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Of Roads, Railways and Cycleways

Introduction bits
Welcome to the Wye Valley Railway
Full History
Abridged History
Location Maps
 
How would we re-open it?
Main Scheme
Part 1: Wye Valley Junction to Netherhope
Part 2: Tidenham Tunnel
Part 3: Tintern Quarry to Tintern
Part 4: Tintern Station
Part 5: Brockweir to St Briavels
Part 6: St Briavels to Redbrook
Part 7: Wyesham to Monmouth
Part 8: Signalling
Part 9: Rolling Stock
Part 10: Imagine the Journey
Appendices
Local Entertainment
Does that picture really show that?
From Rags to Power
Other pages on this topic
Of Roads, Railways and Cycleways
Frequently Asked Questions
 
The Railway
Interesting snippets of history
The originally proposed alignment
Getting money off ex-directors
Completing the Railway
Social and economic effect of building culverts
Later Wye Valley Railtours
Remains of the route
It really is 50 years ago...
The Abandoned Wye Valley Railways
Figures
Tables
 
The Area
Locations
Wye Valley Journey
Brockweir Bridge: Dibden v Skirrow
 
Wye Valley Railway Menu

Here we examine the question which you all want the answer to: why bother to re-instate the railway? The Wye Valley looks fine as it is.

Yes, ok, but....

The Wye Valley is not fine as it is. For one thing, the easiest way to Tintern from the South is via Chepstow. The road comes past Chepstow racecourse. This is a very major attraction, and on race days and market days it is advisable to bring an evening meal if you wish to return along the A466 after 5 o' clock. You'll have plenty of time to eat it while you queue for the traffic jam at the race course, then at the roadworks, then at the roundabout outside Chepstow, and finally as you stagger onto the M48 and prepare to drive along the former M4 to join the newer, equally crowded version so you can get out of the area and return home. Sustrans, the cycleway charity, want to solve this problem by building a cycleway up the WVR from Tidenham to Tintern, which will not be of much use to walkers and idle tourists.

To show what use we think it'll be, we are now going to scroll happily through various points of interest under some neat and tidy headings, with a scoring system for totting up at the end. So that the cycleway doesn't come off too badly, we will compare it and the railway to car users of the current road. The winner of each point gets two points, the middle option one point and the loser gets no points.

Opening Point

Road: It's a road. It's there and it's convenient. People drive, cycle and occasionally walk on it. There's a bus service. Where have you been for the last century?

Rail: The railway will provide safe, efficient and frequent transport over a 15-mile stretch of the valley, allowing those without a car to start bike, foot or canoe based trips at Monmouth.

Cycleway: The cycleway will offer sustainable environmentally friendly transport for all between Chepstow and Tintern.

On the downside for each, it should be noted that:

  1. the railway is inflexible and expensive,
  2. the road is loud, polluting and dangerous,
  3. the cycleway will be costly and, while it will make Tintern more accessible to cyclists, it won't make trips to Llandogo, Redbrook or Monmouth any easier than they are already.

1) Construction costs

The road is already there so is free, the railway and its trains will cost about £40million based on our current estimate (or about £2.6million per mile) and the cycleway hasn't put out a complete figure yet (although we do have a figure of Tintern village to Brockweir costing £750,000, which, since it will be one of the most expensive miles involved, sounds like an underestimate). Most of the costs for the railway and the cycleway - new drainage, rock bolting and repairing rail-associated structures - will be pretty much the same.

Road: 2 points (total 2 out of 2). Rail: 1 point (total 1 out of 2). Cycleway: 0 points (total 0 out of 2).

2) Vehicle purchase costs

Point 1 has to be balanced against a decent car costing the user a further £10,000, a decent bike costing about £300 (plus another £100 on locks, lights and a helmet) and trains not costing the user anything. However, the car is £10,000 for up to 8 people and the bike is £400 per head. While this doesn't affect the overall scores, it is worth bearing in mind.

Road: 0 (2/4). Rail: 2 (3/4). Cycleway: 1 (1/4).

