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Thursday, 21 August 2014

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Efforts to reopen Carlisle's Waverley Viaduct stall

Efforts to reopen Carlisle’s disused Waverley Viaduct appear to have stalled.

Waverley Viaduct photo
The Waverley Viaduct

The Grade II-listed structure, near the Cumberland Infirmary, once carried the Carlisle-Galashiels-Edinburgh railway over the River Eden.

It was used by walkers after the tracks were removed in the 1970s but since 2009 has been sealed off by steel security fences put up by its owner, the British Rail Board Residuary (BRBR).

More than 2,400 people signed a petition calling for the viaduct to be opened to pedestrians to allow circular riverside walks and to provide access from Stainton and Etterby to the city centre.

BRBR said in 2010 that it was happy for the viaduct to be reopened provided either Carlisle city or Cumbria county Councils erected fences to prevent users falling into the river.

John Clarke, director of structures for BRBR, told The Cumberland News this week: “We have had discussions with the city council but we haven’t heard anything for some months.”

BRBR looks after disused railway structures. It is, however, due to be abolished next year when responsibility for the Waverley Viaduct will pass to the Highways Agency.

Willie Whalen, a Labour city and county councillor for Castle ward, wants the matter to be resolved before then.

He said: “I am writing to the chairman of BRBR [Doug Sutherland] inviting him to come to Carlisle. I am very keen to get all the interested parties together to sort this out once and for all.

“The people of Carlisle deserve better. The Waverley Viaduct is a magnificent structure and we should make use of it. There is so much potential.

“It’s a good way of selling the city.”

Cumbria County Council is the highway authority for Cumbria but is reluctant to get involved. It says that, as there is no right of way over it, the viaduct is not its responsibility.

But Mr Whalen has an ally in city council leader Joe Hendry.

Dr Hendry said: “It would be a great idea to reopen it. If we can find out what it would cost to make the viaduct safe for pedestrians, we may be able to make progress, although I understand there is an issue with the land owner on the northern side who doesn’t want people crossing his land to get from the public footpath to the viaduct.”

BRBR, meanwhile, is preparing another planning application to extend the life of the steel security fences.

It applied for a three-year consent in 2011 but city councillors granted permission for only 12 months to allow time for further talks on the viaduct’s future – talks that appear to have fizzled out. The current planning consent expires in seven weeks.

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