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Author Topic: Is Highways England the best guardian for rail heritage and dormant resource?  (Read 641 times)
grahame
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« on: January 05, 2021, 01:34:04 pm »

From RailNews

Quote
Highways England is 'finishing off what Beeching started'

PLANS by Highways England to demolish more than a hundred structures on disused railways have been condemned for potentially preventing future railway reopenings.

Responsibility for non-operational railway land was transferred to the Department for Transport?s Highways Agency and then to Highways England after the British Railways Board had been finally wound up in 2013.

Many structures, particularly bridges, must still be maintained for safety reasons, even though they are no longer on active railway routes, and Highways England is currently planning to remove 134 of these structures to reduce the risks they present.

But the plan has been criticised by campaigners because it could make future reopenings less likely and also block heritage trails used by cyclists and walkers.

The campaigners say Highways England has already been infilling some bridges since it took over responsibility for the Historical Railways Estate. One of them, at Chilcompton in Somerset, has blocked a future extension to a line operated by the Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust despite, it is claimed, Mendip District Council having a policy that protects the former trackbed.
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bradshaw
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2021, 03:43:00 pm »

more information here

https://twitter.com/paulwhitewick/status/1346437769258741761?s=21
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2021, 06:48:00 pm »


The map from that - if you see something in your are, follow links from the tweet and it'll be more defined.

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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2021, 08:53:49 pm »

I don?t subscribe to Twitter so either through a lack of full access or a lack of knowledge on how to work with their system I haven?t found a way to access the narrative about the sites. However, looking at the small scale map above there appear to be a few things that suggest there may be more to this than meets the eye.

I also have a couple of basic observation. As we already know, many bridges were removed anyway shortly after closure, often to facilitate rood improvement works or to eliminate height restrictions. Those that remained would probably at the time cost more to demolish than the cost of ongoing maintenance. And that ongoing maintenance for safety reasons would have been little more than making sure that bits of bridge didn?t fall off onto passers by; it would certainly not have involved maintaining the bridges to a standard that would still allow trains to run over it.

I therefore suspect that if anyone did want to reused the trackbed for its original purpose, installing a new bridge would not necessarily cost much more than rebuilding the old one/ Always remember too that, as I write this, the Great Central are reinstating a removed bridge so at Loughborough, so it can be done and I very much doubt that reinstating a bridge, such as the one mentioned in the article at Chilcompton, would be likely to scupper any pans for reopening any railway.

Moving on to the map, there are a few pins in Devon and North Cornwall, and some of the bridges there may well already be part of the National Cycle Network. Their removal may well make some these routes slightly more difficult to navigate, ad almost certainly less safe if crossing a road was concerned, but it would not close the route. This makes me wonder whether some local councils may have constructed these routes leaving BRB(resolve) Residuals to pick up the maintenance bill for some the structures. Threatening demolition could be one way the Highways Agency could offload those maintenance costs onto others.



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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2021, 09:41:08 pm »

I don't subscribe to Twitter so either through a lack of full access or a lack of knowledge on how to work with their system I haven't found a way to access the narrative about the sites.

Some other links to the map and story:

HRE At Risk Structures - https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1_9GtFIDW-QuYPvp8vBcSUD4gH9cOMdZt&usp=sharing

https://www.facebook.com/groups/12135242142/permalink/10157403105357143/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2021/01/05/highways-england-accused-of-demolishing-bridges-that-could-link-people-powered-rail-trails/
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CyclingSid
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« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2021, 07:25:26 am »

This is the same organisation responsible for the Queensbury Tunnel.
http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=19192.0
Noticed the two structures at Horspath on the Cowley branch, beyond Unipart works so possibly not of concern to re-opening.

It seems regrettable (or fortunate in HRE's case) that there doesn't appear to be any statutory consultation process with statutory consultees as with other similar processes.
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ellendune
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« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2021, 08:20:03 am »

Having looked around on the map at the areas I know the only one I can see on any line that I have even heard of any thoughts of reopening is near Tregarron on the former Carmarthen Aberystwyth line. 
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2021, 12:19:39 pm »

Needless to say this subject is being discussed on other railway forums too, and from those sources I have found out that 27 of the bridges concerned have already had their maintenance responsibility transferred to others. This tends to support my view expressed last night that this may be one of the reasons for publishing the list in the first place.

Of greater concern was the revelation that contracts had already been awarded. However, a closer examination of these contracts reveals that they are general maintenance contracts and not specifically demolition contracts, so the awards in themselves do not necessarily mean that any demolitions are imminent:

https://www.newcivilengineer.com/latest/winners-named-on-highways-englands-historic-railways-framework-11-11-2020/

Cycling Sid says above that there are no formal consultation procedures in place. Nevertheless, those that have listed building status are unlikely to be knocked down without a fight, and I would not be surprised if a few more get listed in short order, during which the matter of maintenance responsibility may well arise again.

I rather doubt that the end of this story is currently anywhere near in sight.
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