3) Maintenance costs

Your average car costs something along the lines of £2,500 per year to run - £1,000 for insurance, £300 for road tax, £200 for the MoT and £2,000 for the 50% per year depreciation (if your car is new it'll be much more than £2,000 per year; if it's 10 years old it's worthless and can't depreciate any more; if it's 40 years old it's vintage and you keep it in the garage for special occasions). Meanwhile your average bike costs about £100 per year to look after through general wear and tear - perhaps more if you insist on replacing your locks, lights and helmet - and the maintenance costs of the track and train are included in the fares. Once again, the car costs are constant and the bike costs go up for each additional user.

Road: 0 (2/6). Rail: 2(5/6). Cycleway: 1 (2/6).

4) Daily usage costs

Petrol will cost your car somewhere between £10 and £15 per week unless you never use it. A train from Monmouth to Chepstow will cost about £3.50 return (£21 for one person over 6 days) and the bike - unless it breaks and you have to find a bus - is completely free. However, that £15 is constant for up to 8 people; 8 people on the train for a week will cost £168. We will point out that the average loading of the average car is just under 2 people and squeeze the train into second place on that. (It is a case of what you gain on the swings you lose on the roundabouts, however, since the train fare includes all those big maintenance costs which the other two forms of transport were walloped for in Point 3).

Road: 1 (2/8). Rail: 0 (5/8). Cycleway: 2 (4/8).

5) Likelihood of encountering a traffic jam and congestion caused

In 1985 British Rail asked the nation if you have ever seen the following

  • A train jam
  • A train with a puncture
  • A train being stopped for speeding
  • A train stopping so the driver could do some work

The full advert can be found here or here by the way.

However, saying that trains don't end up queuing for hours in the same way as cars would be unfair, so we will substitute overcrowding for traffic jams. Happily this is a rural branchline, so there will be hardly any passengers and therefore very little overcrowding. It should also be noted that, except when it gets really chronic, overcrowding does not prevent trains from reaching their destination on time. Cyclists crow at length about not getting stuck in jams and certainly, except when you encounter red lights or a traffic jam on a narrow road this is quite true. It is even more true if you are on a traffic-free railway line with no traffic lights which has been lifted specially for you. Meanwhile, we all know that the idea of traffic jams was only invented for the benefit of car drivers.

Road: 0 (3/10). Rail: 1 (6/10). Cycleway: 2 (6/10).

6) Likelihood of encountering vandalism or theft

This is an opportunity for the car to score, since it is not a matter of routine for people's cars to be vandalised beyond immediate repair or stolen while they are at work. Trains encounter occasional problems with signalling cable mysteriously vanishing but since we want to use radio-based signalling there won't be any cable to remove. The Great Train Robbery of 1963 was the last time of any note that a train was stolen and that time, having found that they didn't know how to drive it, the thieves abandoned the train a mile down the line anyway. Meanwhile the Founder, having had experience in this field, has pointed out that he has had rude things said to him more often while cycling than while engaging in rail travel and that, having once had his bike stolen (from outside Cardiff Crown Court, just down the road from Cardiff Central Police Station and from within range of a CCTV camera) he expects us to regard this problem as endemic.

Road: 2(5/12). Rail: 1 (7/12). Cycleway: 0 (6/12).

7) Convenience of commuting to South Welsh cities

The car offers a direct door-to-door journey with certain issues relating to traffic jams but otherwise a fairly lazy route. The train offers a fairly direct service station-to-station which has to be augmented by a walk, cycle, car ride or bus journey at each end (although at the City end a journey from Cardiff Central or Newport to a more out-of-town location is in the opposite direction to where the crowds are going so buses should be quite quiet). The bike doesn't offer the link.

Road: 2 (7/14). Rail: 1 (8/14). Cycleway: 0 (6/14)

8) Speed of commuting to South Welsh cities

The car journey is being increased by additional speed limits upon the way and so once traffic jams are added in the average journey from Monmouth to Cardiff will take about ¾ of an hour. The rail journey is currently expected to take a little over 1¼ hours with up to 22 intermediate stops. The journey on a bike would take the better part of a day.

