SWINDON'S heritage railway kicked off the first phase of a major campaign to fundraise for a long-awaited return to Cricklade.

The Swindon and Cricklade Railway volunteers hope to reinstate the railway line and fulfill a 40-year ambition. - but need to raise £100,000 just for starters.

The current railway ends just over a mile away from the outskirts of Cricklade and a series of recovery efforts, refurbishments, repairs and new additions are in the pipeline to help the two towns link together again at last.

Railway volunteer Allan Bott said: "It's an exciting time for us. This is a very ambitious project but, unfortunately, it's not cheap.

"We've relaunched the fundraising because our first attempt was less structured and this time we wanted to make it more obvious where people's money will be going.

"We're encouraging people to donate regularly and hope Swindon businesses come on board to help finally make our vision a reality.

"Hopefully, we will get there in the next five years or so. Volunteers drive us forward and it's a lot of work to maintain a working railway while also trying to extend it."

The first phase will recover and refurbish the trackbed and embankments near the railway's current endpoint, restore the South Meadow Lane farm crossing and lay 600 yards of track. This will cost £100,000, with most of it being spent on thousands of tonnes of ballast.

The second phase will start with the reinstatement of the North Meadow farm crossing and the Farfield Lane bridge which was demolished during the 1960s

This is the most important part of the project. Mr Bott estimated that restoring the bridge could cost up to £1 million.

The third phase will focus on the construction of a new stop at Farfield Lane.

Finally, repairs to the River Key bridge and the setting up of a station at Cricklade will mark the end of the line for the project.

Business sponsors will have their names on a special board and generous donators can have their name on a sign in the Blunsdon station - or the Cricklade one, once that's complete.

For more information and ways to donate, visit swindon-cricklade-railway.org/future-projects or email scr@gmx.co.uk