Thou­sands sign pe­ti­tion to save minia­ture rail­way

Steam Railway (UK) - - Narrow Gauge -

More than 6,000 peo­ple signed an on­line pe­ti­tion in Jan­uary to protest against a lo­cal author­ity’s plans con­cern­ing a minia­ture rail­way. Es­tab­lished in 1949, the 650‑yard 10¼in gauge Poole Park Rail­way, in Dorset, has come to the end of its cur­rent lease, and op­er­a­tor Chris Bullen had been told to re­move all track by March 1. Poole Coun­cil in­tends to in­vite bids from ‘ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tors’ to re­build the rail­way com­pletely. Ob­jec­tors be­lieve that a new rail­way will re­quire fenc­ing to com­ply with cur­rent reg­u­la­tions, chang­ing the char­ac­ter of the ex­ist­ing un­fenced line. The Health and Safety Ex­ec­u­tive’s guid­ance on minia­ture rail­ways, how­ever, sug­gests that op­er­a­tors should con­sider erect­ing fenc­ing in places where mem­bers of the public are likely to con­gre­gate, such as sta­tions, or in ar­eas where the driver does not have a clear view of both sides of the track. Mr Bullen, who has op­er­ated the rail­way since 2004, es­ti­mates that it will cost £200,000 to re­build it and £30,000 to fence it. A coun­cil spokesman told the Bournemouth Daily Echo that ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tors would at­tract the nec­es­sary in­vest­ment to de­velop the at­trac­tion, and re­mov­ing the track would en­sure all bids could be made on an ob­jec­tive ba­sis. How­ever, af­ter the pe­ti­tion se­cured over 6,000 sig­na­tures in less than 24 hours, Poole Coun­cil an­nounced that the track could re­main in place dur­ing the bid­ding process, a coun­cil­lor say­ing that Mr Bullen had mis­un­der­stood the coun­cil’s re­quire­ments due to the ‘hur­ried na­ture of pro­ceed­ings’. On peak days, the rail­way runs Ex­moor Steam Rail­way 0‑4‑2T Ge­orge, built in 2010. The rail­way’s web­site is www.poolepark­ A ‘save Poole Park Rail­way’ Face­book page has also been set up.

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