Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Rubbish cleared for steam trains

Nicholas Owen in digger
Nicholas Owen operated the excavator to get work under way

Work has got under way to clear a railway cutting filled with domestic waste in preparation for extending a steam railway in Sussex.

The Bluebell Railway currently runs for nine miles from Sheffield Park to Kingscote but the extension will take it another two miles to East Grinstead.

BBC news presenter Nicholas Owen, who is a volunteer at the railway, started digging with the giant excavator.

The machine was also used on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link through Kent.

Imberhorne cutting was filled with domestic waste from East Grinstead after the British Rail line closed.

People will be able to come down from London and get straight on to the Bluebell Railway.
Nicholas Owen

"Environmental law in the 60s and 70s was much more relaxed than it is now," said project director Chris White.

"You couldn't adopt that approach now - waste has to go to proper registered landfill sites.

"The rubbish looks like grey mud but you can pick out the odd frozen pea packet or bit of plastic, though there was a good deal less plastic around in the 60s and 70s than there is now."

Tests have found the 125,000 cubic yards (96,000 cubic metres) of waste in the 546yd (500m) cutting is not toxic.

It is expected to take nearly a year to clear the waste, at a cost of 5m, which has been partly financed by selling 1 shares in the railway.

It is hoped the extension will open in 2010, with steam trains entering East Grinstead over the 10-arch Imberhorne viaduct.

Nicholas Owen said he hoped to be on the first train.

"It will mean we will be linked up again to the national rail network," he said.

"People will be able to come down from London and get straight on to the Bluebell Railway.

"It is bound to encourage tourism in the area.

"It is great for the railway and great for the locality."

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