Conversion opportunities missed
Fact 1 – With over 10,000 miles of railway closed since the idea of converted railways to roads was first aired in 1954, the conversionist mini-lobby can only claim about 250 miles have been converted to roads, & these were almost all in ultra-short lengths, & widened into the bargain to create the widths necessary for a road.
Fact 2 – Every time that British Rail wished to close a railway line, it had to submit the case – with financial facts & other data – to a government appointed watchdog: one of nine Area Transport Users Consultative Committees. All proposed closures were publicised in the media & on Notices at stations concerned, with a date for public submissions. Subsequently, a date for a public hearing was publicised in the same way. Despite this, researches of the records of these Committees’ files produced no evidence of anyone supporting closure & advocating conversion.
Fact 3 – The biggest conversion opportunity was
the 161 mile single line
Fact 4 – An opportunity was missed when BR proposed closing the 174 mile single M&GN line to attend the public hearing and support closure leaving the field clear for opposers to demand retention. It closed in 1959, & a few short sections were used in road construction. Norfolk C.C. said there was no advantage compared to building a new road. Bridges had to be strengthened & formations widened.
Fact 5 – The 100 mile Somerset & Dorset single line closed in 1966 after public hearings, without the Conversion League appearing and advocating closure & conversion.
Fact 6 – The 98 mile double track
Fact 7 – Hundreds of other lines closed with lengths of 20 miles upwards, after the same publicity, & subject to public hearings, all conducted by independent committees composed of representatives of industry, commerce, etc., without the League attending and seizing the initiative.
Fact 8 – Disproportionate noise was made over
the ‘conversion’ of a small part of a line in
Fact 9 – Another ‘conversion’ of a small part of a closed line to the Heads of the Valleys road in Wales – was also claimed by the League to have saved lives. Local newspapers say users call it the Highway to Hell with 33 deaths in 6 years.
Fact 10 – Conversionists cite the conversion of
a railway to a road 3,000 miles away from the
Fact 11 – The Reality is that most of the railway routes closed have been converted to footpaths/cycleways/bridlepaths for which the restrictive widths & limited bridge clearances are not a problem. Some closed routes have re-opened as preserved or heritage railways.
Fact 12 – There is no excuse for missing the opportunity to convert these lines. Given the claims of the financial benefits which would arise from conversion, advocates should have had no difficulty in getting finance to convert & reaping huge returns from toll roads, which government, ever anxious to avoid Treasury expenditure, would have welcomed. Toll routes have existed since the 1930s. The Mersey Tunnel, frequently quoted by Brigadier Lloyd as proof that narrow lanes would suffice, was – & is – a toll road. He neglected to mention that it had a speed limit half that which he claimed would easily be achieved on converted railways.
Fact 13 – Conversionists’ lists of lines “converted” include 109 yard lengths, routes widened from 12 to 102 feet, or crossed at a tangent or ‘unclear if road widened onto railway, or just very close’! Of over 10,000 miles closed, about 250 has been converted using a very loose definition of the word conversion. Some were widened by a factor of 8.
See also “Railway Conversion – the impractical dream”