NEWS 2019
Above: A typical Great Central Railway girder bridge carries the old GCR main line over the Midland Railway just south of Beighton Junction in South Yorkshire (east of Sheffield). This bridge has been sealed off, which is not surprising given that it has no deck, and an operational freight line passes below; the photograph was taken by holding the camera through security railings. However, much of the GCR in the vicinity now forms part of the Trans Pennine Trail, NCN67. 29th September 2018. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Disused Tunnels in Wales. Further to our report in August 2018, we are pleased to report that plans to re-open a number of disused railway tunnels across Wales have encountered no insurmountable problems and are still progressing. This report from the Western News provides further details and covers the front-runners for re-opening: Rhondda, Abernant, Tregarth (open already), Pennar and Usk. (Tim Chant)

January 2019. Greenodd to Bardsea, Cumbria. On 13th January, the Westmorland Gazette announced that there is official interest in re-opening a scenic path near Ulverston which uses parts of the former Furness Railway's network. The paper writes as though the route was once a single line, but actually it was two; the branch lines from Plumpton West Junction, east of Ulverston, respectively to Windermere Lakeside and Conishead Priory, near Bardsea. The proposed trail would have to cross the still operational Cumbrian Coast line near Plumpton Hall, but fortunately there are two existing grade-separated crossings of the railway, the eastern one of which accommodates a public footpath. The paper reported, 'Parts of the route from Greenodd [southwards] to Bardsea have been used by cyclists, horse riders and walkers for some time, but a section of the route close to the Ulverston Canal, which is owned by Network Rail, was fenced off a few years ago. However, campaigners are now pressing to re-open [this] section, a move which if successful would not only allow access along the entire route, but would also provide users with a safer alternative … to the busy A590.' Local councillors and Barrow MP John Woodcock support the idea, and staff from Network Rail were due to attend the next meeting of the local council's 'Cumbria Better Connected' campaign group, although local councillor Mark Wilson admitted that Network Rail 'have not been on board as much'. North of Greenodd, a section of the Windermere branch is already part of NCN70 between grid references SD 318825 and SD 326829, a distance of just over half a mile. After that, NCN70 continues (off the trackbed) into Haverthwaite, where the rest of the branch to Windermere Lakeside is now the preserved Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

Above: One of the portals of Usk Tunnel, seen in the jungle-like conditions of high summer. There are proposals to convert the tunnel into part of a new cycle trail, as reported in the story below. 21st August 2008. (Andrew Lewis, used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0)

January 2019. Usk to Little Mill Junction (nr. Pontypool), Monmouthshire. We reported in June 2018, December 2016 and June 2015 plans to convert the disused railway line between Little Mill and Usk into an off-road cycle route of about 4 miles. Recently, we have learned from articles published in 'Wales Online' and the BBC's website that this proposal includes the 256 yard Usk Tunnel east of Usk station site. Usk Tunnel now features in Monmouthshire County Council's Integrated Network Map (INM) to improve cycling and walking routes, but a council spokesman stressed that 'nothing has been decided yet on priorities for scheme development in 2019-20'. (Don Kennedy, Tim Stannard and Chris Parker)

January 2019. Stalbridge to Poole, Dorset. Just when we thought that the North Dorset Trailway had 'run out of steam' due to government funding cuts, the Bournemouth Echo published a story (on 7th January) revealing that North Dorset District Council is to be asked to approve a £70,000 grant to cover the 'very significant' cost of purchasing former railway land to extend the route. (The charity behind the NDT, the North Dorset Trailway Network, seeks to re-use the trackbed of the former Somerset & Dorset Railway as a long-distance, multi-use trail.) The funds being sought would enable the Trailway to be extended north from Sturminster Newton – which is the current northern terminus – to Stalbridge, and, according to the newspaper, the council is actually proposing to make the grant. Hugh de Iongh, a council development officer, remarked that the Trailway 'delivers long-term economic and community benefits', and explained that the funding represents 'a continuation of work that the council is already involved in'. He added: 'The North Dorset Trailway has great potential as an element of the north Dorset economy and also has considerable health and wellbeing benefits'. (Tim Chant)

