Weymouth Branch Line track removal
In 2020, Dorset Highways will start work to remove the disused railway tracks along Weymouth harbourside.
Earlier this year, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that Dorset Council was successful in its joint bid with Network Rail for funding to dismantle and remove the rails and to reinstate the carriageway, which are an ongoing hazard to cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
The redundant railway line runs along the northern side of the harbour from the peninsula area along Custom House Quay and Commercial Road to King Street. They are fully decommissioned and cannot be repurposed for other uses due to their deteriorated condition.
Network Rail is responsible for the old rail infrastructure, with Dorset Council responsible for maintaining the surrounding road.
In March 2020, Dorset Highways carried out a trial removal of a section of the rails to inform the project approach and likely timescales.
During three weeks, around 100m of track was removed near the Pavilion to learn how best to complete any future removal.
A mixture of concrete and wooden sleepers were discovered and the removal was slightly quicker than originally thought.
Removing the lines
The first phase of work is currently scheduled to start in October 2020 and will remove the rails along Commercial Road starting at Kings Street. This work will include any necessary drainage repairs and resurfacing of the road.
The second phase of work will start in early 2021 and remove the rails along Custom House Quay.
Because the tracks run along the middle of the road, removal works will need to take place within a road closure.
Only small sections of road will be closed at a time, between junctions wherever possible, and move in a ‘rolling’ fashion so that one section of road is reopened as another is closed. The aim of this is to keep as much access into the town as possible for businesses and residents.
Diversion routes will be clearly sign posted during the closures, more details on alternative routes will be available nearer the time. To further help minimise disruption, the lines will be dismantled off site at a separate location.
Drainage investigation works will be carried out before the removal work starts.
The project team are working with conservation officers to develop ideas of how best to preserve some historic elements of the Weymouth Branch Line tracks.
This could involve maintaining a section of the track or some way of showing where the railway track was, along with information displays for visitors and residents about the history of the harbour and its impact on the development of the town.
This scheme is working alongside the Weymouth Gateway (Station) and heritage park and Weymouth Harbour Regeneration projects.
Thirty-two successful councils were awarded a share of £93.4m to repair roads and bridges as part of the latest push by the Government to improve connectivity, by helping councils fix key infrastructure, tackling congestion and improving journeys to make a real difference to road users.
The project to remove the old Weymouth Branch Line tracks was awarded £1.137m by the DfT.