Decision making and handover process

Our main role is to keep the Historical Railways Estate structures maintained and safe. But we also work with partners to find new uses for the structures and bring them back into public use

Decision making and handover process

Here we outline the processes we follow to hand over structures to other organisations who want to make use of them, and how we make decisions about structures that are in a critical condition.

Bringing structures back into use

We’re passionate and committed to finding new uses for the structures we look after whenever we can. We work with many organisations who may be able to give them a new lease of life as walking and cycling routes, or heritage railways.

We’ll approach them if we feel there’s a potential use for a structure, or if someone else is better placed to manage it than us. This includes partners such as Sustrans, Railway Paths Limited and other heritage railway organisations, and sometimes local authorities.

Once a potential project has been identified, we’ll work in partnership to examine whether the idea can be taken forward. We’ll then take it through a process leading to the handover of the structure.

The consultation and handover process

When an organisation expresses an interest in taking on a structure, we review the proposal to ensure that:

  • they will be able to look after it permanently and ensure its safety
  • the structure is a good fit for their plans

Generally, we transfer structures to organisations which already own or manage structures, and those which have specific railway heritage expertise and a Transport and Works Act Order.

If we’re satisfied the above conditions are met, we’ll begin the process of legally transferring the structure, which will be signed off by the Department for Transport.

Sometimes we’ll repair and refurbish the structure before we hand it over. Following the transfer, we’ll make a financial contribution for its future maintenance.

When we transfer ownership of a structure, the new owner becomes responsible for its future maintenance and safety. When we lease structures, we may retain some of these responsibilities, depending on the contract agreed.

When structures become critical

Sometimes, while carrying out assessments on the Estate, we may decide that a structure needs urgent action as its condition is dangerous or at risk of becoming dangerous.

For structures with roads running over or under them, we have a joint responsibility with the local authority to ensure their safety. Safety is one of our key priorities and values, so we’ll always prioritise such work.

There have been occasions where structures have partially collapsed due to issues outside our control, for example a bridge being hit by a vehicle. In these situations, we work as fast as possible to prevent risk to the public.

Where possible, we repair the structure to make it safe, but there may be occasions when we need to infill or demolish a structure for safety reasons. We only do this as a last resort and where there’s no other option.

Infill and demolition

We will only ever infill or demolish a structure once it has been through a comprehensive review process involving our Stakeholder Advisory Forum and the planning authorities.

This involves careful assessment on safety grounds, and agreement that infilling or demolition are the only options available. Infilling is a process used to strengthen bridges by filling the arch with material, and is fully reversible. Demolition would only be done as a last resort.

Infilling and demolition work requires planning permission. The public can give their views during the process, or they can contact the local parish council, who we also consult.