SOUTHEND’S pier train will return...with a limited service being put in place for visitors.

The train has been closed for nearly four months after a routine inspection found 27 pile caps - timber blocks which support the pier - were damaged and needed replacing.

There was uncertainty around whether it would ever be up and running again.

Southend Council had initially insisted the train would be closed for just one day, but it has remained out of action for the whole summer.

The authority has now confirmed the train has a future, which is set to return to service in stages.

Visitors are set to see it making its way along the 1.3mile pier at a slower-than-average speed, but are being warned it will not initially take passengers.

It may then began to offer a limited number of trips a day.

Ann Holland, councillor responsible for culture, tourism and the economy, said: “Contractors are working and all pile caps needing repair should be completed by today.

“This follows an extensive survey of all pile caps inspected by contractors suspended underneath the pier stem.

“We are now seeking to agree a phased return for the train which will be for our contracted structural engineers and the council to agree.

“This will then enable us to do further work and monitoring so that we can understand why the pile caps failed.

“We hope this would involve getting the train up and running at a slow speed very soon so that we can monitor its effect, but this will obviously have to be without passengers.

“Once we have carried out this monitoring and trialling, we will be in a better position to judge when the train can re-open to the public.”

The train has had a chequered history, derailing in 2009 and being hit by a workman’s truck in 1999.

Julian Ware-Lane, Labour councillor for Milton ward, said: “I am confident the pier train will remain for years to come. The pier is such an iconic structure in the borough, I can’t ever envisage a time without it and no administration would allow it to fade and rot away. “

Historian Ian Yearsley added: “There have been trains on the pier dating back to 1890, when there were horse drawn trains.

“The current train dates back to 1986 so there is certainly a long track record of trains being on the pier.

“I expect the tradition will continue, it is part of the attraction.”