East Kent Railway’s future secured

A century-old heritage railway attraction hit by an arson attack and a global pandemic in the space of six months has secured its future with vital funding.

East Kent Railway Trust had irreplaceable artefacts and £15,000 worth of equipment destroyed when a fire ripped through its station in Shepherdswell in October.

General Manager Matthew Plews said things had been going “extremely well” since the fire, until the coronavirus outbreak forced another closure last month.

But trust has now secured a £10,000 grant from Dover District Council.

Mr Plews said: “We were desperately seeking funding to sustain the railway through this period. We are grateful for the assistance of Natalie and her team in obtaining a £10,000 grant.

“The trust’s management has been rationalising its costs and this funding will help to secure the last live link to the Kent Coalfields during this difficult period.

“We look forward to the time we can reopen and welcome our visitors back. In the meantime, we encourage all small firms to apply for funding where eligible.”

The East Kent Railway was constructed between 1911 and 1917 to serve the growth of the Kent Coalfield.

Once a thriving industrial line, the four-mile round trip takes you on a scenic journey between the villages of Shepherdswell and Eythorne.

Yet with no income since Santa Specials trips over the Christmas period, the trust approached newly elected Dover & Deal MP Natalie Elphicke, who raised their situation with Dover District Council.

This is a really positive story at what is clearly a difficult time. The East Kent Railway has been around since before the First World War. It has seen this country and this community endure all sorts of ups and downs.

Yet it is our hallmark that we look out for each other. From our brave doctors, nurses and care workers to our Super Neighbours, and every key worker and every single person sticking to the rules, the way so many have swung into action to help others makes me so proud.

We know the next few months will not be easy. Yet with the fellowship we provide each other I know that we won’t simply get through it. We will emerge stronger than ever.

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