Recent News


Jun 2021 – Contract for new decking on Bennerley Viaduct signed

The contract for the new decking to go on Bennerley Viaduct has been signed, which will be the finishing touch.  The ramps are now ready for the tarmac to go on, which will happen in the next fortnight, subject to fair weather.

The restoration of Bennerley Viaduct should be complete before the end of this year. The official opening will take place not long afterwards, but of course that will depend on the weather being kind. (Jeff Vinter)

May 2021 – Usk, Monmouthshire.

Usk Tunnel, built originally by the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk & Pontypool Railway and now part of an official footpath, has been temporarily closed due to reports of falling bricks and debris, according to the South Wales Argus. A metal fence has been erected to prevent access and a spokesman for the Council said they had adopted this measure even though they are not the legal owners, adding: ‘This is a temporary solution until the ownership issues are resolved and permanent repairs can be made.’ The spokesman also said that Highways England ‘have secured the portions of the tunnel in their legal ownership.’ The 256-yard tunnel saw its last regular train in 1955, though a railtour passed through a couple of years after that. One railway forum claims there is a dispute over who owns the centre of the tunnel, which sounds rather unusual. (RR)

May 2021 – Disused railway infrastructure.

The ‘burdensome estate’ has reached the national press. The ongoing saga over the demolition or infilling of bridges and tunnels by Highways England (HE) was reported on in The Times newspaper of May 4th, with both an article and editorial comment. It described the recent decision by Herefordshire Council to refuse planning permission to HE to block two bridges on the route to Hay-on-Wye, which a local campaign group is working to open as a trail. Other councils have said HE would need to apply for planning permission before carrying out any infilling work. HE has been trying to use ‘permitted development orders’ to circumvent the need for permission, on the grounds that the structures are unsafe. The Times comments that ‘their reasoning is as spurious as their motives’ and calls on HE to ‘let councils, walking and cycling federations and others’ come together to protect our rural heritage. (The Times)

May 2021 – Butternab Tunnel, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

The secret is out. In 2016, the owner of a house whose garden includes the southern portal and a section of Butternab Tunnel on the ex-Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway’s Meltham branch (closed 1969) allowed the Yorkshire Area group in to see what remained. However, he did not wish this to be widely publicised so we refrained from commenting on it in the magazine. The property has since changed hands and the new owner is taking a rather different approach – turning the tunnel studio into an Airbnb. He says this of the previous occupant: ‘An eccentric NATIONAL NEWS 9 millionaire decided to make the blocked southern end of the tunnel into an art studio for his wife and a home cinema was put there in the 90s. Fast forward to December 2020, we bought the property and decided to make it more sympathetic to its history, so we got rid of the rainbow arch and tacky art pictures. We are surrounded by ancient woodland. There’s a 30-foot waterfall cascading into a pond. It’s so private and peaceful.’ If any Club members decide to book a stay there, please tell us about your experience. (YorkshireLive)

Butternab

Butternab Tunnel, Netherton, West Yorkshire (in 2016 with the rainbow arch – since removed) Photo: Jane Ellis

May 2021 – Kingham, Oxfordshire, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire.

It has been reported that a group is commissioning Sustrans to investigate using the former Kingham to Bourton line as a recreational trail. First though, they have to raise funding for a Sustrans feasibility study. They claim the disused rail line ‘is flat, relatively undeveloped, usefully sited and travels through beautiful countryside’, which could be said of many such trackbeds. The thinking is to join Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow on the Wold, with Kingham Railway Station and 10 from there on to Oxford, London, Worcester and Birmingham. Whilst the potential environmental and employment gains are immense, the full project would need the backing and agreement of numerous stakeholders, including landowners, and parish, district and county councils. The first stage then, is to identify the costs, benefits, hurdles and opportunities – hence the feasibility study. (spacehive.com; Paul Stewart; Chris Parker)

May 2021 – Lichfield, Brownhills, Staffordshire.

