Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Rail line cycle path plan in doubt due to 2017 electrification

PLANS to build a cycle path along the railway line between Henley and Shiplake have been cast into doubt by

PLANS to build a cycle path along the railway line between Henley and Shiplake have been cast into doubt by the electrification of the track.

The Henley branch line, which goes from Twyford through Wargrave and Shiplake to Henley is due to be electrified in 2017 as part of a project to electrify the Great Western main line from London to Bristol.

Shiplake Parish Council has identified land alongside the track as one of three possible routes for a cycle path and has been quoted £6,500 for a feasibility study by green travel charity Sustrans.

But now it has been urged not to do anything that could prevent a second track being added.

Last week, Network Rail community relations adviser Richard Turner gave a presentation to the council on what was planned and answered questions from residents.

Chris Batten, who is on the steering group for the village’s community plan, asked how the cycle path plan would be affected. He said: “The existing track is to one side of the old double track layout. What would we need to do to safeguard the alignment so that if this is chosen as a suitable route we can put the cycle path there?”

Mr Turner said a full plan would need to be submitted to Network Rail with details of the proposed route to see if it would affect any possible doubling of the track.

He added: “There are no plans to double the track at the moment and we have cycle paths on our land but if it would preclude the doubling of the track it’s something we would need to consider.”

Last month, Henley Town Council decided not to contribute to the feasibility study until it knows how electrification would affect the proposed route.

The other possible routes are alongside the A4155 or the Thames towpath. In a community plan survey, 80 per cent of Shiplake residents who responded rated the cycle path as important.

In his presentation, Mr Turner said that as well as installing overhead lines, there would need to be work on bridges along the track which are too low and parapets would need to be raised to 1.8m. Masts would need to be placed about every 50m along the track.

He assured residents that there would be as little impact on the environment as possible. Mr Turner said: “We have had discussions with Natural England regarding protected species such as bats and dormice and will carry out a survey before work starts.Vegetation will need to be removed up the 6.6m away from the track. Lower-level plants up to knee height can be allowed but anything more and it would go.

“We have also told our contractor not to remove vegetation that acts as a natural barrier, such as garden hedges.

“I would be lying if I said there was not an environmental impact but we are working with the National Trust and landowners with a view to replanting any lost plants on their land.”

* What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard.co.uk

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