What happens to the infrastructure of a heritage railway when it goes out of business?

PTR 444

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Does the track become mothballed indefinitely?
Are the owners forced to remove the track?
Are the owners forced to sell it onto someone else who may redevelop the trackbed for housing?
Can the government or Network Rail take it over?
Can another organisation continue to maintain upkeep of the line without owning or running any rolling stock?

With many heritage railways under threat, these are just some of the questions that have been on my mind. It would be devastating if all the hard work we put into restoring beeching-axed railways over the past 50 years was lost forever.
 
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pdeaves

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The line of route and the assets on it will be someone's private property (ground and assets may not belong to the same someone). If a business 'goes under', the administrators will deal with it in the appropriate way for any failed business - usually but not necessarily sell to a high bidder - to get the best/least-worst return for creditors.
 

PTR 444

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The line of route and the assets on it will be someone's private property (ground and assets may not belong to the same someone). If a business 'goes under', the administrators will deal with it in the appropriate way for any failed business - usually but not necessarily sell to a high bidder - to get the best/least-worst return for creditors.
So does this mean it could potentially end up in the hands of a developer who wishes to tear up the line and build housing on it?
 

Flying Phil

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So the message is .....Donate now... if you can, to your heritage railway of choice(s)......or it may be lost.
 

Bletchleyite

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So the message is .....Donate now... if you can, to your heritage railway of choice(s)......or it may be lost.
I think so, yes. The best outcome I would expect to a closure would be Sustrans buying it to use as a cycleway - at least the alignment would be saved - but I would imagine there is high risk of alignments being lost entirely.
 

pdeaves

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So does this mean it could potentially end up in the hands of a developer who wishes to tear up the line and build housing on it?
Subject to planning permission and all that sort of thing, yes. A heritage railway line has no special protections.

It is, however, not beyond the bounds of possibility, especially for the larger enterprises, that the local authority, seeing the tourist impact, may muster up some sort of short term support. It would be foolish to rely on that happening, though.
 

paul1609

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Quite a few of the heritage railways trackbed is actually owned by the local authority, off the top of my head West Somerset, Swanage, Great Central, East Lancs there will be others. The Wensleydale is still owned by network Rail.
 

Sulzer:1999

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I have often wondered what would happen when a local authority who owned a preserved railway’s infrastructure came under the control of politicians who were not at all supportive?
All it would take is for a ambitious councillor to start pushing their agenda, I‘ve has personal experience of this. These types of characters are great at starting subtle campaigns of mis-information, preservation groups can be easy soft targets at election time.
I understand this is what happened with the West Yorkshire Transport Museum/Transpierience attraction in Bradford in the late ‘90’s.
 
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Fortunately many have separate operating companies more at risk of insolvency, to other bodies that perhaps own infrastructure or rolling stock. Locomotives can also be owned by individuals who only lend them for use, perhaps for financial reward, or for maintenance agreement to the benefit of both parties. Apart from station buildings and depots/yards the land comprises a narrow strip, with often poor access, through agricultural land of comparatively low value. Fortunately unattractive to developers, one of the biggest threats possibly comes from cycling pressure groups, who seem to have much influence over local councils. I hope we manage through whatever means to keep all heritage lines as railways, as they were originally built for, with much hard labour, and similarly restored again this time with unpaid labour.
 

Sulzer:1999

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A good example of a railway facing challenges is the Adirondack Railroad in upstate New York, they’ve been under pressure from a body with big cash reserves Hell bent on closing private railways & turning them into ‘Rail trails’.
They also had a local mayor turn up with a bull dozer to stop train operations. Part of the stunt was to cause ‘outrage’ at rolling stock having old lead based paint on them.
It's only a matter of time before some council decides that that strip of land now being used as a siding for example could be better sold off to developers.
 

Ashley Hill

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There was a thread on here in 2013 about defunct heritage railways/centres (couldn't figure how to transfer link). Perhaps looking at what became of those sites could give you an answer.
 

paul1609

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Fortunately many have separate operating companies more at risk of insolvency, to other bodies that perhaps own infrastructure or rolling stock. Locomotives can also be owned by individuals who only lend them for use, perhaps for financial reward, or for maintenance agreement to the benefit of both parties. Apart from station buildings and depots/yards the land comprises a narrow strip, with often poor access, through agricultural land of comparatively low value. Fortunately unattractive to developers, one of the biggest threats possibly comes from cycling pressure groups, who seem to have much influence over local councils. I hope we manage through whatever means to keep all heritage lines as railways, as they were originally built for, with much hard labour, and similarly restored again this time with unpaid labour.
Maybe in the midlands or north, In the South-east the station sites would be uber attractive to developers as rural brownfield sites with many a short walk from attractive market towns. Think executive homes at £1 million plus. There would be a queue of developers quite happy to hand over a few miles of stunning bicycle trails to sustrans in return for planning permission.
 

