Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'

The original Somerset and Dorset Railway closed very controversially in 1966. It is time that decision, made in a very different world, was reversed. We now have many councillors, MPs, businesses and individuals living along the line supporting us. Even the Ministry of Transport supports our general aim. The New S&D was formed in 2009 with the aim of rebuilding as much of the route as possible, at the very least the main line from Bath (Britain's only World Heritage City) to Bournemouth (our premier seaside resort); as well as the branches to Wells, Glastonbury and Wimborne. We will achieve this through a mix of lobbying, trackbed purchase and restoration of sections of the route as they become economically viable. With Climate Change, road congestion, capacity constraints on the railways and now Peak Oil firmly on the agenda we are pushing against an open door. We already own Midford just south of Bath, and are restoring Spetisbury under license from DCC, but this is just the start. There are other established groups restoring stations and line at Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone, and the fabulous narrow gauge line near Templevcombe, the Gartell Railway.

There are now FIVE sites being actively restored on the S&D and this blog will follow what goes on at all of them!
Midford - Midsomer Norton - Gartell - Shillingstone - Spetisbury

Our Aim:

Our aim is to use a mix of lobbying, strategic track-bed purchase, fundraising and encouragement and support of groups already preserving sections of the route, as well as working with local and national government, local people, countryside groups and railway enthusiasts (of all types!) To restore sections of the route as they become viable.
Whilst the New S&D will primarily be a modern passenger and freight railway offering state of the art trains and services, we will also restore the infrastructure to the highest standards and encourage steam working and steam specials over all sections of the route, as well as work very closely with existing heritage lines established on the route.

This blog contains my personal views. Anything said here does not necessarily represent the aims or views of any of the groups currently restoring, preserving or operating trains over the Somerset and Dorset Railway!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

one step closer ...

Bath's Two Tunnels Greenway cycle path opens

The Two Tunnels Greenway
Almost 2,000 people attended the opening of the path

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A £4m cycle and walking path with the longest cycling tunnel in Britain has opened with a mass cycle ride.

The Two Tunnels Greenway route opens up two former railway tunnels nearly 50 years after they closed.

Almost 2,000 people attended the mass cycle to mark the opening of the route which runs from Bath to Midford.

The path goes through Linear Park, on through the disused Devonshire and Combe Down railway tunnels, and over the Tucking Mill Viaduct.

At over a mile long, the Combe Down tunnel will be the longest cycling tunnel in Britain and will feature an interactive light and sound installation.

One million users

The Two Tunnels Group - a team of 11 cycling, walking and railway enthusiasts - first kicked off the plan to reopen the tunnels for public use seven years ago.

Frank Tompson, chair of the group, has worked with cycling charity Sustrans - who built the route - and Bath and North East Somerset Council to create the path.

"It's been a long journey since some of us stood between the bricked-up Devonshire and Combe Down tunnels and said, 'wouldn't it be a good idea if…'," he said.

"I am really pleased that we are finally in a position to open the route to the public and estimates suggest that up to a million people might use the path each year."

The Two Tunnels Greenway route
The tunnels have low level LED lighting

The project is part of Sustrans five-year project to extend the National Cycle Network into the heart of communities.

One of the first cyclists through the tunnel was Bath schoolboy Jamie Gant.

"It feels like I've gone back to the past but there are modern lights and modern stuff and there is no track. It was kind of a bit cold," he said.

Also trying out the new path was Winter Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams MBE who unveiled a portrait bench of herself, WWI veteran Harry Patch and a Roman solider.

Williams, from Bath, said: "This is so exciting for Bath and the community, there are so many people here.

"It is only going to encourage more people to get on their bikes and go out for walks and after the London Olympics ."

A few years ago I walked through the long tunnel and it was quite an experience. Next time I go up to Midford I'll take the bike and cycle through. Although this section of line doesn't feature in the New S&D's first tranche of reopenings - we'd prefer to go via Limpley Stoke to access the Network - in the longer term protection of the route can only be good for the railway. This should also make the visitor centre and shop at Midford much busier once it is open.


RailWest said...

I went to the Two Tunnels on Saturday. From my observations then, and those to whom I have spoken who have used them since, there do seem to be a couple of potential problems:-

1. The lighting level is NOT continuous thru' the tunnels - in effect there are areas of dark separated by 'pools' of light. It is very easy NOT to see people in the dark areas, especially if they have only dark clothing and no hi-viz or lights/torches.

2. Poor 'path sense' by cyclists, who ride 2 or 3 abreast despite instructions to 'keep left'.

Combination of both the above resulted in a number of 'near misses'. Unlike a normal straight path in daylight, converging cyclists/walkers often can not see each other until it is too late.

Some modification will be needed both to the lighting and the common sense of its users, if what is otherwise a great attraction is not going to be spoilt.

PS. It would appear that not everyone welcomes the idea. One cyclist who visited the Hope & Anchor after his trip had such a poor reception he vowed never to go there again!

Sunshiner said...

Are there clear divisions through the tunnel for cyclists and walkers, in both directions?

As for the Hope and Anchor - their food is fantastic and I've always had an excellent welcome in there, but that's usually in the week when it's not too busy. It may have just been a grumpy staff member.

I'm hoping to get up to Midford on Wednesday and may even take the bike to see for myself!

RailWest said...

I went all the way yesterday. There are notices to say Keep Left, but that is all.

Problem is, both cyclists and walkers share the same side for each direction of travel. Hardly anyone wears any form of reflective clothing or carries a light. If you are walking, then cyclists come up FAST and SILENT behind you, and often neither can see the other.

Already (according to the press) one walker has been hit by a cyclist had got a broken rib.

It is COLD in the tunnels. Certainly if walking, take an extra layer to wear. Take a torch - you may need it if you drop anything and want to find it again!

Derek Reese said...

When these "trackbed trespassers" are evicted from the tunnels, along with their LED lighting, where will the cycle track be routed? Anyone who is stupid enough to build a cycle path on a disused railway that is obviously going to be rebuilt deserves to be "evicted".