Lichfield District Council is starting work on a project that could transform the mothballed railway track between Brownhills and Lichfield into a new cycle and footpath. Working with Network Rail and Sustrans, the council will assess a section of the old South Staffordshire Railway line for its potential to reopen as a greenway. This would link into the National Cycle Network which runs between Walsall and Brownhills. A feasibility study will be carried out this summer to gauge the scale of the project, likely issues, opportunities, costs and how best to develop it. The findings will be used to draw up a project plan and engage with the local community and partners. Councillor Doug Pullen, Leader of Lichfield Council, said: ‘Having seen, back in 2018, the excellent work carried out by the community group Back the Track, who are working to open up part of the disused South Staffordshire Railway between Walsall and the A5 as a leisure greenway, I'm tremendously excited that we are now in a position to explore the development of a greenway from Brownhills to Lichfield. This project presents real opportunities for our health, mental wellbeing, local connectivity and our visitor economy. I'd like to thank Network Rail and Sustrans for their willingness to bring it to life.’ Councillor Richard Cox, Cabinet Member responsible for Leisure, added: ‘We’re excited to get this project started, as creating a high-quality offroad cycle and footpath will be a great asset for the district. It will connect the National Cycle Network and encourage more of our residents to exercise and commute to work safely.’ Local RR member Phil Mullarkey says though: ‘I have mixed feelings about it myself as it could ‘snooker’ the reopening of Lichfield to Walsall. I’m a member of Lichfield Rail Promotion Group as well as RR!!’ (Lichfield District Council; Bob Prigg; Phil Mullarkey)

Apr 2021 – Cardiff, Glamorgan.

Network Rail is claiming a world first in using electric resistant paint to avoid demolishing a Victorian-age railway bridge in Cardiff, which would have cost £40m. Intersection Bridge, a rail-over-rail structure in the city centre and on the main line from Paddington, is too low to fit all the kit required for electrification – as indeed is the case with most older bridges. NR’s usual procedure is to demolish the structure and replace it with a higher bridge, but this time – by applying a coat to the underside of the bridge 11 – engineers were able to put the overhead line equipment to within 20mm and allow trains to run within 70mm of the brickwork without the risk of electric current being transferred. This is a new technology developed by the University of Southampton and NR says this will shape the future of their electrification projects and save the taxpayer millions. It also means much railway heritage can be saved. (NR Media Centre)

Apr 2021 – Tidenham, Gloucestershire.

A planning application has been made by Greenways and Cycleroutes Ltd, in conjunction with Wyedean School and the National Diving & Activity Centre, to extend the Wye Valley Greenway from Bishton Lane, Tidenham, to Wyedean School, Sedbury, just across the River Wye (and Anglo-Welsh border) from Chepstow. Importantly, this would include the old railway bridge on the Wye Valley branch that crosses the busy A48. Wyedean School is cut off from the Wye Valley by the A48 and is actively participating in the development of the path, even providing the land to complete the route. At its northern end, the path connects with the section to Tintern, making a 5-mile trail in total. The pièce de résistance is the 1188-yard Tidenham Tunnel, now open in hours of daylight from April to September to walkers and cyclists(closed the rest of the year due to a resident bat colony). This makes it the second longest tunnel open for leisure use in the country. (Greenways and Cycleroutes Ltd.)

Apr 2021 – Somerset.

John Grimshaw’s new charity, Greenways and Cycleroutes (GCR), is now working on the ‘Somerset Circle’, a circular network of lines around the county which will build on the existing Strawberry Line (Yatton - Cheddar) to create a county-wide route based largely on old railways. A map of the project and its ‘vision statement’ can be viewed on the Strawberry Line website. GCR has appointed a former senior manager from Sustrans to work on the negotiations and other issues, and good progress is being made in the Shepton Mallet area. We understand that the local authority’s intended trail along the old GWR line, connecting new housing on the eastern edge of town with the site of Shepton Mallet High Street station (now replaced by a local supermarket), can go ahead, while the old Somerset & Dorset route is intended as the Circle’s link to Wellow, Midford and the Two Tunnels Trail into Bath. We understand that, on the S&D, an early step will be to open up Bath Road Viaduct for public access. (Jeff Vinter)

Apr 2021 – Sandsend and Kettleness Tunnels to reopen?

