Over 11,000 people have signed an online petition objecting to plans by Highways England to infill or demolish more than 100 disused railway bridges.
The Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which comprises around 3,200 structures, is managed by Highways England on behalf of the Department for Transport. The HRE Group state that the Government-owned company plan to demolish up to 480 of these between now and 2030.
Campaigners are arguing that around one-third of these have already been proposed for reuse in the future. These plans involve new rail routes, cycle paths, extensions of current heritage lines, and other similar projects.
Highways England has stated that many of the legacy rail bridges have failed structural assessments. However, the group has since gathered evidence from a Freedom of Information Act which suggests that 48 percent have not failed and that many of the sites (21 percent) are fit for purpose.
Chris Todd, Director of Transport Action Network, said: “Across the country, new cycle routes are needed, yet a handful of officials within the Department for Transport and Highways England are taking a wrecking ball to structures that could be vital in providing better access to our countryside.
“Our great railway heritage should not be viewed as a liability and it has to be asked whether Highways England is really the right body to be managing these important assets.”
Alongside the petition, MPs are also lobbying the Department for Transport, in order to get the message across to both them and Highways England.
A spokesperson for Highways England, said: “To maintain the safety of communities living near to, and the vehicles using Historic Railway Estate structures, we are planning to infill 115 bridges. We are acting to keep people safe from actual risks identified by experienced engineers who have had the benefit of inspecting the structures.”
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