Thousands sign petition to save miniature railway
More than 6,000 people signed an online petition in January to protest against a local authority’s plans concerning a miniature railway. Established in 1949, the 650‑yard 10¼in gauge Poole Park Railway, in Dorset, has come to the end of its current lease, and operator Chris Bullen had been told to remove all track by March 1. Poole Council intends to invite bids from ‘experienced operators’ to rebuild the railway completely. Objectors believe that a new railway will require fencing to comply with current regulations, changing the character of the existing unfenced line. The Health and Safety Executive’s guidance on miniature railways, however, suggests that operators should consider erecting fencing in places where members of the public are likely to congregate, such as stations, or in areas where the driver does not have a clear view of both sides of the track. Mr Bullen, who has operated the railway since 2004, estimates that it will cost £200,000 to rebuild it and £30,000 to fence it. A council spokesman told the Bournemouth Daily Echo that experienced operators would attract the necessary investment to develop the attraction, and removing the track would ensure all bids could be made on an objective basis. However, after the petition secured over 6,000 signatures in less than 24 hours, Poole Council announced that the track could remain in place during the bidding process, a councillor saying that Mr Bullen had misunderstood the council’s requirements due to the ‘hurried nature of proceedings’. On peak days, the railway runs Exmoor Steam Railway 0‑4‑2T George, built in 2010. The railway’s website is www.pooleparktrains.co.uk. A ‘save Poole Park Railway’ Facebook page has also been set up.