Following on from Phillip Earnshaw’s description of these North Yorkshire coast tunnels in Ramblings 169, I was surprised to read in the Whitby Gazette (18.3.21) that Sustrans and the North York Moors National Park are looking at the feasibility of opening them up to walkers and cyclists. There would be several problems to overcome – the north-west end of Sandsend (a.k.a. Overdale) Tunnel collapsed in 2008; the “offshoot” tunnels from it to the cliff face, which were opened up for dumping spoil during construction, are shored up with timbers and look quite dangerous. These would need to be sealed up to avoid the temptation of an adventurous traverse through them by curious walkers – and who could blame them! (I must admit to having foolishly explored them myself, many years ago).

Whilst the trackbed approaching the tunnels from the south is part of the Cleveland Way long distance footpath, the access to it is by a flight of wooden steps cut into a steep hillside, which would be a barrier to cyclists and the disabled. The only way to avoid this would be to go through Sandsend Station, which is privately owned, and since Autumn 2020 has camping coaches on the platform. Also the tunnels and their approaches are owned by Lord Normanby’s Mulgrave Estate, who blocked the south-east entrance to Sandsend Tunnel long ago, complete with a warning notice to potential trespassers. However the Bidstats website states: “An initial structural report into the condition of the tunnels has been undertaken. Most of the land in the proposed area between Staithes and Sandsend is owned by Mulgrave Estate who are partners in the project and very supportive of its aspirations”. The Cleveland Way currently avoids the tunnels, but to the north of them is unsuitable for cycling as it passes between farmland and a crumbling cliff edge, with stiles and steps to negotiate.

Having said all this though, official and safe access to these tunnels would provide a marvellous extension to the Scarborough-Whitby railway path.

Jane Ellis

Tunnel Collapse
▲ Sandsend Tunnel collapse
Magazine Article
▲Article in Whitby Gazette

Apr 2021 – Rock Fall, Elan Valley Railway (EVR) (Powys)

The Elan Valley Trail, a foot and cycle path which is part of National Cycle Network route 81, uses the “main line” trackbed of this former standard gauge reservoir construction railway from Craig Goch reservoir dam to Elan Valley Jn. It then parallels the Mid Wales Railway route to Rhayader station, climbing above the nature reserve which occupies the 270 yd tunnel and its approach cuttings. Four rare bat species hibernate in the tunnel. The station is a highways depot.

The principal EVR civil engineering feature is Devil’s Gulch, a deep rock cutting about a mile south of Craig Goch. On 4 November 2018 this was been blocked by a rock fall. Further falls have occurred since, the entire cutting is deemed unstable and remains closed indefinitely. Powys County Council renews the closure order every 6 months. Welsh Water Authority is the owner but lacks funds to carry out repairs. In February 2021 it held online consultation sessions as to possible remedies/alternatives but any outcomes have not been publicised. This is hardly satisfactory as existing official and unofficial diversionary routes are hazardous and dangerous in differing ways. https://bit.ly/3volaLl is an excellent local press report of 4 February 2021 with further details.

One EVR artefact which, surprisingly, survives in a better state is the former Cambrian Railways Elan Valley Jn signal box. Always greatly oversized for that location, it was replaced by a ground frame in 1908 and moved to Pwllheli West in connection with the extension of the Cambrian Coast line in 1909. Ironically itself downgraded to a ground frame in the 1970s, when seen in October 2020 it appeared well cared for.

