Will derailment scupper river boating trade?

PUBLISHED: 15:35 27 June 2007 | UPDATED: 12:35 04 May 2010

The goods train hanging precariously

The goods train hanging precariously

By LESLEY INNES ELY brothers Philip and Chris Wenn fear the derailment of a goods train over the river could wipe out their summer holiday boating trade. They are trying desperately to relocate half their 17-strong hire fleet to a St Ives boatyard in a bi

The scene of the incident

By LESLEY INNES

ELY brothers Philip and Chris Wenn fear the derailment of a goods train over the river could wipe out their summer holiday boating trade.

They are trying desperately to relocate half their 17-strong hire fleet to a St Ives boatyard in a bid to honour holidaymakers' bookings.

But the pair, who have run the Bridge Boatyard for the last 35 years, have been told they will not get a penny in compensation from Network Rail after the River Ouse was shut to boats on Friday.

"I don't know what we are going to do," said Philip. "We have a lot of bookings over the summer and we have had people ringing who have hired boats. Some are being flexible but there will be others who will be unhappy and there could be cancellations.

"We have worked through the winter to get the boats ready and expected to benefit in the summer.

"We have been told the river could be closed from 14 to 26 weeks which could wipe out the summer. I've been told by a railway representative that we can't claim compensation and it's not something you can insure against. You would think someone should be accountable for this.

"We are in a no win situation."

The bridge closure has left narrow boat owners stranded in St Ives and Ely after being prevented from returning to moorings on each side of the bridge.

Eighteen rowers were also scuppered on Saturday when they tried to attempt the first ever run from Bedford to Denver Sluice, via Ely, in two rowing eights.

After travelling 50 kilometres and negotiating 16 locks the teams were forced to abandon their efforts and stay overnight at the Lazy Otter pub in Stretham before returning home.

The accident in the early hours of Friday morning left two rail wagons full of ballast hanging from the railway bridge over the river after a freight train derailed in the early hours of Friday morning.

The engine pulling 37 wagons was carrying aggregates from Mountsorrel in Leicestershire to Chelmsford, Essex when 11 carriages tilted sideways off the track, tipping some of their load into the river.

Rail officials immediately closed the line, mainly used by freight trains, and officials from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch were sent to the scene.

No-one was hurt in the accident but it has disrupted passenger services run by One Railway between Peterborough and Ipswich. Travellers are being forced to leave the train at Ely and pick up special bus services to Bury St Edmunds station to continue their journeys.

Environment Agency officials have been called in, but have confirmed there is no risk of contamination to the river.

It will, however, have to be dredged before it can be re-opened for boating.

Heavy lifting gear will also have to be brought in to remove the carriages but marshland near the railway bridge has hampered the work.

Now Network Rail, which is responsible for the track, claims a new mile-long stretch of temporary roadway will have to be built to allow access to the bridge which was damaged in the accident.

A spokeswoman said: "We have to be careful not to damage the local environment and we have got to make sure it is safe to get a crane in there.

"Once we have removed the carriageways we can assess the damage. We may need to rebuild the bridge. We are working as hard as we can to sort it out."

British Transport Police have been informed but vandalism on the line has been ruled out and officers are confident the accident was not caused maliciously.


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