A RAIL line between Swanage and Wareham is scheduled for a passenger trial in summer 2016.

For the first time in four decades, passenger trains are set to run between the two towns.

The Swanage Railway said June 2016 was its target date for trial services. It is currently undertaking a major project to upgrade the section of railway line between Norden and its boundary with Network Rail near Worgret Junction to enable the reintroduction of a regular passenger train service between Swanage and Wareham.

The original rail line connecting the areas was ripped up by British Rail in 1972. A few years later, the first Swanage Railway train ran for a few hundred yards before eventually running between Swanage, Corfe Castle and Norden in 1995.

The two-year trial service starting in 2016 will see diesel trains run by the Swanage Railway connecting with scheduled services by South West Trains at Wareham, on the Weymouth to London Waterloo line.

Project director Mark Woolley, who has been a volunteer on the heritage railway for 30 years, said: “The new Norden Gates full-barrier level crossing – and the nearby relocated road-rail interchange – are key elements of Project Wareham and the running of regular passenger trains from Swanage and Corfe Castle to Wareham would not be possible without them.”

In 2013, a government grant of £1.4m was given to the Swanage Railway to upgrade the track and infrastructure between Norden and Worgret, as well as pay for the upgrade of the diesel trains.

A completely new signalling system has been installed to control Worgret Junction where the Purbeck Line joins the London to Weymouth main line, funded by a £3.2m grant from Dorset County Council and Purbeck District Council.

And the new manually-controlled barrier level crossing on the Wytch Farm access road at Norden and a park and ride access road near Corfe Castle has been funded by BP and Perenco.

“The previous set-up was an open-level crossing with flagmen required to oversee the movement of trains – engineering trains, empty carriage stock movements and excursion trains from the main line – which was unacceptable in the long-term,” Mr Woolley added.

Work has also been carried out to replace 1,700 wooden sleepers with concrete ones, repair bridges and clear embankments, fences and drains.

An earlier trial date of spring 2016 was put back following delays in the work caused by nearby hibernating animals and issues over ownership of the line.