(Report and Pictures from Chris Parker)

Rock Fall
▲ Devil's Gulch looking S with path closed since 4-11-18 because of rock falls
Tunnel Portal
▲S portal of Rhayader Tunnel 2
Rock Fall
▲ Rock fall in Devil's Gulch looking N
Tunnel Portal
▲N portal of Rhayader Tunnel where 4 bat species now hibernate

Apr 2021 – Darlington & Hetton-le-Hole (Co. Durham).

The former rail trail from Darlington (New Road) to Dinsdale, which was cut to about half its size when a new link road – the B6279 – from town to the A66 was constructed, has now been reinstated to not far off its original start point, while the former colliery lines in Hetton Lyons Country Park near Hetton-le-Hole now form a network of cycle routes, with a 2½ mile linear trail providing off-road access from outlying areas. (Jeff Vinter)

Mar 2021 – Devon.

Information from DevonLive sets out summary details of all the proposed new (and to be extended or linked up) cycle trails in Devon. A search revealed the definite or likely-looking railway components as these:
1. The Pegasus Way. This will complete conversion of a long section of the Bude Branch – which has been a work in progress for many years – between Meldon Junction and Cookworthy Forest, which is around 3½ miles beyond Halwill Junction on the Bude side.
2. The Ruby Way. This will link Hatherleigh with Holsworthy, and it is possible that old railway trackbeds will be used. Devon has already converted parts of the Torrington - Halwill Junction line west of Hatherleigh between Runnon Moor and Pulworthy Moor, and between Highampton and Black Torrington, plus parts of the Halwill Junction - Bude branch between Halwill Junction and Cookworthy Forest, and West Combe and the eastern side of Holsworthy, just before Coles Mill Viaduct, which carried the line into the town’s station. Contacts within the ‘railway re-use community’ indicate that, after many years, Devon is close to securing access over Coles Mill Viaduct, which – amongst other things – will require new parapets.
3. The Tarka Trail. ‘Land assembly’ is proposed to fill the gaps between Knowle and Willingcott (which will complete re-use of the whole of the Barnstaple - Ilfracombe branch) and between Meeth and Hatherleigh, although here only a short section of the old railway will be used west of Hele Bridge on the A386.
4. Feniton to Sidmouth. Parts of this branch are open officially already, and the highly regarded Kings School at Ottery St. Mary has been campaigning14 for its conversion into The Otter Trail for several years.
5. Tavistock to Bere Alston. At first glance, this looked like another prospective rail trail, but it is not to be because Devon still aspires to re-open the line and thus put Tavistock back on the national rail network. Sorry!
6. Tiverton to Exeter. The inclusion of this route in Devon’s list is tantalising. The Exe Valley Way already links Tiverton with Exeter, but the old railway could not be used because, about 30 years ago, the county riled all the landowners by publishing plans for a rail trail before consulting them. As a result, the current Exe Valley Way eschews the railway: it is a demanding walk and, in places, not open to – and wholly unsuitable for – cyclists. Possibly a new route is in prospect, but at this stage the published sources do not give much away.
7. The Primrose Trail: South Brent to Kingsbridge. The county’s website is silent on this trail. The obvious route would be along the old railway, but that would require the agreement of a lot of landowners. However, Greenways and Cycleroutes are very keen to develop a trail here, and there is a keen local campaign group with an informative website: https://primrosetrail.org (Jeff Vinter; Steven Hills)

Mar 2021 – Hovingham, North Yorkshire.

Hovingham Estate has decided to move the path from the old Hovingham to Gilling East railway line at Cawton to the side of the field so they can plough the whole field rather than have to do a little strip at the edge separately (the red line indicates the trackbed). Hovingham
(Item and photo: Peter Billington)

Mar 2021 – Carlisle, Cumberland.

