FULL STEAM AHEAD FOR TOURISM!
The beautiful Kent & East Sussex Railway is one of the country’s most highly rated tourist attractions. It is fitting that the heritage line’s long-anticipated reopening on Saturday 22nd May 2021 should fall in English Tourism Week, a Visit England initiative to celebrate the best of what the country has to offer. 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.
In a normal year, the heritage steam railway attracts around 90,000 passengers, taking them on a nostalgic journey through nearly 11 miles of the beautiful Rother Valley between Tenterden in Kent and Bodiam in Sussex.
The lockdowns have meant that there was no service for most of 2020, including the Christmas Santa Specials which normally make a major contribution to the K&ESR’s winter running costs.
Railway Commercial Manager, André Freeman said: “We have been eagerly waiting the time when we can start operating again and a huge amount of work has been carried out to ensure we can welcome passengers in a friendly and safe environment, this will be the first time for more than six months that the trains will run for the public. Regular visitors have been telling us how much they have missed visiting the railway”
“Even when trains haven’t been able to run, there have been essential maintenance works which needed to be carried out, as well as all the behind the scenes organisation to prepare a new timetable and be ready for the first bookings.”
“There has already been a fantastic response and ticket sales are going well, I urge early booking for anyone looking forward to a trip.” Huw Merriman, the MP through whose Bexhill constituency the line passes, has made video encouraging tourists to enjoy the railway.
“When this historic railway reopens it will encourage thousands more people who will be able to come and enjoy the local countryside of Kent and Sussex putting more money into the local economy, we will once again have a thriving heritage railway and be here for the next 60 years.”
The reopening of the line is shortly followed by the school half-term and from May 29th families will be able to enjoy more than just the ride behind a steam engine. Railway Commercial Officer Heather Packham said: “We are inviting everyone to become nature detectives as they journey down the line, with an eye spy activity. The children can take home a certificate and sticker as a reminder of the day. We are also promoting the other attractions Tenterden has to offer, so passengers can make the most of their day.”
“There are excellent cafés, restaurants and pubs, the fascinating Tenterden Town Museum between the station and the High Street, and a delightful children’s playground on the recreation ground at the end of the High Street with picnic tables.”
When the line reopens on 22nd 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 to Bodiam.
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 Munchbags to enjoy on the journey.”
Bookings can be made via the railway’s website kesr.org.uk/timetable