Road: 2 (9/16). Rail: 1 (9/16). Cycleway: 0 (6/16).

9) Comfort of commuting to South Welsh cities

While in the car you can put on the radio you are unfortunately stuck with sitting down for 45 minutes and concentrating on where you're going - often in heavy traffic and with one of the worst bits of the intercity motorway network to contend with. The train allows headphones and on an electric train you'll be able to hear what you're playing on fairly minimal volume. Meanwhile you have the freedom to eat meals, do work, use the toilet, sleep, have an alcoholic beverage, play games or admire the scenery whilst on the move. The journey on a bike involves a lengthy and sweaty trip on an uncomfortable saddle.

Road: 1 (10/18). Rail: 2 (11/18). Cycleway: 0 (6/18).

10) Flexibility of commuting to South Welsh cities

This area is intended to measure whether you can, at a moment's notice, decide to engage in your commute. The car allows you to do so but you do have to walk to the car first (which may be a little distance in the cities) and of course there is the issue of what happens if someone has borrowed the car to go shopping. Since people tend not to share bikes and they can be arranged to be parked very conveniently for your place of work so neither of these is an issue. The train requires you to walk to the station and wait for the next train.

Road: 1 (11/20). Rail: 0 (11/20). Cycleway: 2 (8/20).

11) Environmental impact

This area is going to be taken in a wide-ranging manner looking at the impact of the actual journey, the construction of the vehicle and the provision of fuel.The car is driven off Middle-Eastern petroleum brought over here in a large oil tanker and refined by setting fire to some of it. We would like our electric train to be powered by burning waste but even if that proves to be possible its energy supplies will probably have to be topped up by burning coal brought down from Merthyr Tydfil by a large diesel locomotive whose fuel has come from the same source as the car. The cyclist is powered by food and consequently has to eat more than other humans who burn less energy while going to sleep on the train or behind the wheel. This fuel is largely delivered by big lorries (powered by Middle-Eastern petroleum) and some of it may have been flown in from overseas (on planes powered by Middle-Eastern petroleum).

The car is manufactured at considerable expense in a big factory, runs for about 8 years and is then disposed of; much of it can be recycled but the interior has to be landfilled. The train is manufactured at greater expense in a big factory, runs for 20 years, undergoes a major overhaul, runs for another 20 years, undergoes life extension and then runs for another 20 years before an economic collapse forces it to be patched up, refurbished and run for another 20 years before it is finally allowed to retire to the Great Traction Maintenance Depot in the Sky (or, alternatively, sold to Eastern Europe and run for another 30 years). Electric trains are noted for their long life expectancies (although perhaps 110 years is an exaggeration). Meanwhile every single cyclist will need at least one bike which will do about 8-10 years before replacement. Bearing in mind that these bikes will, taken together, be considerably larger than the train, it is entirely possible that the train will require less energy to build and dispose of it - although there are all those refurbishments to take into account.

Cars produce a lot of noise and - at night at least - a lot of light. Trains produce fairly minimal noise (just enough to warn of their presence, if that); the headlights are brighter than those on a car but the impact is reduced by there only being one set of headlights going in a given direction per hour, rather than 60 or so. Cyclists produce very little noise, except when calling to each other, and their headlights are not exceptionally bright. How much impact the headlights have depends on how many cyclists there are at night. The lack of noise may be an issue for small animals in the evening. Meanwhile, a cycleway will require Tidenham Tunnel to be illuminated throughout the day, disturbing the bats; this will not be the case with a railway.

The road consists of a 20-foot wide strip of tarmac which offers few opportunities for natural habitats and the perpetual noise and disturbance doesn't encourage animals to reside in hedges and verges. The railway will offer a 15-mile nature reserve alongside its ballasted trackbed while the cycleway will only offer a 4-mile one; however, the cycleway won't require rails, sleepers and substations.

