Page last updated at 14:08 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 15:08 UK

Extension granted to secure Swanage railway 3m funds

From left to right - Richard Drax, Jim Knight and Ros Kayes
The candidates all back the upgrade but disagree on how to fund it

Election candidates in Dorset South have been reacting to news that a deadline has been extended to secure £3m to upgrade a rural railway line.

The Swanage Railway Trust has applied for funding so Network Rail can connect the Swanage line to the main network.

Network Rail's deadline to receive the £3m was 30 April but Labour candidate Jim Knight asked for an extension.

Conservative Richard Drax and Lib Dem Ros Kayes both back the railway but questioned who would fund the project.

'Absolutely vital'

The railway trust now has another three months to secure the £3m, but there are questions over whether this will come from regional government agencies, county or local councils.

The funding is needed to cover the modernisation of the line's junction with the mainline at Worgret, Dorset.

This would allow the Swanage line to reconnect to the main rail network for the first time since 1972.

Earlier this month, Mr Knight said he had recently written to the head of Network Rail asking for the funding deadline to be extended until after the election, because until then there was a "period of uncertainty" over government funding.

Reacting to the extension, he said: "I had been urging Network Rail to postpone the deadline so we could get through the election.

"I'm really pleased that Network Rail have been listening to the representations I've been making, with others, and this is good news for Swanage."

Very disingenuous

He said he had "some confidence of getting the funding through the county council, possibly in conjunction with Swanage Town Council".

"But it is up to the councillors in those authorities if they want to find the money."

But Mr Drax and Ms Kayes both said the money should come from regional government agencies.

Ms Kayes said the railway was "absolutely vital to the local economy, vital as a sustainable transport link, people have been fighting for years and years for it".

She said the issue was so important to residents that all parties had been working together, but that many people felt "let down" by Mr Knight because he had not secured funding from regional government agencies.

Corfe Castle station
The 3m is needed to modernise the line's junction with the mainline

"I really hope that we can persuade the county council to come up with the goods," she added.

"I spoke to one of the county councillors in Swanage about it and he was very positive about the fact the money is going to be forthcoming.

"I hope that is the case."

Richard Drax, Conservative candidate, said local Conservatives were "right now exploring ways they can raise this money".

"But as far as I know, no business plan has been submitted by the railway, and councils are strictly governed as to how they lend money.

"This is very disingenuous of the Labour candidate, Mr Knight, who I know has been told on more than one occasion by the leader of the county council, Angus Campbell, that it is not in his gift to promote the funding and the upgrade.

"The money has to come from the regional pot which again Mr Knight is aware of.

"As minister for the South West, Mr Knight should know better," he added.

The candidates standing for election in Dorset South are: Conservative: Richard Drax; Green: Brian Heatley; UKIP: Mike Hobson; Liberal Democrat: Rosamond Kayes; Labour: Jim Knight.

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