The long-awaited re-opening of Waverley Viaduct in the city could be on the horizon, according to the leader of Carlisle City Council, John Mallinson. The bridge over the River Eden was used as an unofficial footpath for many years before being closed on safety grounds. Campaigners, led by the Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust, have been trying to have it re-opened as a footpath for more than a decade. Cllr. Mallinson reported on a meeting with Railway Paths Ltd., saying that this charity ‘is in a position to 15 hold the title of the bridge, in support of the Trust, and to provide them with advice and assistance with fundraising activities.’ He added that he was now going to speak to the Trust to see if ownership issues can be resolved. (Cumberland News; Richard Bain)

Mar 2021 – Hesketh Bank, Lancashire.

Enabling works are continuing on the ‘Henry Alty Way’, a planned footpath and cycleway along the westerly bank of the River Douglas between Hesketh Bank and Bank Bridge, in Tarleton. The path< will be on the former trackbed of the West Lancashire Railway’s Tarleton Lock branch, which operated in the early years of the 20th century, mainly for goods, though it did offer a passenger service that connected with the Liverpool line at Crossens in Southport. The Love Hesketh Bank newsletter reports that ‘existing gates, stiles and fences on the route will disappear meaning that the facility will be fully accessible to all on a level surface.’ (Love Hesketh Bank; Stephen Ebbs)

Mar 2021 – Camden, London.

The planned ‘Camden Highline’, which aspires to transform about ¾ mile of disused elevated track in north London, has announced that the winner of its design competition is James Corner Field Operations, the team that created the High Line in New York. (The Times; Graham Harrison-Watts)

Jan 2021 – Okehampton, Devon

A year ago things looked bleak for the North Dartmoor line and any reinstatement of passenger trains on the line from Exeter to Okehampton. Heritage services from Okehampton to Meldon Quarry also ceased when the owners went into receivership. However, the government has now included a commitment in its National Infrastructure Strategy to restart regular passenger services between Exeter and Okehampton, via Crediton. Deliveries of new concrete sleepers and transition rails (bullhead at one end, flat bottom at the other) have arrived at Okehampton, while the signal box is likely to be considered an integral part of the reconstituted station, which has raised the hopes of the Dartmoor Railway Supporters’ Association (DRSA) for greater operational scope in the future. The DRSA also said: ‘Officials have surveyed the station site’s accessibility for bus services, checking the layout and turning area’. This is encouraging news for the DRSA who, as DevonLive reported, ‘were left high and dry following the collapse of the firm owning the Dartmoor Railway. They have continued to care for their assets at their Okehampton base, while the group report that those of the erstwhile Dartmoor Railway also remain on site’. A train service on this line opens up a viable public transport connection with the Granite Way, which uses the trackbed (or runs alongside it) from Okehampton to Lydford. It also brings the aspiration of reconnecting Exeter and 17 Plymouth via the old LSWR route, known formally as the Tavistock Okehampton Reopening Scheme (TORS), one step closer. (DevonLive, Dartmoor Railway Supporters’ Association, Keith Lawrie)

Jan 2021 – Alresford – Kings Worthy, Hampshire.

The trustees of the Watercress Way charity have revised their Strategic Plan and identified a number of project priorities. The aim of the charity is to open up more of the two disused railway lines between Alresford and Kings Worthy and Kings Worthy and Sutton Scotney for non-motorised public access. Over the last year or so, they have agreed a footpath along the old track bed through Top Field, Kings Worthy, linking to the cutting in Woodhams Farm Lane, and hope to open this in 2021. They have improved the surface of the flat mile in Martyr Worthy by the removal of tree roots and have developed a range of shorter self-guided walking, cycling and riding loops, including doing the whole trail in 8 short walks. They have also cleared the debris under Wonston Bridge. Future projects include extending the route alongside the former railway from Lovedon Lane in Kings Worthy to the A33. (Graham Lambert)

Jan 2021 – Bennerley Viaduct, Notts/Derbyshire.