Journeyman

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Quite a few of the heritage railways trackbed is actually owned by the local authority, off the top of my head West Somerset, Swanage, Great Central, East Lancs there will be others. The Wensleydale is still owned by network Rail.
The Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway trackbed is owned by a subsidiary of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society at the Bo'ness end, with the rest leased from Falkirk Council. I wouldn't be surprised if mixed arrangements like this are common, especially where initially only a short section was opened, with later extensions. Some railways might cross council boundaries too.
 

Midnight Sun

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With the case of the Swanage Railway. Most of the trackbed is owned by Dorset County Council, the station site at Swanage including the Engine shed and Turntable is owned by Swanage Town Council.
 

paul1609

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The Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway trackbed is owned by a subsidiary of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society at the Bo'ness end, with the rest leased from Falkirk Council. I wouldn't be surprised if mixed arrangements like this are common, especially where initially only a short section was opened, with later extensions. Some railways might cross council boundaries too.
Indeed quite a few railways cross boundaries with my railway the Kent & East Sussex Railway its not too surprising but the Spa Valley is also in both counties, The Bluebell runs through both East and West Sussex. I'm sure theres a lot of others.
 

61653 HTAFC

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I have often wondered what would happen when a local authority who owned a preserved railway’s infrastructure came under the control of politicians who were not at all supportive?
All it would take is for a ambitious councillor to start pushing their agenda, I‘ve has personal experience of this. These types of characters are great at starting subtle campaigns of mis-information, preservation groups can be easy soft targets at election time.
I understand this is what happened with the West Yorkshire Transport Museum/Transpierience attraction in Bradford in the late ‘90’s.
I remember Transperience when it was briefly open, had a Hungarian tram and a Czechoslovakian (I think) trolleybus doing site tours on the short demonstration line. It wasn't a bad little attraction but rather ironically for a place focused on public transport it was only accessible by car.

A couple of the buildings still stand, and in a further ironic twist it would now be easily accessed by public transport thanks to Low Moor station now open a few minutes walk away.
 

Vespa

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I remember Transperience I went shortly after it opened, they had the Bradford last trolleybus there, it couldn't go under the bridge as it was too low.
I thought it was ok, it lacked atmosphere though, the pipey music made it worse.
 

route:oxford

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Shouldn't the first course of action be to register it as an "Asset of Community Value"?

Although would it be a terrible thing if the closure of a heritage railway resulted in the return of the route to the National Rail network?
 

duffield

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The Lavender Line would look shaky if Lewes-Uckfield is reopened. Likewise isn't there some random idea floating around about running trams over the ELR?
At least with battery/overhead trams now being a thing (e.g. in Birmingham) you wouldn't need overhead wires to run onto the ELR (but I'm sure there are many other good reasons this won't happen).
 

Gostav

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A good example of a railway facing challenges is the Adirondack Railroad in upstate New York, they’ve been under pressure from a body with big cash reserves Hell bent on closing private railways & turning them into ‘Rail trails’.
They also had a local mayor turn up with a bull dozer to stop train operations. Part of the stunt was to cause ‘outrage’ at rolling stock having old lead based paint on them.
It's only a matter of time before some council decides that that strip of land now being used as a siding for example could be better sold off to developers.
I think this due to they have strong anti-railway culture, yes, l believe the environment question also is a reason of challenge heritage railway project in Mainland Europe and UK but the major problem just shortage of money.
 

6Gman

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So does this mean it could potentially end up in the hands of a developer who wishes to tear up the line and build housing on it?
Well, potentially. But railway lines are not very attractive to developers given the need to remove everything on them and - fundamentally - it's pretty difficult to build houses on long narrow strips of land.

And there's the little matter of planning permission . . .
 

Midnight Sun

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Well, potentially. But railway lines are not very attractive to developers given the need to remove everything on them and - fundamentally - it's pretty difficult to build houses on long narrow strips of land.

And there's the little matter of planning permission . . .
But they are very attractive to Highway Engineers.
 

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