TWO heritage railway schemes have been given a lifeline to help them survive challenging times.

The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust in Darlington and the Wensleydale Railway have both been given cash from the culture recovery fund, which is designed to act as a lifeline for the heritage sector in England during the pandemic.

The organisations are among 445 to share £103million, as part of the first wave of a £1.57bn package.

The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust has been awarded £153,000 to ensure the continued maintenance and operation of world-famous new build steam locomotive No. 60163 Tornado.

Chairman Steve Davies said: “All of us at The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust in Darlington are deeply grateful for the award of this Heritage Fund Grant, and in particular we wish to pay tribute to the Government for recognising the need to help railway heritage, and in our case mainline railway steam operations, at this difficult time.

"Covid-19 restrictions have had an impact on our sustainability, but this significant grant will help ensure that we can come out of the far side of this challenging situation fully operational and able to make a major contribution to the UK's tourism, leisure and heritage economies."

The locomotive, which was completed in 2008, has pulled the Royal Train on several occasions, featured in the film Paddington 2 and was in an episode of Top Gear.

Meanwhile Wensleydale Railway has been given £90,000, which will be used to help meet the railway’s maintenance bills and improvements being carried out while the 22-mile long route is closed because of the pandemic.

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File picture of Rishi Sunak on the Wensleydale Railway

Richmond MP and Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I am delighted that the significant contribution the railway makes to the economy in Wensleydale has been recognised by this grant.

"The railway is a major draw for visitors to our area and it is important that it is helped through the current crisis.

“The railway has had no passenger traffic income during the peak summer season and this lifeline will help it survive the winter months.”

Work underway on the railway includes in the track at Swale Bridge at Morton on Swale, at Harmby and at Wensley station. Work completed includes the refurbishment of Leeming Bar Station house and renovations to rolling stock.

The track works are being carried out with the help of the railway’s volunteers and a specialist team from the Royal Engineers who are using it as a training exercise.

Carl Les, deputy chairman of the Wensleydale railway, said: “Heritage railways always run on the edge of viability, propped up by an army of willing volunteers and financial supporters.

"Our assets are understandably old, and need extensive and costly maintenance.

“It is encouraging that the Heritage Lottery has funded our restoration works to Leeming Bar Station to show what it was like in its prime.

£Now this extra grant has recognised that we are a small business operating in a visitor market that is heavily constrained by the pandemic, and it will help to keep us going for when the crisis is over, and people can enjoy our railway experiences again."