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Author Topic: Is Highways England the best guardian for rail heritage and dormant resource?  (Read 8702 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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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2021, 11:41:35 am »

File under ...

* Didcot to Newbury
* Bridport
* Hay on Wye
* Carmarthen to Aberystwyth
* Saltash to St Germans
* Horspath, Oxfordshire

Mirrored for members ((here)) from "The HRE Group" - a worthwhile read with a great deal of useful material. I am quoting the forward; there is a illustrated page on each of the above in our region, and many others from around GB (Great Britain)

Quote
The Historical Railways Estate (HRE) is a collection of around 3,200 legacy structures, owned by the Department for Transport (DfT» (Department for Transport - about)) and managed on its behalf by Highways England (HE). Around 30% of these bridges, tunnels, culverts and viaducts are located in Scotland and Wales, responsibility for them not having been devolved.

Over the years, many of the structures have been rehabilitated to carry parts of the National Cycle Network. In the late Nineties, a large portfolio was transferred to Railway Paths Ltd, sister charity to Sustrans, as a means of quickly and simply delivering new routes. HE’s predecessor, British Railways Board (Residuary), also granted leases for the use of their structures within active travel schemes.

The results of this collaboration can be seen and enjoyed through an expanding collection of routes, many of them benefiting from iconic viaducts and tunnels.

Regretably, Highways England’s management agreement with the DfT now frames the Estate as a liability, the risks from which have to be minimised. Structures can only be brought back into positive public use upon transfer to another statutory body. Given the financial plight in which many local authorities find themselves, this policy has generally had the effect of condemning the Estate to decline.

In January 2021, it was revealed that Highways England intends to infill 115 bridges and tunnels, and demolish a further 15 over the next five years. As many as 480 structures could ultimately be under threat of demolition according to the company’s 2016 Strategic Plan for future management of the Estate.

As this document illustrates, this programme of damaging interventions could thwart the development of active travel routes, railway reopenings and extensions to heritage lines, with 41 of the at-risk structures already intended for incorporation within such schemes or having identified future potential. All of the featured bridges and tunnels are under threat of infilling or demolition.

Given the Government’s stated commitment to a green transport revolution, The HRE Group believes these plans are unsustainable and must be challenged before irreparable damage is inflicted.

Edit to add ... https://www.facebook.com/theHREgroup/

Quote
The HRE Group
thehregroup@forgottenrelics.org
facebook.com/theHREgroup
twitter.com/theHREgroup
www.change.org/theHREgroup (ePetition)
© The HRE Group 2021
« Last Edit: May 16, 2021, 11:47:49 am by grahame » Logged

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CyclingSid
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« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2021, 08:56:23 am »

Quote
British Railways Board (Residuary)
and its assets have been shunted round the government system. Highways England does not seem very appropriate.

I got the impression that Highways England's standards were that if a bridge couldn't take a 40 tonne artic it should be demolished.

No doubt the primary standard is cash, which nobody wanted to spend before and is even rarer after the Covid spend. I believe (probably incorrectly) that taking any of these assets off Highways England's hands is complicated and expensive.

Quote
Is Highways England the best guardian for rail heritage and dormant resource?
possibly from a government point of view if they consider it is far enough down the administrative food to hopefully not cause too much bad press and be deniable.
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grahame
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« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2021, 03:45:02 pm »

Quote
Is Highways England the best guardian for rail heritage and dormant resource?
possibly from a government point of view if they consider it is far enough down the administrative food to hopefully not cause too much bad press and be deniable.

From Change.org

Quote
12 JUN 2021 —

It's looking increasingly likely that the battle to save Great Musgrave bridge in Cumbria will be lost.

Highways England started to infill this bridge on 24 May. It does not have planning permission and the local authority has twice asked it to stop. But it has continued with this vandalism regardless, citing Permitted Development powers which only facilitate temporary works in emergency situations presenting a risk of death or injury.

