A heritage railway will continue to be closed for public runnings for the remainder of this year’s summer season.

The chairman of the Mid Norfolk Railway’s trust confirmed that it would be “unviable” to continue with the rest of the summer operating season following coronavirus restrictions.

Charlie Robinson said: “The railway recognises that our passengers will be disappointed by this decision, but the railway has come to the conclusion that the reduced service we could provide taking into account our rolling stock and the current social distancing measures make such a service unviable for the railway.

“This year despite the public closure the railway’s volunteers have been working hard to prepare the railway for our winter operations and our 2021 season and we have therefore decided it is better for the long term future of the railway to continue this work during September.”

Since volunteers have been able to return to work on the railway, following the initial lifting of restrictions, the railway has benefited from efforts to improve the track, signalling and also the rolling stock, and this work will continue.

General manager George Saville said: “Sadly, Covid-19 resulted in the Mid Norfolk Railway’s 25th anniversary events having to be cancelled but our volunteer teams have, instead of running the railway, been working hard to improve and develop the line. This will mean that as we enter our next 25 years, we as a railway will be in the best situation we can be.”

During the public closure the railway has renewed the track in several places including the major upgrade of the Yaxham Road level crossing at Dereham. Signalling work has continued at Dereham Station, which is part of the long-term aim of returning public passenger service to County School Station.

Several of the railway’s Mk1 and Mk2 coaches have also been refurbished. This includes being painted as British Railways’ maroon livery from the 1960s in the railway’s new maintenance shed built in 2019. Work on the recently acquired former Greater Anglia Mk3 coaches is also continuing, as they are returned to their original seat configuration to be ready for use.

Mr Robinson added: “We at the railway are looking forward to our running season next year, which will include the first visit of the Flying Scotsman to an East Anglian heritage railway. We are therefore confident that when we welcome our passengers back, they will see a number of improvements as we continue to restore and develop the railway.”