Trains on the hugely-popular Kent & East Sussex Railway could be running again from May. As a result of the COVID restrictions, the heritage line was obliged to close last November, having already lost almost five months earlier in 2020.
The K&ESR, which runs through ten miles of beautiful countryside from Tenterden to Bodiam, is planning to run its first trains on Saturday, 22 May. Commercial Manager André Freeman said: “We’re delighted to be reopening. Despite all the hard work spent preparing, the increased COVID restrictions prevented us from operating our enormously popular Santa Specials events last year. Although we were heartbroken to disappoint the thousands of visitors, many of whom look forward to Christmas at the railway as part of their festive activities annually, given the increasing virus cases it was without doubt the right decision to cancel. However losing so many visitors had a dramatic effect on our income, creating some very difficult challenges in funding our essential and costly winter maintenance programme. So the re-opening can’t come soon enough!”
When the line reopens on 22 May, there will be three socially distanced seating steam hauled departures every open day, leaving Tenterden at 10.40, 13.15 and 15.35, for the two-hour round trip
If the restrictions continue to be eased, additional services will be introduced from June and passengers will once again be able to break their journey to enjoy visitor attractions in East Sussex.
For the safety of visitors, social distancing restrictions remain in place for reopening. Tickets are being sold online for family groups and exclusive private compartments.
Online prices are £36 for a table for two £49 for a table for up to 4 travelling together and a private compartment for 8 is £85.
André said: “Tickets are limited and are likely to be in high demand, so we strongly advise everyone to book online. Those who do so can also order Ploughman’s Lunch, Cream Teas or Children’s
Munchbag to enjoy on the journey.”
Bookings can be made via the railway’s website kesr.org.uk/reopening
It is 60 years since the Kent & East Sussex was saved as a heritage line – the same number of years as it operated commercially from its opening in 1901 – and a ‘Keep Us On Track’ jubilee appeal has been launched.
The aim is to raise £100,000 to help it recover from the pandemic. Sales & Marketing Manager Helen Douglas said: “The appeal has got off to an amazing start. We are so grateful to everyone who have already donated and it is heart-warming to read the messages of support from families saying how much they miss travelling on our wonderful railway. Unfortunately, our costs have to be met whether we are running trains or not.” In normal times, the railway attracts 90,000 visitors a year and is estimated to add £5 million to the local economy.
Supporters can donate in a number of ways:
Online via kesr.org.uk/help-keep-us-on-track-2021/
By text message
Text KESR and the amount¹ you wish to donate to 70085
to donate £2 text KESR 2 to 70085
to donate £5 text KESR 5 to 70085
to donate £10 text KESR 10 to 70085
Send a cheque payable to K&ESR to: Keep Us on Track, K&ESR, Tenterden Town Station, Tenterden, Kent TN30 6HE
To find out more about becoming a regular contributor, please visit https://kesr.org.uk/donate
¹Texts cost your donation amount plus one standard rate message and you’ll be opting in to hear more about the work and fundraising of the Kent & East Sussex Railway via telephone and SMS. If you’d like to donate but do not wish to receive marketing communications, text KESRNOINFO followed by a space and the donation amount e.g to donate £5 send KESRNOINFO 5 to 70085
The Kent & East Sussex Railway, was the first light railway opened in Britain under the Light Railways Act of 1896, built by Holman F. Stephens. Today it is one of Britain’s most loved and original heritage railways, running for over 10 miles from Tenterden, capital of the Kentish Weald, to Bodiam in Sussex in the shadow of the 600 year old National Trust castle.
The Kent & East Sussex Railway is operated by the Kent & East Sussex Railway Co Ltd, a charitable company, limited by guarantee and not having a share capital. Registered charity No. 262481.