Advertisement

"Turn Britain's defunct rail routes into new roads with cycle lanes"

Disused railway lines are usually broad enough for a bike path, a no overtaking car lane and a hard shoulder

Opinion rail roads

The thousands of miles of rail roads that Beeching and BR cruelly closed down and abandoned half a century ago need converting into pedestrian-free highways for cars, light vans and cycles. 

Even the defunct single-track routes are – when weeds and dumped rubbish have been cleared – usually broad enough for a bike path, a no overtaking car/van lane, plus some sort of emergency hard shoulder. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

• “We’d like to see cars designed by designers, not accountants”

Riders and drivers could then, under strict min/max speed limits, travel in one direction (towards town) from say, 2am-2pm, before pedalling or driving back from 2.01pm-1.59am.  Derelict two-track routes would be simpler as they’re wide enough to operate as normal roads, with two-way traffic. 

Gangs of under-employed workers, tons of tarmac, gallons of white paint for road markings and a few entry/exit slip roads would – almost overnight – create a new, inexpensive and simple road network for Britain’s drivers and riders. It’s doable and affordable. So what’s not to like?

Alternatively (and, I confess, this is a slightly less serious proposal) let’s fit train wheels to cars and drive them down existing, but abandoned, rail tracks. Sounds ludicrously impossible. But it’s not. Under strict supervision and with the permission of the owner of a former BR track, I’ve just done exactly that – driven a car down several miles of rickety railway line.  

Advertisement - Article continues below

Mercedes and its Smart car division are to blame for the madness. A 4am wake-up call, a 5am departure from my hotel at Mercedes-Benz World and a pre-6am arrival at a lovingly restored, movie set station in Sussex was, I thought, all part of the build-up for a ride aboard a steam train. Instead, a Smart ForFour was on the line, ready for me to commute into the Goodwood estate.

• “Think long and hard about bargain-basement tyres”

I drove the ‘ForRail’ in semi-conventional fashion, using the accelerator, brakes and gearshift, but only to a maximum of 20mph – or 6mph when nervously driving over the points. The steering wheel was redundant as the line of the track and the archaic but (just about) working points dictated the direction(ish) of travel.

Since the late seventies I’ve covered over a million miles behind the wheel of thousands of cars. But I can confirm that this was the most surreal drive of my life. By a long, long way.  

Are you in favour of Mike's plan to turn Britain's disused railways into roads and cycle paths? Join the debate in the comments section below...

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/news/351989/its-car-care-week-so-head-outside-and-show-your-motor-little-love
News

‘It’s Car Care Week, so head outside and show your motor a little love’

If you can’t drive your car, editor-in-chief Steve Fowler thinks you should wash it instead. When you're done, send us a pic and we’ll print the best
1 Apr 2020
Visit/news/351950/global-temporary-shutdown-car-factories-could-actually-benefit-manufacturers-and
News

'The temporary shutdown of car factories could benefit manufacturers and customers'

With car factories around the world closing temporarily, it may give manufacturers the chance to clear out the current backlog of unsold new cars, say…
28 Mar 2020
Visit/news/351936/jlrs-very-british-approach-keep-calm-and-carry
News

‘JLR’s very British approach: keep calm and carry on’

Editor-in-chief Steve Fowler praises Jaguar Land Rover on both its ability to handle a crisis
26 Mar 2020
Visit/opinion/351904/car-exhibitions-are-going-through-most-dramatic-period-change-generation
News

'Car exhibitions are going through the most dramatic period of change in a generation'

With the changing car market, the government's petrol & diesel ban plus the unprecedented Coronavirus, the car exhibition industry is going through a …
22 Mar 2020

Most Popular

Visit/news/102580/hyundai-kona-electric-get-increased-range-july
Hyundai Kona electric front
Hyundai Kona Electric

Hyundai Kona Electric to get increased range from July

UK-delivered Hyundai Kona Electrics will be outfitted with a handful of mechanical revisions, boosting the SUV’s maximum range to 300 miles
18 Mar 2020
Visit/hyundai/i20/100001/new-hyundai-i20-n-hot-hatchback
Hyundai i20

New 2021 Hyundai i20 N to rival Ford Fiesta ST with 200bhp

New Hyundai i20 N to join i30 N in brand’s hot hatch line-up and our exclusive images preview how it could look
2 Apr 2020
Visit/seat/leon/351998/new-seat-leon-2020-review
SEAT Leon

New SEAT Leon 2020 review

The all-new SEAT Leon hatchback impresses with its blend of sporty handling and cutting-edge technology
3 Apr 2020