Great Musgrave bridge is (or at least 'was') in fine condition and repointing of open joints in the arch barrel would have delivered a capacity of 40 tonnes. It is crossed by a narrow and lightly-used country lane. But Highways England chose instead to infill it.

It is fair to say that the state-owned roads company has been guilty of deceit and dishonesty over the past three weeks. Yet, despite this, a bridge that is needed for a future connection between two heritage railways is now substantially infilled. Concrete will be pumped into the void between the crown and compacted aggregate early next week.

It has never been more important to raise awareness of this issue and gather more support. 130 other structures are under threat, including bridges needed for railway reopenings and active travel schemes. One of the feats earmarked for infilling was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This assault on our great railway heritage has not apparent limits.

Please share our petition with your family, friends and colleagues, and encourage them to sign it.

I wonder if Highways England is to bridges as Network Rail is to level crossings ...
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Lee
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« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2021, 04:26:28 pm »

Quote
Is Highways England the best guardian for rail heritage and dormant resource?
possibly from a government point of view if they consider it is far enough down the administrative food to hopefully not cause too much bad press and be deniable.

From Change.org

Quote
12 JUN 2021 —

It's looking increasingly likely that the battle to save Great Musgrave bridge in Cumbria will be lost.

Highways England started to infill this bridge on 24 May. It does not have planning permission and the local authority has twice asked it to stop. But it has continued with this vandalism regardless, citing Permitted Development powers which only facilitate temporary works in emergency situations presenting a risk of death or injury.

Great Musgrave bridge is (or at least 'was') in fine condition and repointing of open joints in the arch barrel would have delivered a capacity of 40 tonnes. It is crossed by a narrow and lightly-used country lane. But Highways England chose instead to infill it.

It is fair to say that the state-owned roads company has been guilty of deceit and dishonesty over the past three weeks. Yet, despite this, a bridge that is needed for a future connection between two heritage railways is now substantially infilled. Concrete will be pumped into the void between the crown and compacted aggregate early next week.

It has never been more important to raise awareness of this issue and gather more support. 130 other structures are under threat, including bridges needed for railway reopenings and active travel schemes. One of the feats earmarked for infilling was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This assault on our great railway heritage has not apparent limits.

Please share our petition with your family, friends and colleagues, and encourage them to sign it.

I wonder if Highways England is to bridges as Network Rail is to level crossings ...

It certainly highlights the dangers of placing complete control in the hands of an organisation that doesn't listen to those it really should and needs to, just as we are about to by placing complete control of rail network operations in the hands of such an organisation in the form of Great British Railways Network Rail Rebranded.
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CyclingSid
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« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2021, 10:11:20 am »

Does thess answer the question?
https://twitter.com/respros/status/1403368644814454794
https://twitter.com/iambrianjones/status/1403629814234464256

And more:
https://road.cc/content/news/cycling-live-blog-14-june-2021-284049
As with Queensbury Tunnel I don't think it will make a blind bit of difference.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2021, 12:17:06 pm by CyclingSid » Logged
CyclingSid
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« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2021, 04:34:22 pm »

Silly question time.

"Permitted Development powers" are cited to do this.

"Permitted Development powers" have been mentioned elsewhere in the forum, in connection with West Reading & Wokingham recently, where NR» (Network Rail - home page) still applies for planning permission (out of courtesy?).

When would "Permitted Development powers" normally cease?
  • when the rail service ceases
  • when the track is lifted
  • they exist in perpetuity, or until extinguished by other legislation

Is it possible to acquire track bed and structures, or can they be disposed of, with "Permitted Development powers"?

Or is this a complete red herring?
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ChrisB
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« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2021, 04:40:50 pm »

Aren't they assigned to the owners?

IE - Network Rail have permitted development powers on the land they own. I think the ownership of the assets under discussion passed to Highways England? I doubt they have the same powers over land not designated as 'highway' so maybe these powers can no longer be used on ex-railway assets? I would expect this to be the case.

But do you need planning permission to infill a bridge? I doubt it, unless it was listed by English Heritage.
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