THE final count of passengers taking a ride on the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway in 2013 has beaten that of 2012.

The 12,550 people carried in 2013 is just up on the 2012 total of 12,386.

But it comes from eight fewer running days, which railway staff say shows a significant improvement in footfall.

Midweek passengers have gone up 25 per cent from 299 in 2012 to 498 in 2013.

Also, 2,100 people were carried on the two nights of the Hallowe’en Ghost Train, a 33 per cent increase on 2012’s 1,481 passengers.

However, Santa Special numbers were down on 2012.

In 2013, 2,987 passengers met Santa, while in 2012, 3,259 people took part.

But railway staff say this was due to a limit being put on the number of children to see Santa per train and was not due to lack of demand, as the final two weekends were sold out.

The railway’s new chairman, Phil Tiley, said: “This is really good news considering we ran fewer days this year. It is all thanks to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers that this is possible and to all the passengers who came for a ride.”

The new season will open on the weekend of April 5 and it is hoped the diesel railcar, which has been undergoing major work, will be available for use by then.

The first steam workings will be the Easter Bunny Specials on April 18- 21.

The main engine in use will be the regular locomotive 71515 Mech Navvies Ltd.

But it should be joined early in the season by the Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST Rosyth No 1, celebrating its centenary, which is currently undergoing restoration at the railways workshop at Furnace Sidings.

A new addition to the timetable is the vintage train, which will run every third weekend from May to August.

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