The East Lancashire Railway will welcome back passengers for the first time in over four months from August 1.

The heritage attraction was forced to close in late March to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

But, after adopting a raft of safety measures, heritage steam and diesel trains will once more journey along its tracks, with a special revised schedule from next month onwards.

The trial timetable will initially operate over the first two weekends (Aug 1-2 and Aug 8-9) while the railway builds up to a full service.

Passengers are being asked to book in advance, though there will be limited seating available for those who want to pay on the day.

ELR has been awarded the visitor safety charter mark ‘We’re Good To Go’, the industry standard overseen by VisitEngland to verify they are following all government and industry Covid-19 guidelines.

An enhanced cleaning regime will be adopted across the network, which will see trains cleaned after every journey. Hand sanitiser will be freely available for visitors and station toilets will be frequently cleaned.

There will be no toilets available on-board trains for the time being, but facilities are available at Bury Bolton Street Station, Heywood, Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall.

Stations will be operating a one-way system, while a number of seats have been removed from use in each carriage to maintain one-metre-plus social distancing.

In line with current government advice passengers will be asked to wear face masks in stations and on the train.

The railway’s return follows months of uncertainty, during which its future was cast into doubt.

In March it launched the East Lancashire Railway Support Fund to raise the £200,000 required to secure its survival.

The public appeal has so far raised £145,000 with a further £125,000 donated by the East Lancs Railway Preservation Society.

ELR Chairman Mike Kelly said: “We are absolutely overjoyed to welcome passengers back to the railway.

“It’s been a long and financially challenging four months for everyone involved as our revenues dried up overnight. But, through the incredible efforts of our staff, volunteers and supporters, we’ve managed to get through this really difficult period in our history.

“We need to be vigilant as the pathway to survival is not yet assured. We now face many months of hard work to scale back up our operations and ensure our loyal customers can return to enjoy the full experience of our heritage railway.”

The ELR’s two pubs The Trackside and Buffer Stops successfully reopened early in July with everyone working well with social distancing. Passengers will be able to visit both and refreshments will be available at Bury Bolton Street and Rawtenstall stations when trains are running.