Historical Railways Estate - working with partners

Some of the structures are iconic features of our landscape and are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Our team works closely with local authorities, UK active travel charities Sustrans and Railway Paths, as well as other organisations. 

Historical Railways Estate - working with partners

Although we’re only funded to maintain safety, we work with many organisations to help them take on the structures or lease them from us. These organisations may then re-purpose the structures for walking and cycling routes.

Our work with Railway Paths

We have a close working relationship with Railway Paths which owns and manages former railway land for active travel use. We support them by providing technical engineering expertise, to help them keep their structures safe. This includes assessing the condition of several of their bridges, to help them to identify where work may be required.  

We are discussing transfer of historic railway structures across to them. This will allow them to work in partnership with community groups and local authorities to create new walking and cycling routes.

Our work with Sustrans

We lease a large number of structures to Sustrans as part of cycling and walking routes. Most of these are bridges that carry public roads over old railway branch lines. But there are also some large viaducts.

Stakeholder Advisory Forum

Our Stakeholder Advisory Forum (SAF) comprises key stakeholders with an interest in active travel and heritage railways. The SAF helps us by reviewing major work proposals for the Historical Railways Estate, ensuring future schemes take account of stakeholder feedback and opportunities to repurpose and reuse structures.

Chaired by National Highways, the forum is made up of the following organisations:

  • Department for Transport
  • Sustrans
  • Railway Paths Ltd
  • Railway Heritage Trust
  • The HRE Group
  • Heritage Railway Association
  • Natural England
  • Historic England (also representing Cadw)
  • Historic Scotland

View the SAF Terms of Reference.

Attendance will be reviewed regularly to make sure the forum contains the appropriate mix of expertise needed to advise future work on the Historical Railways Estate.

Meeting agendas and minutes

Case studies

Case study: Castlefield Viaduct, Manchester

We are working with the National Trust and other partners on a project to repurpose Castlefield viaduct in Manchester as an urban park, celebrating the industrial heritage of this part of the city.

The National Trust is spearheading a plan to open the viaduct next summer as a temporary park to test ideas and use the space to gather feedback from the public on the viaduct’s longer-term future.

Working in partnership with Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate team, supported by Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the local community, businesses and supporters, the ambition is to transform Castlefield viaduct into an urban park and meeting place for people and nature that celebrates the remarkable industrial heritage of this part of the city. As well as connecting the local community with history and nature, it’s hoped that the viaduct will be a stepping stone to other Manchester green spaces and nearby attractions, adding to the cultural offer.

The viaduct was built in 1892 and constructed by Heenan and Froude, the engineers who worked on the iconic Blackpool Tower. It was used to carry heavy rail traffic in and out of Manchester Central railway station (now the Manchester Central Convention Complex) until 1969 when the station closed. Since then the viaduct has stood unused with Highways England undertaking essential repairs and maintenance to keep it safe.

Find out more on the future vision of Castlefield viaduct by visiting the National Trust website

Artist impression of how Castlefield viaduct could look

An artist impression of how part of the viaduct could look

(Image credit: ©Twelve Architects & Masterplanners)

We have worked with Ayreshire Roads Alliance and Sustrans to ensure that national cycle network route 73 can pass underneath the Crosshouse bridge. We are infilling beneath the structure and diverting the cycle route from one arch to another, passing through a new opening in the new embankment. Our work is due to finish in summer 2021. Once complete we will transfer ownership to the local council.  

Dimbath bridge, Wales
Dimbath bridge, Wales