Steam trains are set to return to the Banwy Valley from May 1, as the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway runs its first public services of 2021.
The reopening of the Mid Wales tourist attraction, which remains subject to the continuing easing of Covid restrictions by the Welsh Government, follows five months of closure, during which the Llanfair line’s popular Christmas Santa Specials and February half-term services all fell victim to the lockdown.
The line’s early-season timetable features a variety of one and two-hour return journeys, with new-for-2021 innovations including travelling first class, alongside returning favourites from previous seasons, such as the popular fish-and-chip specials.
Return trips from Llanfair Caereinion to the intermediate station of Castle Caereinion will start from May 1, operating on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, plus every day during the spring half-term holiday between May 31 and June 6.
These one-hour long round trips proved particularly popular with families when the railway ran them last season.
Trains over the full eight-mile line to Welshpool will start running from May 4, the two-hour return trips operating on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Due to current Covid restrictions, all journeys will continue to start from Llanfair Caereinion and visitors will not be able to join the train at Welshpool.
Among several innovations launching this year, every travelling child aged three or over will receive a Discovery book full of interesting facts and activities with their ticket.
Visitors will also now be able to travel in enhanced luxury – the Llanfair line’s former Sierra Leone Railway first-class carriage, with its white leather armchairs, will be rostered on every passenger service.
Tickets for this carriage, which are subject to a supplement, include a free copy of the W&LLR’s newly-released Traveller’s Guide, a glass-bottle soft drink and snacks.
Trains from May 4 will also feature a new breakfast service, departing from Llanfair at 10am or 10.30am, with the ticket price including a breakfast roll and hot drink. Tickets for this service will be limited and must be pre-booked.
Safety of both the railway’s visitors and its volunteer staff remains paramount and the Covid prevention measures that proved so successful in 2020 will continue to be applied.
Intending visitors are being asked to pre-book their tickets through the W&LLR’s new online booking service, https://wllr.digitickets.co.uk, while measures including the wearing of face coverings and social distancing will remain in place.
Over the enforced extended winter break, the railway’s almost entirely volunteer staff have been carrying out essential maintenance, working in small Covid-compliant teams. They are now looking forward to getting back to what they enjoy the most, running trains for their visitors.
“After a difficult 12 months for the railway, we are delighted to welcome visitors back to enjoy our beautiful line from May 1,” said W&LLR general manager James Brett. “Our team are working hard behind the scenes to get everything ready for a Covid-secure operation and we already have much to look forward to in 2021.
“Alongside our core service of steam-hauled heritage trains, we plan to offer a range of new experiences for travellers, combined with the return of two of our historic locomotives from major overhauls.”