Dorset Council and Network Rail are celebrating after winning over £1.1m in special government funding to improve road safety in Weymouth by removing the rail tracks from the old Weymouth Harbour Branch Line.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced today 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. This will remove an ongoing hazard to cyclists and other vulnerable road users, reducing the number of incidents resulting in personal injuries.

Local Highways authorities were challenged by the DfT to put forward schemes which could make a real difference to road users. 32 successful councils were awarded a share of £93.4 million to repair roads and bridges as part of the latest push by Government to improve connectivity, by helping councils fix key infrastructure, tackling congestion and improving journeys.

The Weymouth Harbour Branch Line is a redundant railway line along Commercial Road and Custom House Quay which access the town centre, the harbour and peninsula area.

Network Rail is responsible for the old rail infrastructure, with Dorset Council responsible for maintaining the surrounding road. These rail lines are fully decommissioned and cannot be repurposed for other uses due to their deteriorated condition.

The award from the DfT equates to £1.137million from central government funds, with an additional £200,000 contributed by Dorset Council and Network Rail respectively. The total project scheme is estimated to cost £1.537million.

From 2 to 20 March, a Highways team will be removing 25m-50m of track in the Pavilion Car Park next to the old station platform on the harbourside, to learn how best to complete any future removal.

Cllr Ray Bryan, Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment at Dorset Council, said:

“We are delighted to have been successful in our bid to secure additional funding to carry out this work. The removal of the old tracks will help keep our roads safe for both cyclists and pedestrians, which we also hope will result in a reduction in vehicle emissions as more people take to walking and cycling in the area. The scheme should also reduce associated road maintenance costs and improve access to key development sites within the Weymouth regeneration area.”

Cllr Tony Ferrari, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Commercial and Assets at Dorset Council, added:

“I’d like to thank our colleagues at the Department for Transport and Network Rail for their support, and we’re very happy that central government money – rather than Dorset Council Tax – will provide most of the funding for this work. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of our investigation work next month so we can pull together an action plan and timetable. This scheme is one of several projects we’re working on that we hope will demonstrate a commitment from Dorset Council to help unlock Weymouth’s potential in the coming years.”

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