Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Friday, April 01, 2011
cycleways and railways - the future's big two!
Personally I would like to see us broaden the aims of the New S&D to build a railway AND cycleway along (or near) the route, and would welcome your comments on this idea.
The email reads -
I am rather confused with the ambitious aims of this project which seem to contradict current policy within the local authorities.
Tremendous effort is being put in by North Dorset District and Dorset County Councils to re-open the line where possible for cyclist, equestrians and walkers.
Understandably, this has massive public support. Such use will be available to a wide range of users and hopefully those on low incomes to.It will have a minimum impact on the environment and will add to the public enjoyment of the countryside through which it passes. As this is predominantly a single track line I ask how you propose to re-open a railway and accommodate the Dorset Cycleway ?
I am aware how the Bodmin and Wenford railway intends to relay track on what has become the Camel Trail, however, there is room on the railway earth works to accommodate both. I do not believe that would be the case in Dorset.
Do you have the support of any of the local authorities ?
I find this a bizarre and perhaps over ambitious project. I am both a rail enthusiast and cyclist, but your project throws me completely.
I would be interested to hear from you.
My response was
The first thing to bear in mind is that this is a long term project, which will take decades rather than years to achieve.
The second point is that the S&D is predominantly a double track main line, there were a few short stretches of single track (Broadstone-Creekmoor, Blandford to Templecombe and Midford to Bath) so there is plenty of room for both a cycleway and a railway throughout. As far as I am aware the Dorset cycleway is mainly on double track sections of the route. Even where the line was single track most of the earthworks, bridges etc were built for double track – this was common on many single track railways, even branch lines.
It’s also important to bear in mind that we believe that Peak Oil and to a lesser extent Climate Change will force a huge rebuilding of the rail network, not simply a reversal of the Beeching cuts (which is of course already happening) but also lines to places that previously never had trains. We also believe that the road network will fall into gradual disuse, some of these roads may well then be converted into cycleways, bridleways etc.
The conversion of railways to cycleways was a bit of a stop gap measure to preserve the physical rights of ways of these lines which will be so essential in the future. We are just doing our tiny bit with a small project to ensure that the S&D gets to the top of the queue as railways are rebuilt. The fact that we are, in the main, railway enthusiasts too (with many cyclists on board as well) hopefully will ensure that the S&D is reinstated with the full participation of the people in the communities we pass through, rather than be bulldozered through by a government intent on restoring railways at all costs, which will be the most likely outcome as Peak Oil hits full on.
We already work closely with Sustrans at Midford and certainly intend to create both a top class railway and cycleway between Bath and the coast. The best thing is to get involved to ensure that your views are always to the fore, though as sustainable transport enthusiasts we are all just as keen on cycleways as we are on railways, rather like yourself!
DCC is certainly supportive of us but we have deliberately kept the project low key until recently, but a rapidly increasing membership is changing that! How things are now are not really much of a pointer as to how things will be in the future, but I’m sure you’ll agree that rail will be an enormously important part of the sustainable transport mix in an energy constrained future. For all of a bike’s utility we can’t really expect them to ever haul 1000 tonne loads over the Mendips! That will be our job ...