THE East Lancashire Railway (ELR) has welcomed back visitors to its pubs following the partial easing of restrictions.

Renowned for their selections of real ales from local breweries, The Trackside at Bury Bolton Street Station and Buffer Stops at Rawtenstall Station will initially open seven days a week for outdoor service only, in line with government regulations.

The first week has seen both pubs operate enhanced hours in anticipation of demand. During the second week (April 19), The Trackside and Buffer Stops will revert to the standard opening hours, as published online.

Ahead of reopening, the railway has worked closely with the local authority to ensure customers are welcomed back safely and in compliance with the current guidelines.

It has also been awarded a We’re Good to Go industry standard and consumer mark by VisitBritain. Qualifying businesses must demonstrate that they are adhering to the respective Government and public health guidance, have carried out a Covid-19 risk assessment and have all required processes in place.

ELR chairman, Mike Kelly, said: “We’re delighted to be able to welcome back outdoor visitors to our pubs once again after more than five months of closure.

“The reopening of the bars’ outdoor areas will provide visitors with the chance to have a brew, pint or snack against the much-missed backdrop of the heritage railway before the timetable resumes.

“For those simply seeking a change of scenery or new experiences, our bars also provide something a little bit different than your average pub garden.”

The go-ahead for reopening is a welcome progression for the cherished railway, as the ongoing impact of the pandemic has left it fighting for financial survival.

The coronavirus has forced the railway to close over the various lockdowns and deprived of vital visitor income it has only been kept afloat by grants and donations.

Mike added: “The past year has been one of the most challenging in our history.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the financial contributions we’ve received during this period but we still need your help and support.

“Regular visitors and customers are key to ensuring we stay operational for the long term and opening our pubs for outdoor service marks a positive step toward fully reopening the railway and welcoming back passengers.”

The railway’s two pubs intend to welcome back indoor visitors week commencing May 17, dependent on restrictions.

The ELR is also preparing to run trains on a limited basis from May 1, with the regular timetable due to return on May 22.

As the railway prepares for reopening, it has been met with continuing instances of fly-tipping and vandalism along the track - forcing it to run extra ‘tidy-train’ services at the cost of £2,000-a-time to combat the problem.

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