17 April 1997

Dairy farmer faces long detour after bridge demolished

By Jonathan Riley

DAIRY producer Harvey Bea-van faces a 10-mile (16km) round trip to grazing ground after the bridge linking his milking parlour and pasture was demolished without warning by railway workers.

The bridge, which crossed the main Hereford to Bristol railway line at Mr Beavans Church Farm, Kilpeck, Herefordshire, will not be replaced until the end of May.

Mr Beavan explained that the line splits the farm into two blocks of land – 16ha (40 acres) next to the buildings which is used for silage making, and 32ha (80 acres) of grazing. "The bridge provided vital access to grazing land earmarked for turnout this month," he said.

But, without warning, contractors working for railway line owners Railtrack, pulled the bridge down. "The only warning we had was that repairs to the bridge would begin in February and would be completed in early March," said Mr Beavan.

"We continued with our normal routine of fertilising ground close to the farm in preparation for silage making," he said. But silage ground will now have to be used for grazing, so the time and money spent on fertilising the land has been wasted.

"It is not just a case of switching silage making to fields on the other side of the line, because ground there is unsuitable," he said.

His concern now is that forage stocks for next winter will be reduced, so feed costs will inevitably rise.

Mr Beavan has now begun to press Railtrack for compensation. But while the company has offered help in special cases, its officials insist Railtrack is not legally liable for the disruption caused.

"All our inquiries have been referred by Railtrack to the contractors, so we have called in the NFU to help us with our claims," said Mr Beavan.

A Railtrack official said the company was unaware of the scale of disruption caused. "We contacted the local council, who told us there would be little disruption and advised us to go ahead with the work," she said.

Without the bridge, Harvey Beavan (right) and his son Andrew face a 10-mile round trip to their grazing fields.