Railway threatened to take council to watchdog over upkeep ‘dereliction’
PUBLISHED: 18:18 03 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:18 03 March 2020
Archant Norfolk 2016
A top Norfolk tourist attraction threatened to refer a council to a national watchdog for an alleged “dereliction” of legally required maintenance.
Broadland District Council owns the Bure Valley Railway, in Aylsham, but was set to sell the asset to the leaseholder, Bure Valley Railway Ltd (BVR Ltd), in 2017.
But the deal stalled and fell through last year after the council instead agreed to hold onto its ownership of the line - and legal responsibilty for maintaining the tracks and fencing either side.
At a meeting of Broadland's overview and scrutiny committee, on Tuesday, March 3, councillors were told £200,000 had been set aside to be spent over three years to repair the railway fencing, as well as other maintenance costs.
But the railway's managing director Andrew Barnes hit out at the council for a "dereliction" of responsibility, saying the work had not been done and that he had been forced to threaten involving the transport regulator to get the council to fulfil its statutory duty.
"We told them 'you've got to do this, you haven't done it and if you don't we're going to have to pass this to the regulator'," he said.
"If you don't do this as a council we're going to have to take this to the Office of Rail and Road to enforce you to do it."
He added: "We'd rather it was in an amiable manner than in a 'see you in court' manner."
He said the railway was frustrated the sale fell through, and added: "We felt we were better placed to do maintenance.
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"Broadland was consistently telling us they don't have resources to do it."
During the meeting, committee chairman Steve Riley said: "Part of the issue is that we weren't doing repairs that we should have been doing.
"That was something I was very critical of. The repairs are a legal obligation on the council."
A council spokesman said the sale did not go ahead after a delay "caused by the statutory requirements of selling the asset".
He added: "During this delay an opportunity arose to secure £1.2m of EU funding which will be used to improve accessibility and visitor experience at the site.
"It will also help ensure the future of the railway and path can be safeguarded as the route is not currently a public right of way.
"We have discussed with BVR Ltd areas that need improvement and cabinet will consider a recommendation to increase the budget for the maintenance of the site and the replacement of the boundary fence."