Every journey made by the car obviously has a notable effect on the environment; however, a lot of the cyclists' journeys will have this effect too. Visitors to the valley bringing their bikes for a cycle will often end up strapping them to the car, ruining the aerodynamics of the vehicle. They will tend not to come by train - something which is partly the fault of British Rail, which neglected to provide their Sprinter units with cycle accommodation (there evidently weren't any cycling lobbies around in the mid-1980s to talk someone out of this failing). Most users of the railway will come to the valley by rail, although those arriving from Gloucester or at the Monmouth end will be forced to come by car. Although the main aim of our additional steam trains will be to attract those parties who currently go to Tintern by coach, the timetable will be written to make it possible for South Welsh passengers to come by train with a minimal changing time at Tidenham. There will therefore be very few car journeys involved in re-opening the railway.

For longer-distance journeys the bike-owner will be forced to find alternative transport or go slowly, as mentioned in Points 7-10. Many cyclists will find themselves, for whatever reason, using the car. If there is no railway in the Wye Valley itself this will be more convenient than trying to find Chepstow station, particularly since when one is going away for a long period it is preferable to either take the car with you or leave it in the garage. The environmental damage of using the car on long-distance journeys is already considered above. Meanwhile the train will offer access to a wide-range of convenient long-distance links (including international ones if it runs through to Rhoose) and thereby discourage use of the car at all on longer journeys.

It is on this last basis that the winning score narrowly goes to the railway.

Road: 0 (11/22). Rail: 2 (13/22). Cycleway: 1 (9/22).

12) Convenience of local travel

The car is often cited as the model of convenience and remains that way until you are trying to park in a narrow village lane. The bike is slightly more convenient if you're going to a friend's house, since you can pull it up in their garden. There are no official bike-parking places in the Wye Valley at present and the attractive wooden fences are tricky to run a lock through. The railway is not entirely convenient for St Briavels, Tintern and Tidenham and (with the exception of Redbrook and Wyesham) none of the stations are exactly in the centre of matters. The hourly trains don't offer much of a turn-up-and-go service either, which prevents Whitebrook people from popping up to Monmouth to do their shopping at the drop of a hat.

With none of the three forms of transport doing exceptionally well we did ponder giving them each 1 point, but the 2-1-0 structure held sway.

Road: 1 (12/24). Rail: 0 (13/24). Cycleway: 2 (11/24).

13) Speed of local travel

The problem with short-haul travel is that often a lot of it is spent getting on and off your preferred form of transport. Once you get going a couple of stops can really put a dent in your journey times. How much effect your maximum speed has depends on the length of your journey; however, this is an inter-village route so we will assume that in the main the cycleway will offer Tintern-Chepstow journeys and kindly compare like-with-like.

Of course, for suburban travel on the South Welsh section the car and the bike offer about the same journey time and the train is very quick. Whether it is convenient and quick is another matter altogether and depends on whether other operators also stop their trains at the additional minor South Wales Mainline stations (if built). Since the odds are that they would, we are largely assuming that the benefits of providing that service will arise in due course whether Monmouth gets its rail service back or not and as a consequence are largely ignoring it for the "local travel" bits.

However, it should be bourne in mind that, while the cycleway gets placed second here, Tintern to Chepstow with a cycleway will still be a half-hour (or more) cycle ride; a rail link would cut that to 10-15 minutes on the train plus a few minutes walking at each end. While it will be quicker to cycle in some ways, it won't be much quicker with a cycleway than it is at present.

Road: 2 (14/26). Rail: 0 (13/26). Cycleway: 1 (12/26).

14) Comfort of local travel

The comfort of the car naturally depends on the car but since the roads aren't very nice we will take the view that driving along the Wye Valley is not very comfortable. The cycleway passes through a nasty dark and damp tunnel and bike seats are good for getting saddle sore if your bottom isn't run in properly. Trains offer a chauffeur-driven environment where you can sit back in your seat and enjoy the view with a drink.

Road: 1 (15/28). Rail: 2 (15/28). Cycleway: 0 (12/28).

15) Flexibility of local travel

The car allows you to go to anywhere on a road; the cycleway opens up some narrower lanes as well but requires you to deviate along apparently dangerous roads if you want to go to somewhere like St Arvans. The train restricts you to the railway line and whatever schedule the train happens to operate to.

However, when you go somewhere by car or bike you have to come back to where you left your car or bike because it won't come and find you when you've finished. If you're going by rail you can get off at any station, walk/ cycle/ canoe around, come back to another station and after a bit a train will come along and pick you up. Very useful if it starts raining.

This seems like a good time to dish out one point each.

Road: 1 (16/30). Rail: 1 (16/30). Cycleway: 1 (13/30).

16) Weather

The car is an all-weather beast - up to a point anyway, since driving in pouring rain, fog or snow is not entirely pleasant; nor is driving into the sun. The bike is good in times of minimal weather and quite fun in fog. High winds can be annoying; baking hot sun is unpleasant and rain is wet and makes your trousers cling to you horribly. (Cycling in the rain can be invigorating in a way - or at least so the Founder says, citing an article on h2g2 to back him up - but we take the view that he should have been sectioned years ago, given the ideas that he comes up with.) Snow is just a liability, particularly with narrow tyres on a well-used path. The train requires you to walk to the station, but hopefully the shelter will be adequate and, of course, once you're on board you're out of the weather and can enjoy watching it through the window. If it looks particularly pleasant you can always get off.

Tidenham Tunnel of course has its own weather system which probably consists of a cold, dark, damp night all year round. Those are not the sort of conditions that people cycle in as a matter of course.

Road: 1 (17/32). Rail: 2 (18/32). Cycleway: 0 (13/32).

17) Safety

Always a fun one, safety. Well, Wye Valley Cycle say that the A466 is highly dangerous. While we have cycled, driven and been driven along it and have never had any problems it is easy to see that it could be dangerous and we assume that they have some statistics which show that this is a genuine assertion. That puts the cycleway and the railway alongside each other for top place. The Old Railway was always very safe, with no passengers being killed throughout the line's career. Two WVR track maintenance staff were killed over the line's 114-year career; two Tintern-based staff were killed in the First World War. Modern railways offer an almost unparalled safety record; the last fatal rail crash on a single-track branch line was Cowden in 1994, since when train design has been improved, communications upgraded and better procedures put in place. Cycleways are also very safe but the risks on the cycleway are slightly higher due to the mix of traffic and the lack of controls on the usage of the tunnels. Encouraged users will include walkers (3mph), cyclists (15mph), mobility scooters (8mph) and horses (5mph). A collision in the dark would be very interesting - but since one hasn't happened yet we can only say that it is probably more likely than an accident on the railway. No doubt the national rail network will now oblige us with a fatal rail crash on a single track branchline and ruin our statistics.

Road: 0 (17/34). Rail: 2 (20/34). Cycleway: 1 (14/34).

18) Exercise

The car, with its end-to-end journey, offers little opportunity for exercise and obviously loses this one. The bike offers maximum opportunity for exercise, since the entire journey is spent exercising. The train does not come off as badly as might be expected - since the stations are not entirely convenient for the relevant villages, most users will get the opportunity to indulge in a short walk to reach their station of choice. A ten-minute walk at one end of the journey and a five-minute walk at the other, done twice a day, tots up nicely to the Government's recommended 30 minutes daily moderate exercise.

Road: 0 (17/36). Rail: 1 (21/36). Cycleway: 2 (15/38)

19) Ease of adoption

This is always an important point; it's all very well saying that people who use a cycleway will be happier than rail passengers, but the step from the car to the train is arguably shorter than the step from the car to the bike. By moving to the train you do not have to make a big up-front financial outlay, you are not putting yourself at the mercy of the weather and you are generally still getting a nice cosy seat (particularly on a service running through a rural area where there will probably not normally be enough passengers to fill a three-coach set). It is therefore easier to decide that the rail journey looks attractive one morning and walk down to the station to catch the train than it is to decide that the bike looks attractive and go out to pump up the tyres, oil the chain, check the brakes and find some new batteries for the lights (assuming that you have a bike sitting in the shed to start using).

If you don't already have a bike then at least you are in a slightly better position than someone looking to take up driving, who will have to spend 6 months and £800 learning to drive and then go out to spend £10,000 on a car. The bike will only cost about £400.

Road: 0 (17/38). Rail: 2 (23/38). Cycleway: 1 (16/38).

20) Punctuality

This point and the next one are being defined based on their definitions as used by the rail network - punctuality is the test as to how likely you are to arrive on time. The punctuality of the car can be ruined by a few adverse traffic lights, a spot of bad weather, a set of roadworks, a nice pile-up or slightly more traffic than usual. It tends to be advisable to leave plenty of time for a modern car journey. The bike tends to be harder to work in all of the situations above but largely they have little effect on overall running time. The train can be very punctual but will inevitably run into a few problems occasionally and our ridiculously tight schedule won't help matters much. While trains will always be able to find an alternative passing loop to cross at and there is a good turn-around at Monmouth Troy so as to minimise knock-on disruption, it remains a fact that any slight issues along the way will knock the punctuality figures somewhat.

Road: 1 (18/40). Rail: 0 (23/40). Cycleway: 2 (18/40).

21) Reliability

This is the measure of how likely it is that your preferred form of transport will get you to your destination at all. All three are actually quite good at this area, but the car is probably best since it doesn't insist on going to bed at 23:00 (unlike the train). The train tends to be a little unpunctual but if we have a train which doesn't break down too much then we will be able to offer a service which will almost invariably be able to get through (and the advantage of keeping a train overnight at the Monmouth end of the line would be that unless Monmouth Tunnel falls in it will always be possible to rustle up something to work a train out of Monmouth some way down the line). When the bike breaks down it tends to be fairly serious and it is often advisable to obtain a lift of some kind. Punctures are the notorious one, but brake and gear cables can occasionally give grief and once in a while your chain will snap.

Road: 2 (20/42). Rail: 1 (24/42). Cycleway: 0 (18/42).

22) People served

The road serves everyone in the valley, although it only really benefits those with cars. The railway will run along the valley floor and largely only benefit those within a half-mile radius of one of its many stations. The cycleway will serve bits of Tidenham plus Tintern and Brockweir, giving it the smallest catchment area.

Road: 2 (22/44). Rail: 1 (25/44). Cycleway: 0 (18/44).

23) Impact on other routes

The road is already there, so it will be impacted on rather than impacting on. The cycleway will largely only affect the possibility of running trains over the current railway which (given its condition and the lack of a junction with the mainline) is fairly low. The railway will require the rebuilding of bridges at Wyesham, Brockweir and Bishton, the installation of a level crossing with associated road relevelling at Bigsweir/ St Briavels and the provision of a new bridge or level crossing at Redbrook. It will also close the public right of way between Tintern Quarry and Tintern and require a few footpath diversions to be put in.

Road: 2 (24/46). Rail: 0 (25/46). Cycleway: 1 (19/46).

24) Availability of alternative routes

There is nowhere else that the A466 could conceivably go if it had to be diverted. Likewise, the railway cannot realistically be laid out along an alternative route to that used originally.

Not so the cycleway. Our own explorations with a moderately fit and barking mad Founder who has ridden a bike a lot but has no idea how to get the best out of one found a perfectly good and far more interesting alternative route, which we will kindly lay out by means of a set of pictures here:

 

Frequently appearing to be maintained purely to cause traffic problems, Chepstow's surviving town gate spans the former route of the A48 heading towards Gloucester as it enters the town. Turning left here takes you onto a suburban road which eventually emerges onto the A466 at Chepstow Racecourse, via lots of speed bumps and chicanes. Those coming from the railway station have to come up the hill, pass through the gate and then turn to (their) right. Around Chepstow traffic is slow enough to allow for cycling or the roads are wide enough to allow provision of suitable facilities.

The racecourse is on the outskirts of Chepstow, with a field for parking in behind the hedge on the left, a layby with a burger bar for refreshments next to the very wide A466 down the middle and the racecourse itself off to the right. After climbing slightly from here to reach St Arvans the A466 runs down the flanks of the distant Wynd Cliffe. An alternative path around the tighter bits of the Wynd Cliffe would be easy to arrange (there's one already there). The A466 can then be followed down to Tintern or an alternative path arranged down the hill through fields and along the riverbank.

The B4228 links St. Briavels with Chepstow; it is linked to Brockweir and Tintern by a narrow lane which doesn't have much traffic on it and could easily take cyclists, though it's a bit steep in places. The B4228 itself is wide enough for four feet to be set aside on the southbound side for cyclists. It goes past several laybys and through a few villages with pubs on its undulating run south. Overall it is mostly up, until you reach the top by Tintern Quarry, after which it tends to slope away rather sharply. There are plenty of alternative lanes to dive off onto along the way if desired.

This means that there is a simple, cheaper route for cyclists to be put onto if they really need one. If Sustrans still wants to re-open a tunnel in the area we suggest heading off to the old Severn and Wye Railway's Mierystock Tunnel on its Lydbrook branch (the tunnel's south portal is seen below). Most of the branch is already a cycleway - except for the bat-free tunnel, which is quite short and would provide a nice underpass under a busy and genuinely dangerous road if someone would like to take a few thousand quid and a few extra persuasion skills up there to persuade the Forestry Commission to re-open it. The tunnel is of some architectural interest (both of its portals have unique profiles which are not quite identical) and there is no prospect of the branch re-opening to trains any time soon.

Moreover, re-opening the tunnel would help bring Lydbrook properly onto the Forest of Dean cycle network and would allow (long-term) dreams of putting a cycleway on the old Ross and Monmouth line between Symonds Yat and Lydbrook to link the current Peregrine Path with the Dean cycleways. (Since there is an industrial estate on the Ross and Monmouth line at Monmouth Sustrans can rest assured that we do not immediately want the Ross and Monmouth trackbed - although they may wish to oppose any planning applications to convert that industrial estate to open land).

At the current time we may add that we would not be immediately inclined to financially support either of these projects (proposing the reinstatement of unremunerative railways is not a profitable activity) but, unlike the present proposal, we would not bother to oppose them.

This option only grants points to those options which are stuck with their current routes - encouraging obstinacy.

Road: 1 (25/48). Rail: 2 (27/48). Cycleway: 0 (19/48).

25) Impact on the valley's wider economy

The car has had 50 years of almost unchallenged power in rural areas, yet a Government report released at the beginning of March 2010 said that rural areas were in massive decline. We may infer that the car is not providing much of a benefit beyond keeping the valley's settlements in existence for second homes.

The bicycle will help reverse this by opening up the valley to the cyclist, but the through route will bypass Tintern (which has the facilities to look after some cyclists once they've found somewhere to park their bikes) and run through Brockweir instead (which is not set up to look after cyclists). It may turn Tintern into a cycling town but it will do little for the wider population. As noted above, it won't make cycling to Tintern exceptionally faster and Llandogo, Redbrook and Monmouth will still be miles from new transport links.

The report mentioned in the first paragraph suggested better public transport and of course railways are public transport. An hourly rail service will provide access to jobs, wider facilities and the bigger cities. It will bring people in to spend money, it will bring around 30 jobs (mostly based around Monmouth and Tidenham, although our pondered electricity-generating incinerator at Tintern would probably employ 15 or so people) and it will allow people to live locally and work a little further away. It will improve access to schools and universities. Friends of station groups would provide the unemployed and retired with something fulfilling, socially enjoyable and worthwhile to do in their spare time (unless they have such things to do already). A rail link to Monmouth will also encourage development there. There is the small downside that every house along the route would find that its value had gone up by 10%.

