A PROJECT to reintroduce the Poole Park Railway has been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Following months without providing an update on the scheme, a BCP Council cabinet member has now confirmed work was shelved as a result of the Covid-19 situation.

In March, Cllr Felicity Rice, portfolio holder for environment and climate change, said an urgent review of the funding situation had been initiated after a procurement exercise for the project had shown that "market forces have changed".

According to the government tender website, the contract for installation and maintenance of locomotives and rolling stock for the mini-railway was supposed to start in February, while the contract for the track and the train shed was supposed to commence the following month.

With no signs of work beginning and with the pandemic was in its early stages, the local authority did not directly respond to questions over whether the project had been delayed six months ago.

However, after a summer of silence, which had initially been earmarked for the return of the popular attraction, BCP Council issued the following response to the Daily Echo and published it on their Poole Projects website.

Councillor Rice said: “I can confirm that Poole Park Railway Project was put on hold earlier in the year due to COVID-19. We are now actively exploring future options for this much loved attraction. We intend to provide a further update to local residents later this year."

A spokesperson for the local authority added that project process will support BCP Council’s vision for the area, which is to create vibrant and sustainable communities that remain great places to live, work study or visit.

Planning permission was granted in August 2019 for the demolition and replacement of the existing engine shed and tenders were returned for the new railway track, engine shed and rolling stock in December last year.

The railway service, which had been running under private management in Poole since 1949, was suspended in May 2018 following a number of derailments and service interruptions, as well as a mass walkout by railway staff.

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The former local authority Borough of Poole had awarded the contract to run the service to the Friends of Poole Park (FoPP) in April 2017.

But after giving FoPP an ultimatum to get the railway up-and-running following a number of false starts, an ultimatum the registered charity was unable to meet, the council terminated the contract and took the railway in-house.