A POPULAR tourist attraction is appealing for public support after being forced to close due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The East Lancashire Railway (ELR) revealed it had made the “difficult decision” to suspend all its services with immediate effect in the interest of public and volunteer safety.

However, as a charity, the heritage railway, which runs between Rawtenstall and Bury, fears the financial impact of the closure may be disastrous for its future.

ELR chairman Mike Kelly said: “Our heritage railway plays an important role in the lives of volunteers, our paid employees and visitors of all ages, providing a place of work, for people to socialise, meet fellow train lovers, learn about the past and enjoy themselves.

“While everything is being done to help protect this experience for generations to come, we are facing a very uncertain time, as keeping our employees, volunteers and the public safe may require us to close our doors for an extended period.

“If this happens, the financial impact could threaten our continued existence.

“We have set up an East Lancashire Railway Support Fund so that friends of the railway can show their support for an organisation that has brought so much joy to people’s lives.”

The closure follows government advice on social distancing and orders for pubs and other establishments to shut in a bid to tackle the spread of the Covid-19 infection.

In addition to ELR services, Bury Transport Museum and the Trackside and Buffer Stops pubs have also closed.

Customers who have booked planned diner services, and other events, will be contacted directly by the ELR’s passenger services department, and refunds will be given for withdrawn services.