HAMPSHIRE's celebrated Watercress Line has been awarded £600,000 from the government’s Heritage Recovery Fund in a move that will secure its future into 2021.

The grant, which is in addition to the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to the Mid Hants Railway attraction of £250,000 announced earlier in September, will fund staff costs throughout the winter period when trading revenue is expected to be low because of the impact of coronavirus. It will also allow various developments to assist the railway to cope with the Covid-19 restrictions such as erecting screens in carriages, alterations to dining trains, additional signage, introducing an up-to-date ticketing system to maximise revenue and a top up sum towards the new children’s playground at Ropley.

With the railway having recently announced its brand new, world-first ‘Steam Illuminations’ event running from November 14 to January 3, 2021, the grant comes at a crucial time and will help cover the cost of this.

Richard Lacey, Chairman of Mid Hants Railway ‘Watercress Line’, said: “This is wonderful news for us. It clearly shows that there is confidence in our ability to ride out the effects of the pandemic and it will secure the jobs of our paid staff. We are extremely grateful to the government for the excellent support we have had through the last very worrying six months. It’s very reassuring; we can now be sure we will be here in 2021 providing services that visitors want and contributing in full measure to the health of the local economy.”

MP for Winchester, Steve Brine added: I hope this grant from the Culture Recovery Fund secures the future. The Mid Hants Railway is a unique employer locally, keeping alive many special skills and helping future engineers find their way.”