Thousands has been spent to repair damage caused by vandals and clear up fly-tipped waste dumped on the tracks of one of the region’s most iconic rail routes.
East Lancashire Railway has warned that preparations for the reopening of the popular tourist attraction next month are sadly being hampered by continuing instances of fly-tipping and vandalism along the track, with the company revealing it has had to run regular clean up patrols over the past few weeks.
Volunteers have removed extensive amounts of rubbish dumped along the heritage railway’s twelve miles of tracks that stretch from Heywood in Greater Manchester to Rawtenstall in Lancashire.
The patrols have already collected six wagon loads of rubbish, which have included items as large as sofas and dining chairs.
The clean up patrol missions have unfortunately also had the knock-on effect of preventing the East Lancashire Railway’s army of dedicated volunteers from focusing on their main priority of preparing the railway for its planned reopening on 1st May.
“It’s really frustrating to see rubbish casually dumped on the railway like this,” said Mike Kelly, Chairman of the East Lancashire Railway.
“The upsurge in anti-social behaviour has put further strain on our already fragile finances, as we have been forced to collect and remove all this waste we have to run special services and hire skips, which costs the railway several thousands of pounds we cannot afford to spend”.
He continued: “As well as the litter, we’ve also suffered extensive vandalism to fences from the individuals who have been using the railway tracks as a dumping ground during lockdown”.
That’s not all either, as with safety trains running during the latest lockdown to maintain the line and prepare for reopening, East Lancashire Railway has also crucially warned that anyone trespassing on the railway is putting themselves in danger too.
“I would like to call on the help of the public,” Mike added.
“And I would ask people to be vigilant and report any instances of trespass they may witness [as] stamping out on anti-social behaviour on the railway will help to keep the public safe and allow us all to focus on our top priority – the re-opening of an attraction that brings joy to so many”.
He also thanked the “fantastic volunteers” who are working to get the railway ready.
Since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the heritage railway has been fighting for its survival as it has been deprived of vital visitor income for the majority of the past twelve months.
It has only been kept afloat only through its extensive fundraising efforts, loans and grants.
The railway is scheduled to reopen to the public with a number of COVID safety measures in place from 1st May 1st, alongside welcoming visitors to the two station pubs, and the Trackside at Bury and Buffer Stops at Rawtenstall, which will open on the 12th April for outside service.
To support the railway as it prepares to reopen, you can donate to the East Lancashire Railway Support Fund, or grab yourself an advance booking ticket for a journey from 1st May.
You can also purchase gift vouchers and book tickets online here.
Featured Image – East Lancashire Railway