RAIL enthusiasts at Swanage Steam Railway have been assisting the local group formed to rekindle the rail link between Andover and Ludgershall as a community and heritage facility.

The steering group is drawn from Ludgershall and Andover town councils and members from both communities travelled to Corfe to find out more about the process of running a successful railway.

The group met with Swanage’s Mike Whitwam who was able to advise them how the Dorset railway was getting on with its negotiations to work on track owned by Network Rail, which is also an essential aspect of the Andover-Ludgershall project.

Andover Town Council chairman Geoff McBride said: “I would like to thank Nick Rose for arranging this visit.

“It has not only been very interesting but very informative and we now have a much better idea of what our next steps need to be.

“Thanks also to Mike Whitwam who has given us an introduction to a number of other key contacts who will be able to help us.”

As well as visiting the Corfe signal box and experiencing first-hand the operations along the line, the group heard how the first step taken by Swanage Railway was to form a partnership between all the local stakeholders including councils as well as Network Rail.

Ludgershall Town Council Chairman Owen White said: “We have taken on the task to liaise with the MoD.

“We have made some progress and are grateful to Claire Perry MP who is giving us muchneeded help and support.

“Many locals have approached me to express their excitement about the project as well as the prospect of passenger trains along this track again.”

Cllr David Drew has spoken with the MoD rail operations manager after the visit and it appears that the line is still used occasionally for excursions.

The most recent use was around Christmas last year. There is also a passing loop at Ludgershall, although the platform was removed some time ago and the second set of points is on MoD land which may make access a challenge.

The group has been encouraged by the progress made so far.