Critical repair work is virtually finished, the eastern ramp has been transformed, and work on the western ramp has commenced, while the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct continue to raise funds for the deck so it can be installed later in the year. New walls have replaced the rickety fences, using reclaimed materials where possible. The abutment was in a chronic state of repair and has undergone a visual as well as structural transformation. Over 1000 cubic metres of material is being brought in to create the western ramp which will enable access to the viaduct from the Erewash Canal towpath. The TV series, The Architectures the railways built, will feature Bennerley Viaduct for a second time on March 2nd, focusing on the efforts of the local community to bring the ‘iron giant’ back to life. (Friends of Bennerley Viaduct)

Jan 2021 – Alston – Slaggyford, Cumbria.

The South Tynedale Railway has announced that it has become one of 445 organisations in the UK to receive a financial boost from the government thanks to the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund. The South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society has received a total grant of £84,300. The railway is currently closed to the public and the funding will allow vital costs to be paid. It will also help the railway prepare for the running season in 2021, with maintenance and rebuilding of steam locomotives already ongoing. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘As a nation, it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounceback postCOVID’. South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society, Chair of Trustees, David Granath, said: ‘This funding gives us hope that we can once again welcome visitors back to the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to ride through the lovely South Tyne valley on our trains. We believe that our 90-minute return trip with cafés and car parking at each end of the line is the perfect package for a family day out and for the railway enthusiast’. (Rail Advent, Richard Bain)

Dec 2020 – Little Mill Jn – Usk, Monmouthshire

Monmouthshire County Council’s planning committee has approved plans to convert about 4 miles of the trackbed of the ex-GWR line between Little Mill Junction and Usk. The path will start near a point on the A472 to the west of Coleg Gwent and the Monmouthshire Council application says it will provide ‘a safe off-road cycleway route’ linking Usk with the canal and other purpose-built cycle tracks to Blaenavon, Pontypool and further afield. It doesn’t say how it will gain access to Pontypool, where an 11-mile cycle route leads to Blaenavon, although the application forms part of a wider proposed Usk to Pontypool national cycle route involving Sustrans. The plans approved are for the second phase of the cycle path project, with the other sections of the planned route between Glascoed Lane and Little Mill and connections to the roundabout at Mamhilad, just outside Pontypool, subject to separate applications. Our reporter said it’s not clear whether any of the section westwards to Little Mill en route to the canal at Mamhilad is on the trackbed. At the eastern end, it would be good if it could be joined to the footpath which utilises the old railway bridge over the River Usk at Usk Island, otherwise users would face a busy A-road for the final mile or so into the town. The Woodland Trust was the main objector to the application but the Council’s tree officer said the impact of the development on trees along the route would be ‘low’. The current use of the line as farm access would continue with several refuges provided for walkers and cyclists, as concerns had been raised over bikes, pedestrians and cattle sharing some sections of the route. (Chris Parker)

Dec 2020 – Rugby – Leamington / Long Itchington, Warwickshire

According to the Rugby Observer, Sustrans has announced plans to add five miles of trackbed in a re-routing of part of the Lias Line, as the section of NCN 41 between Rugby and Leamington is known. Phase 1, which will cost around £4.5 million, will see the ex-LNWR route used between the villages of Offchurch and Birdingbury, connecting with further sections of trackbed at both ends, and leaving a tantalising 2-mile gap at the northern end between Draycote and the Cawston Greenway, which uses the old line through the southern outskirts of Rugby. Currently, the trail makes a significant detour to the east and this project will create a much more direct route. The work will include a new bridge over the A423 at Marton, which Sustrans says ‘is nearing the end of its life’. Local knowledge would be appreciated on this, as a quick glance on Google Earth shows a substantial two-arch structure at this location. The path will also have to find a way around the small industrial estate which occupies the station site at Marton.

