A POPULAR county steam railway is gearing up to reopen to the public in August, although doubts remains how passenger services will be managed.

In the next few weeks, the Severn Valley Railway, which runs from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth, plans to start bringing back its volunteers and paid staff, 95 per cent of whom are currently on furlough.

The heritage line closed its doors in March in response to the coronavirus outbreak, and bosses say it will be a big job to get the railway up and running again.

General manager Helen Smith said: “Effectively we had to mothball the railway three months ago, and our heritage rolling stock has been standing around getting rusty and dusty since then.

"We’ve got to get our locomotives and carriages back into top condition by overhauling and checking everything.

"Our stations and garden areas need some TLC too, and we’ll be checking every single inch of the track and line-side to make sure we’re ready to roll when the time comes."

She added: “We’re working closely with the Heritage Railway Association to make sure we get it right when it comes to safety for both visitors and our volunteers and staff.

"We have to wait and see whether the government will reduce its social distancing advice to one metre from the current two metres. Such a change would make it easier to run services and allow us to make a profit rather than a loss.

“Although it’s going to be compulsory to wear face coverings on public transport, we don’t believe this will apply to us as a heritage attraction, provided we can maintain the recommended social distancing guidelines."

Services are expected to run on a reduced timetable when the railway reopens, and the SVR will be encouraging visitors to pre-book their tickets.

The SVR could lose up to £6m in income this year as a result of the months of closure and lower passenger numbers due to social distancing requirements.

An emergency appeal to help the railway recover has received more than £745,000 in donations. The SVR has also applied for a bank loan under the CBILS scheme, and to the National Lottery for emergency grant aid.

To support the SVR’s Fight Back Fund, visit svrtrust.org.uk.