As a result of the COVID restrictions, the heritage line was obliged to close last November, having already lost almost five months earlier in 2020.
In normal times, the railway attracts 90,000 visitors a year and is estimated to add £5 million to the local economy.
The K&ESR, which runs through ten miles of beautiful countryside from Tenterden to Bodiam, is planning to run its first trains on Sunday May 22.
Commercial Manager André Freeman said: “We’re delighted to be reopening.
“Despite all the hard work spent preparing, the increased COVID restrictions prevented us from operating our enormously popular Santa Specials events last year.
“Although we were heartbroken to disappoint the thousands of visitors, many of whom look forward to Christmas at the railway as part of their festive activities annually, given the increasing virus cases it was without doubt the right decision to cancel.”
“However losing so many visitors had a dramatic effect on our income, creating some very difficult challenges in funding our essential and costly winter maintenance programme. So the re-opening can’t come soon enough.”
When the line reopens on May 22, there will be three socially distanced seating steam hauled departures every open day, leaving Tenterden at 10.40, 13.15 and 15.35, for the two-hour round trip to Bodiam.
If the restrictions continue to be eased, additional services will be introduced from June and passengers will once again be able to break their journey to enjoy visitor attractions on the route, such as Bodiam Castle.
For the safety of visitors, social distancing restrictions remain in place for reopening. Tickets are
being sold online for family groups and exclusive private compartments.
Online prices are £36 for a table for two £49 for a table for up to people travelling together and a private compartment for eight people is £85.
André said: “Tickets are limited and are likely to be in high demand, so we strongly advise everyone to book online. Those who do so can also order ploughman’s lunch, cream teas or children’s Munchbag to enjoy on the journey.”
Bookings can be made via the railway’s website kesr.org.uk/reopening.
The Kent and East Sussex Railway, was the first light railway opened in Britain under the Light Railways Act of 1896, built by Holman F. Stephens.
Today it is one of Britain’s most loved and original heritage railways and a popular local attraction.