A POPULAR Bury tourist attraction is appealing for public support after being forced to close due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The East Lancashire Railway (ELR) revealed today that it has made the "difficult decision" to suspend all its services with immediate effect in the interest of public and volunteer safety.

However, as a charity, the heritage railway fears the financially impacts of the closure may be disastrous for its future.

Mike Kelly, Chairman of the ELR, said: “Our heritage railway plays an important role in the lives of volunteers, our paid employees and visitors of all ages ­— providing a place of work, for people to socialise, meet fellow train lovers, learn about the past and generally enjoy themselves.

“While everything is being done to help protect this experience for generations to come, we are facing a very uncertain time, as keeping our employees, volunteers and the public safe may require us to close our doors for an extended period.

“If this happens, the financial impact could threaten our continued existence. We have set up an East Lancashire Railway Support Fund so that friends of the railway can show their support for an organisation that has brought so much joy to people’s lives.”

The closure follows Government advice on social distancing and orders for pubs and other establishments to shut in a bid to tackle the spread of the Covid-19 infection.

In addition to ELR train services, Bury Transport Museum and the Trackside and Buffer Stops pubs will also be closed to the public.

Customers who have booked onto planned diner services, and other events, will be contacted directly by the ELR's passenger services departments in the coming days, and refunds will be given for withdrawn services.

However, the heritage attraction is urging people to take up its alternative offer of a voucher or rebooking to help with cash flow problems caused by the closure.

Mr Kelly said: "As a registered charity this is devastating for us.

"We rely heavily on our generated income and this is highly likely to have severe financial consequences for us, but it is important we do our part to protect our employees, the public, and particularly our older volunteers.

"Please support us the best you can during this time to ensure our survival.”

The ELR noted that this current situation will be kept under constant review in close accordance with updates and guidance from the Government.

For more information and to support East Lancs Railway, visit www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk.