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The Department for Transport (DfT) has identified around 50 sites on the Historical Railways Estate as potentially suitable for new cycle lanes and walking routes.

The proposed project will give a new lease of life to some of the 3,250 abandoned structures, which include disused rail bridges, embankments, and tunnels. 

National Highways, which is managing the Historical Railways Estate, was planning to demolish or infill many of these historic sites until this latest assessment identified a more sustainable approach. The report of 75 structures, which was produced by active travel charity Sustrans, concluded that:

  • 26 structures are potentially suitable for the National Cycle Network (NCN) 
  • 24 structures might be useful for local cycling and walking routes 
  • 25 further structures are not likely to be reused

Huw Merriman MP, chair of the Transport Select Committee, embraces the DfT’s plan to convert disused sites. He said: “This is a welcome reprieve for more than 50 of our historic railway structures. These structures work well with local cycling and walking plans – a valuable contribution to active travel.”

“The mystery is why these historical structures were sentenced to infilling or demolition in the first place – we should think about preservation before destruction.”

However, there’s still a long way to go as the historic sites will need to be structurally surveyed to ensure they are suitable and safe for their new use. Detailed assessments will be carried out in the coming months to see if this pipeline project can be rolled into action.

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