Road: 0 (25/50). Rail: 2 (29/50). Cycleway: 1 (20/50).

So it seems that the railway comes first on 58%, the road comes second on 50% and the cycleway comes third on 40%. That was genuinely unintended. We were at least hoping to find that we'd fiddled it so that the cycleway came second.

As this was written by someone who commutes with a former holder of the title of UK's Worst Train Operating Company and cycled to college every day for two years and still/therefore thinks that a railway is a better option we'd like some lottery funding for our friendly railway please.

(Since the planning application went in we have, however, decided to award the cycleway another two bonus points for "Lifting the Opposition's ideas" after they plagiarised part of our Full History article for their paperwork. The final tally therefore comes in at railway 56%, road 48% and cycleway 42%.)

Tidenham Parish Council objected to the cycleway on the following grounds; our comments on how they would impact on the railway are provided below each point.

  1. Indiscriminate parking around access points - No parking will be provided at most stations; this will be emphasised is publicity material. Locals will be encouraged to assist in enforcement. Most punters will park at Chepstow, Tidenham, Tintern, St Briavels, Redbrook, Monmouth Troy or at National Rail stations with parking facilities; parking arrangements will be made at these stations and encouragement provided not to drive to the station.
  2. Disruption to farm vehicles using the complete width of the lane hedge to hedge - With the exception of Netherhope and Whitebrook Halts, no intermediate stations will have access from narrow through lanes.
  3. Usage figures are misleading and do not recognise that morning users will not have vacated parking when the afternoon users arrive - Rail figures need proper assessment, but rail traffic tends to feature morning and evening peaks with limited traffic in between. Daytime parking is likely to be less of an issue and will probably feature those without access to a car.
  4. Long-term maintenance is unclear - The railway will be maintained by the railway for the railway out of railway money. If additional funding is needed, every possible avenue will be explored before approaching councils and their limited funds.
  5. Path remote from emergency medical assisstance - Wherever possible the train will proceed to a station with convenient access for the emergency services. A serious accident incapcitating the train, passengers and staff is highly unlikely but procedures will be put in place and emergency services given training on handling worst-case scenarioes, including two-train collisions in Tidenham Tunnel and on bridges over the Wye.
  6. Insecure nature of the path open to use by quad bikes and motorcycles - Surviving motorcyclists and quad-bikers will face the full force of the law. The last people to be caught quad-biking on the South Wales Mainline were struck by a 75mph train and killed - this will be emphasised in school visits prior to the re-opening of the line.
  7. Increased risk to adjacent property and land-owners from burglaries/thefts/antisocial behaviour - See previous point. Since we have every interest in maintaining the safety of the line and good relations with neighbours we will take great pleasure in aiding any attempt to bring prosecutions.
  8. Potential conflict between cyclists, walkers and horse riders as already experienced elsewhere on Forest trails/tracks - We have experienced this, but since Sustrans people never use their own cycleways they haven't. This will not be an issue on the railway, which will be exclusively for the use of trains.
  9. Costs to the parish of additional litter/dog foul collection bins and cost to clear - We will provide such facilities on board every train and at every railway station. Elsewhere this will be the responsibility of the Parish Council but we will endeavour not to load any further costs on them.
  10. Burden of maintenance must not fall on parishoners - It won't, except through rail fares.
  11. Leisure facility accessed by car is not sustainable - Agreed. The railway will be a transport facility allowing access to leisure facilities without the use of a car.
  12. Proposal would not contribute to the economy of the Parish of Tidenham - Moot point depending on your view on what the Hundred of Tidenham has based its economy on. Will certainly support the National Diving and Activity Centre and visitors will be pointed by helpful leaflets towards Tidenham Church and local public houses.
  13. No public toilets within the Parish of Tidenham - Tidenham station and all trains will have toilets. While providing Tutshill, Netherhope and Tintern Quarry with toilets would be desireable, the stations will be too small to accomodate such expensive facilities.

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Last modified 16/03/11

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