One of the most ambitious additions to the UK’s cycling network has opened.

Cycling through Coombe Down tunnel. Photo: Malcolm Dodds
Cycling through Coombe Down tunnel. Photo: Malcolm Dodds

The Two Tunnels Greenway, which is for use by pedestrians as well as cyclists, has opened in Bath. It uses two disused railway tunnels from the former Somerset and Dorset Railway as well as two new bridges and three refurbished bridges to create a route out of the southern part of the city which has several advantages. It is shorter than the alternatives, at 6.5km cutting several kilometeres off the route, It is also flatter, since it goes under the hills to the south of Bath, And, of course, it is free of vehicular traffic.

The Two Tunnels Greenway forms part of the Sustrans Connect2 network of cycling and walking routes, and as such benefits from the Big Lottery Fund money given to the whole project, plus a mix of matching funding. The idea was started by a group of local enthusiasts, chaired by Frank Tompson, but the project was then managed by Sustrans.

The tunnels were, said John Usher, project manager for Sustrans, in remarkably good condition, although some stabilisation of open limestone was needed, as well as the removal of soot and the laying of a usable track. They are lit during the day, but the lights are turned off between 11pm and 5am, to benefit the bat colony. In addition, lighting has been placed low enough that the crowns of the tunnels are always in darkness.

‘The most exciting thing is the scale,’ said Usher. ‘It’s such an iconic route for the local community. It’s quite staggering the transitions you feel. You start in an urban area and then you go through the Devonshire tunnel and come out into Lyncombe Vale, an area of Bath that is semi-rural, with managed woodland. Then you go into the Coombe Down tunnel and come out in an area that is definitely rural. You get an impression of going from the urban to the rural in three distinct stages.’

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