Above: Stephen Ash's model of the former bridge near modern Tutshill Sluice, which carried the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway over the River Yeo, was exhibited recently at the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust's 2019 Model Railway Exhibition at Edington, Somerset. The viaduct in the bottom right of the picture is from a separate model, which (in terms of historical accuracy at Tutshill) was rather unfortunately placed! The story below tells how this bridge is to be replaced. January 2019. (Ivor Sutton)

January 2019. Wick St. Lawrence to Ham Lane, Somerset. Most readers can be forgiven for never having heard of Wick St. Lawrence and Ham Lane (near Kingston Seymour) because they are the names of former halts on the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway, a very minor railway which closed on 18th May 1940 and is now largely unacknowledged on modern Ordnance Survey maps. On 18th December 2018, the 'BristolLive' website reported that a new walking and cycling route from Weston-super-Mare to Clevedon was to go ahead, incorporating the Wick to Ham Lane section of the former trackbed. This railway part of the trail will start at grid reference ST 377653, east of Wick St. Lawrence, and continue for just over a mile to Ham Lane at ST 384668. The WC&PLR had halts at both locations and, so that users will not miss the southern one, a replica of Wick St. Lawrence Halt will be built. Even more remarkable is the fact that the railway's bridge over the River Yeo near Tutshill Sluice (ST 380658) is to be replaced and will form part of the English Coastal Path. Currently, the ECP in this area does not trouble the coast very much! South of Wick St. Lawrence Halt, public footpaths can be followed near the old railway to Ebdon Lane Farm (ST 370643), where a further footpath follows the old trackbed to the bank of the River Banwell at ST 368641. (Ivor Sutton and Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Bourne End to High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. Julian Holland's 2013 book, Dr Beeching's Axe 50 Years On: Memories of Britain's Lost Railways (David & Charles, ISBN 978-1-4463-0267-5) states on page 61 that 'the majority of the trackbed between High Wycombe and Bourne End is now a footpath and cycleway'. We believe that this statement is incorrect, although public footpaths run parallel to a couple of sections, and Buckinghamshire County Council had plans to create such a trail; see here. However, with the imminent opening of the Crossrail project, it seems that attention has now turned towards reinstating the line, initially as a light rail project, but now for heavy rail. In March 2017, the Bucks Free Press reported that (High Wycombe) councillors had agreed to a £100,000 feasibility study to examine re-opening, and this 2016 report provides the background. An update from local members will be appreciated, so, if you can help, please get in touch using the Online Form on our Contact page. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2019. Meldon Junction to Halwill Junction, Devon. Devon County Council's ambition to re-open as much as possible of the former Bude branch as a multi-use trail is moving closer. Partial obliteration of the trackbed by the new A30 west of Meldon Junction requires walkers to follow minor roads to East Bowerland (grid reference SX 544930), but from there it is now possible to walk or cycle 4 miles along the trackbed to Broadbury Cottages, alongside the A3079 at SX 489950. We should mention that, during the winter months, the unsealed surface requires cyclists to be hardy and impervious to mud. A further extension, to Ashbury & North Lew station by minor road, was being worked on last year. In September, the trackbed west of Broadbury Cottages was a dead end. Further down the line, access to the trackbed had been created from Ashbury, by minor road, but – according to the owner of Ashbury and North Lew station – no work had been done on the old railway formation. The trail will avoid the station, which is now privately owned, but the next leg of the route, to Halwill Junction, appears to be moving forward. (Phillip Earnshaw)

January 2019. Wetherby to Thorp Arch, West Yorkshire. There has been a 2¾ mile railway path from a point just south of Wetherby Race Course (grid reference SE 413485) to Thorp Arch (SE 441462) for some time, but the old trackbed can be walked for a further 1¼ miles to SE 4543447, opposite Station House on the A659. We are not sure yet whether this extension is official, permissive or just a route opened up by regular use, so will be grateful to anyone who can clarify its status; please get in touch using the Online Form on our Contact page. (Keith Holliday)