PLANS to operate regular rail services from Swanage to the mainline appear to have stalled again.

There were celebrations in

2017 after Swanage Railway’s heritage line reconnected to the mainline at Wareham

, after a £5.5 million investment, for the first time in 45 years.

At that time the volunteer-led railway was looking forward to operating a two-year service, linking Swanage and Corfe Castle to Wareham railway station, with four trains a day on 60 selected days during the summer.

However, despite trials initially running in 2017, last year Swanage Railway was forced to suspend services until Easter 2019.

It was the ongoing restoration of the railway’s two 1960-built heritage diesel engines, which was taking longer than planned, that caused the delay.

Today, with Easter having passed weeks ago, those diesel units remain in a workshop where repairs and renovations continue.

Mark Woolley, of Swanage Railway, said: “It has been a very protracted overhaul - old stock that’s over 50 years old that needs to be upgraded for mainline use - and there’s been some supply problems with the wheel sets but, at last, we are nearly there.”

Work to restore the closed section of track - linking the Swanage Railway with the national network - began in 2014.

The diesel units, currently in workshops at Eastleigh, are being fitted with modern equipment needed to comply with mainline service safety standards.

The original line from Swanage to Wareham was closed by British Rail and ripped up in seven weeks, in 1972.

Volunteers rebuilt the 5.5-mile (8.8km) stretch from Swanage to Norden over 30 years and have been running it as a tourist attraction since the 1990s.

After work was completed on the section of the track from Norden to Wareham to connect it to the mainline, a trial service - using West Coast Railways rolling stock - began in June 2017.

The reopening of the final section was funded by a £5.5m investment by the railway’s stakeholders, including Purbeck District Council, Dorset County Council and BP, as well as a £1.8m grant from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund.

A level crossing was installed and sleepers replaced.