THE East Lancashire Railway (ELR) is back on track following the long-awaited return of passenger services over the Bank Holiday weekend.

The first passengers boarded the 9.10am service from Bury to Heywood on Saturday morning, with staff, volunteers and visitors all delighted to be back at the much-loved heritage railway.

People were out in force visiting the train station in Ramsbottom with some even wearing period costume, including friends Fabio Ladeji from Bury and Elizabeth Johnstone from Rawtenstall.

ELR chairman, Mike Kelly said: “This weekend marked a huge milestone for us all as we could finally welcome back passengers for the first time this year.

“It feels like we can now move from the darkness into the light.

“The past twelve months have been the most challenging in the railway’s history as we fought every twist and turn for the railway’s survival.

Ahead of the reopening, the railway built on its Covid-safe running experience last year to ensure customers are welcomed back safely and in compliance with all current government guidelines.

Safety measures include NHS tack and trace, temperature checks and a one-way system at stations, alongside an enhanced cleaning and hygiene regime.

On the trains, capacity has been reduced, with fewer seats available in carriages to ensure all social distancing regulations are met.

The stringent measures have been recognised with the Visit England ‘We’re Good to Go’ CharterMark to acknowledge ELR is meeting all government and public health Covid-19 requirements.

The ELR will continue to run trains on a limited basis with the regular timetable due to return on May 22.

As the railway prepared for its reopening, it suffered instances of fly-tipping and vandalism along the track, forcing it to run extra ‘tidy-train’ services at the cost of £2,000 each journey.