One of Scotland’s most popular attractions is ready to shunt out of the sidings and back on the tracks on July 15.
The Jacobite steam train will resume its world-famous Fort William to Mallaig excursions, sought after for the stunning scenery and connection with the Harry Potter movies.
Operator West Coast Railways said it is putting a raft of measures in place to make the journey safe, onboard and in the stations.
But Mallaig residents say they are nervous about up to 300 people a day coming to their village where facilities will be limited.
Local councillor Denis Rixson lives in Mallaig and said WCR needs to give much more detail to reassure the public and its passengers.
“You will be able to alight in Arisaig if you ask the guard, and when you get to Mallaig you have an hour and a half to walk around.
“What if it’s bucketing down? Social distancing for this number on those small platforms is a logistical challenge in itself.”
Local Stuart Griffin has attended meetings about the return of The Jacobite and says he’s also concerned, particularly if it’s poor weather.
“The shop and cafes will not be offering full service and there’s no outside places for people to shelter, so we are concerned about the potential spread of Covid.””
WCR says it has been working with Transport Scotland to introduce the safety measures.
A WCR spokesman said: “The safety of passengers, train crew and local people remains paramount.
“And that applies not only on the train but also at Fort William and Mallaig stations where people will get on and off the Jacobite.
“The safety measures are not yet finalised, but we are confident they will minimise any risk without impinging on people’s enjoyment of what is regarded as one of the most spectacular railway journeys in the world.”
On-board safety measures include not opening the buffet car to avoid passengers moving around the train, and replacing it with a buffet trolley.
The company is also cancelling the normal 20 minute stop at Glenfinnan station, with both the platform cafe and museum staying closed.
The spokesman said: “Passengers will, of course, all have to wear masks and anybody refusing will not be allowed to travel.
“We are also reducing the number of tickets being made available.
“Normally around 700 people a day would travel on the two Jacobite trains.
“But because of social distancing we expect to limit that figure to between 200 and 300 on the first day.
“Hopefully if everything works OK we will slowly be able to increase the number of passengers.
“But with a reduced number of seats in each carriage, the total will remain far below full capacity for the foreseeable future.
“For example, under our new rules only members of the same family or social pod will be allowed to sit together, and screens will be erected between rows of seats.
“Extra signs and stewards are planned at both Fort William and Mallaig stations to direct passengers and ensure queuing is both safe and manageable.
“We are currently drawing up a comprehensive booklet of these safety measures which we plan to translate into French, Spanish and German and give to every passenger.”
In Glenfinnan, community councillor Fiona Gibson said the train not stopping there would not impact the local economy much as the passengers usually remained confined to the station museum and platform.
But the return of The Jacobite would also potentially mean the return of hordes of sightseers, up to 4,000 a day last summer, coming to catch a glimpse of ‘the Harry Potter train’ as it puffs across the Glenfinnan viaduct.
Mrs Gibson said: “We won’t be putting signage up or anything, everybody knows about social distancing and they will just have to deal with it the same as everywhere else.”
She welcomed the arrival of 40mph road signs next week to slow down the traffic hurtling through the village towards Mallaig.
“We have enjoyed the peace and quiet of lockdown though,” she said. “We’ve been able to get back together again as a community instead of being gridlocked every day.”