Family welcomes safety measure planA FAMILY whose lives were changed dramatically by Weymouth’s harbourside railway today welcomed an announcement it is to be filled in.

The harbour ‘tramway’ has been blamed for causing multiple accidents – including a horrendous crash which critically injured policewoman Alison Palmer.

The Dorset Echo has seen leaked correspondence revealing how Dorset County Council engineers will fill in the grooves between the ferry terminal and Westham Bridge with a special material in a bid to boost cycle tourism.

The treatment can be reversed so it does not necessarily mean the end of the line – but Network Rail which owns the track says it wants it pulled up eventually.

News of the works has been welcomed by the Palmer family of Weymouth who have been living with the effects of Alison’s life-changing accident 22 years ago.

The mother of triplets was left with severe brain damage after her patrol car slid on wet railway lines in Commercial Road and hit a wall. Mrs Palmer was in a coma for more than seven weeks but made a remarkable recovery. Now 53, she still uses a wheelchair.

Her husband Vernon, a retired police officer, said: “Our family life has been turned upside down as a result of that line.

“They are dangerous and should be removed. Anyone who thinks they should be kept as a tourist attraction is living in cloud cuckoo land in my view as most of the traffic is directed around the harbour now so you couldn’t run a train down there.”

Mr Palmer, 57, added: “We welcome this move to fill in the lines.

“We would like to see them removed but this is a start.”

The tramway is viewed as an important part of the area’s industrial heritage. But it hasn’t been used for years and the grooves in the middle of the road have been labelled a hazard.

Emails seen by the Echo detail how Weymouth is being included in Cycle West, an EU-funded initiative to promote the South West, Channel Islands and France as a destination for cycle tourism.

Custom House Quay and Commercial Road where the harbour tramway runs will be part of the Cycle West route so it is planned to make the rails safe.

The council would use a tar and sand mix to infill the rails then cap it with a crack sealant.

The treatment would stop cyclists skidding and getting their wheels stuck. The process is reversible so the rails can be brought back into use.

The emails from a Dorset County Council transport officer to a Network Rail manager make reference to a Dorset Echo article from earlier this year which reported how harbour users were calling for the lines to be removed before someone is killed.

Retired engineer Michael Walker-Banbury who broke his ankle in a motorcycle accident blamed on the tramway has long called for it to be consigned to the history books. Mr Walker-Banbury, 64, of Southill, wrote off his bike in the accident in 2006.

He said: “I am delighted the line is being filled in. It’s long overdue.

“It’s shameful we’ve had to wait so long for the authorities to make it safe.”

Michel Hooper-Immins of Weymouth has taken a lifelong interest in the tramway and believes it has a special part in Weymouth’s history. He welcomed the proposal because it means the line will be preserved.

Council plans to complete work in time for Games

DORSET County Council principal transport planner Adam Bows said: “We have explored the feasibility of putting a reversible in-fill between the rails which would prevent bike wheels from getting stuck and improve skid resistance.

“We would like to be able to complete the project so that we can promote the area as a cycling destination during the Olympics.”

He said the authority would consult with local councillors, stakeholder groups, businesses and the public.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “We have received a proposal from the council to put a temporary fill into the tracks. We have indicated to the council that we have no objection. In the long term it is still our aspiration to remove the tracks. This is subject to further consultation.”

Lines' history

THE Weymouth Harbour Tramway opened in 1865 providing a direct link from the railway station to the quay to serve the Channel Island ferries. In its early years horses were used and steam locomotives started being used regularly from 1880.

Harbourside lines exist elsewhere in Britain but Weymouth was the only place where full-length mainline trains proceeded down a main road.

Readers came out 3-1 in favour of keeping the line in a Dorset Echo reader poll conducted in 2001.