SWANAGE Railway has launched an urgent Save Our Service (SOS) appeal to help 'plug the financial hole' caused by the coronavirus shutdown.

The heritage railway is currently closed until further notice, during what is usually one of its busiest periods of the year.

Swanage Railway Trust chairman Gavin Johns said: “The Swanage Railway is facing the most urgent and potentially devastating challenge in its history, due to extraordinary and terrible circumstances beyond its control.

“With the Swanage Railway closed, on Government advice, it has no income for the duration of the current emergency.

“My appeal to people is that the Swanage Railway took 40 years to rebuild so please help us to ensure that it is not put out of business by the coronavirus.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the Swanage Railway, which contributes more than £15 million to the Purbeck economy every year, is fighting for its very existence.

“That is why we have launched this ‘Save Our Service’ (SOS) coronavirus appeal for donations because we urgently need the help of our members, supporters, passengers and the general public."

The re-opening of the Swanage Railway, which normally carries around 200,000 passengers a year, will be dependent on the progress of the virus as well as advice from the Government and its public health experts.

Liz Sellen, chairman of the Swanage Railway Company – which runs the trains and other commercial operations such as retail and catering – said: "Please help now and support the Swanage Railway by giving generously to ensure that our beloved heritage line survives these very challenging and difficult times.

“The result of the railway’s closure, due to the threat of coronavirus, means that there will be no income for the foreseeable future. While no trains are running, the line is being maintained and regular security patrols are taking place.

“We are constantly monitoring the advice and guidance given by the Government and its public health experts. The safety and well-being of our paid staff, volunteers and passengers is always of the utmost importance.

“Without income over the coming months, the Swanage Railway – which has been built up through the sweat, blood and tears of several generations over 40 years – cannot survive."

Liz has confirmed the railway's insurance policy does not cover loss of earnings due to a pandemic and even if they qualify for Government loans, these will have to be repaid, putting another strain on the railway's finances.

The majority of the railway's paid staff have been asked to take the Government-backed furlough.

Visit swanagerailway.co.uk for further details.