SWINDON Robins chairman Terry Russell hopes the club can start the 2019 season in their long-awaited new stadium after announcing that Thursday’s home meeting will be the last staged on the current Abbey Stadium track.

Giving an update on the redevelopment of the venue via the club’s official website, Russell stated his belief that there is “genuine light at the end of the tunnel” in terms of work on a revamped stadium at Blunsdon getting under way soon.

As part of that, the Robins have opted to change the dynamics of the existing race track, meaning Thursday’s final SGB Premiership fixture of the season against Belle Vue Aces will be the last on the Abbey’s current lay-out.

Russell says he understands from the stadium landlords that they are confident the required permissions from Swindon Borough Council will arrive shortly to allow the work to start on a new facility.

Gaming International Ltd submitted a reserve matters application earlier this year proposing that the new stadium be developed where the current one lies, with the existing speedway and greyhound race tracks being retained but shortened.

Plans for a new venue next door to the existing Abbey Stadium home were first unveiled in 2015 but the project has been hit by a succession of setbacks ever since.

The endless delays have led to repeated speculation that the stadium redevelopment would never happen, leading to fears over the future of speedway in the town.

However, in a statement on the club’s official website, Russell believes the situation may finally be drawing to a conclusion.

He said: “Like everyone else, I’ve been through false dawns but can only work on the information supplied to me and I do believe there is genuine light at the end of the tunnel.”

Speaking subsequently to the Advertiser, Russell hopes that means Swindon can start the 2019 campaign in a completed new stadium, although refused to offer any guarantees given the previous problems the project has faced.

“Swindon Borough Council and Gaming International are very close to getting the final matters resolved, which will allow the development to get on,” said Russell.

“I hope we will be in the new stadium for next season, but I am certainly not committing to that as I did that five years ago.

“I can’t commit as it is not in my hands. All that is in my hands is the alterations on our track and taking it from what it is now to a 300m track.

“I am commencing that work immediately so that we don’t hold up the work with the stadium once they can start.

“The buildings won’t come down until the final matters are resolved. Once Swindon Borough Council have the final go-ahead – and there is a quote from Gaming International saying they believe it will arrive shortly – then the building work will start.

“Our hope this year has always been that the work would progress fairly soon after the season ends in readiness for next March.”

Russell said he has long-held plans to redesign the race track at the Abbey, believing a shorter circuit will lead to more exciting racing.

He said: “If we were never having a new stadium, I would have shortened the track years ago because the straights are too long.

“Tight corners and long straights don’t make for the best racing. We believe that by bringing the straights down and making it more of a sweep, it will produce much better racing.”

The Advertiser is awaiting a response from Gaming International over the stadium progress.