TALKS are under way to decide the fate of the Weymouth Harbour Tramway.

With the harbour terminal set to be swallowed up by the Pavilion redevelopment, council chiefs and rail bosses must decide what to do with a railway that has no station.

Three options will be on the table - leave the remaining part of the line in place, surface over it or rip it up completely.

Whatever happens it will not be in a hurry, says Partnerships and Special Projects spokesman for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council Howard Legg.

He said: "Progress has been slow but discussions are ongoing. As well as the borough council, the negotiations involve Network Rail and Dorset County Council.

"This has come about because the harbour station and a section of the tramway up to about Devonshire Buildings is part of the Pavilion redevelopment and needs to be acquired from Network Rail.

"A report will be going to the management committee in September to update members.

"We don't envisage any problems although we're dealing with agreements that stretch back over 100 years."

Coun Legg added: "The issue we then face is what to do with the rest of the line. Of course removing it will involve a considerable amount of money.

"Personally I wouldn't want to see something removed for no reason, but it has to be safe.

"Apparently there have been no reportable accidents on the line in 10 years."

The tramway opened in 1865 providing a direct link from the railway station to the quay to serve the Channel Island ferries. Harbourside lines exist elsewhere in Britain but Weymouth was the only place where full-length mainline trains proceeded down a main road.

Regular train services ceased in the 1990s but there have been a number of specials' run by interest groups, with the last one almost 10 years ago. There have also been proposals to turn the line into a tourist attraction with tram services operating on the line.

Readers came out 3-1 in favour of keeping the line in a Dorset Echo reader poll conducted in 2001. But the tramway has also drawn its share of critics who claim it is dangerous.

Weymouth transport historian Brian Jackson said a public inquiry is held before a railway is closed but with no regular services on the tramway he doesn't envisage any problems shutting it.

He said: "It's a dead duck. Every so often people have wild dreams about the tramway, but you have to be realistic.

"It should be consigned to the history books as an interesting feature."

A Network Rail spokesman said: "We are in discussions about the tramway in relation to the Pavilion redevelopment.

"As regards to the future of the tramway we have not yet come to a conclusion and these discussions with the council are ongoing."