If funding allows, a second phase would use part of the old Weedon & Leamington branch, that remained open to Southam Cement Works until 1985. Latterly, trains had to travel south from Rugby and reverse at Marton Junction. The Works were demolished a few years ago and Phase 2 of Sustrans’ plans utilises the branch as far as Stockton Reservoir, a stretch that includes an attractive viaduct over the River Itchen.

The Lias Line is certainly due an overhaul as sections are heavily overgrown, and Sustrans itself identified it as being in ‘poor condition’ at a review last year. (Christopher Homer)

Link to original article https://rugbyobserver.co.uk/news/upgrade-to-warwickshire-cycle-network-takes-shape-25758/

Dec 2020 – Feasibility Study: Re-purposing part of Somerset and Dorset Line

A former Somerset railway line could be brought back into use as an "active travel" route to encourage people to commute without using cars.

The towns of Bruton and Wincanton were once served by the Somerset and Dorset Railway, which ran services from Bournemouth to Bath and Burnham-on-Sea.

See report in Somerset Live website at https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/former-somerset-railway-line-could-4789208
(David White)

Dec 2020 – Rugby – Leamington/Long Itchington, Warwickshire

According to the Rugby Observer, Sustrans has announced plans to add five miles of trackbed in a re-routing of part of the Lias Line, as the section of NCN 41 between Rugby and Leamington is known. Phase 1, which will cost around £4.5 million, will see the ex-LNWR route used between the villages of Offchurch and Birdingbury, connecting with further sections of trackbed at both ends, and leaving a tantalising 2-mile gap at the northern end between Draycote and the Cawston Greenway, which uses the old line through the southern outskirts of 15 Rugby. Currently, the trail makes a significant detour to the east and this project will create a much more direct route. The work will include a new bridge over the A423 at Marton, which Sustrans says ‘is nearing the end of its life’. Local knowledge would be appreciated on this, as a quick glance on Google Earth shows a substantial two-arch structure at this location. The path will also have to find a way around the small industrial estate which occupies the station site at Marton. If funding allows, a second phase would use part of the old Weedon & Leamington branch which remained open to Southam Cement Works until 1985. Latterly, trains had to travel south from Rugby and reverse at Marton Junction. The works were demolished a few years ago and Phase 2 of Sustrans’ plans utilises the branch as far as Stockton Reservoir, a stretch that includes an attractive viaduct over the River Itchen. The Lias Line is certainly due an overhaul as sections are heavily overgrown and Sustrans itself identified it as being in ‘poor condition’ at a review last year. (Christopher Homer)

Dec 2020 – Keswick-Threlkeld Path Re-Open

Link to the BBC article.... https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-55147928
(Keith Holliday)

Dec 2020 – Weymouth, Dorset

As part of work to resurface Commercial Road following the removal of the Weymouth Harbour Branch tracks, two cycle lanes have been introduced to facilitate cycling where traffic volume and speeds are relatively low between Westham Bridge and Lower St Alban Street. One of the Council’s main arguments for removing the tracks was to make the roads safer for cyclists. Councillor Ray Bryan, Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: ‘This road layout gives priority to cyclists – with vehicles slowing down to pass each other safely or overrunning into the cycle lane if safe to do so. Further proposed cycle links in the town centre, which will require legal orders to introduce, will be consulted on early next year.’

Update – January 2021. Another set of railway tracks has been unearthed on Commercial Road during the above work. A spokesman from the council said: ‘We believe this is the old route of the Weymouth branch line, which ‘The Loop’ section replaced.’ Perhaps RR members could give their views on this. According to the Dorset Echo, the project team are working with conservation officers to develop ideas of how best to preserve historic elements of the Quay tramway. Where possible, sections of track are being left in situ, including a 30-metre section at the start of the line in Commercial Road and ‘The Loop’ near Cosens Quay Car Park. The council spokesman also said that ‘some sections of rail may be used for a possible heritage feature along the route once the works are complete’. (Tim Chant, Dorset Council, Dorset Echo)

News from 2000 to 2019 ported from RR Website archives...