The Twin Tunnels

Two old railway tunnels near Bath have recently reopened as part of a new cycleway. It’s called The Two Tunnels Greenway, though the green bit is not inside the tunnels, that’s for sure. The longest tunnel is 1.2 miles, the longest cycling tunnel in the UK. There are no air vents.

Marketing…
There has been a lot of hype about the tunnels, you can tell by watching people on their day off cycle and walk excitedly up to this hole in the hillside to disappear Pied Piper style into it. I was going to venture in yesterday, but I looked at it, and it looked like being in a London tube station and watching the train disappear into the dark hole of the tunnel. Except this time, I was in the sunshine and fresh air, and it was people disappearing in. If you read on, you may think as I do that the marketing is a stroke of genius, because somehow, lots of people think it’s a really good project, and think that cycling through it is really great, which is exactly what everyone has been foretold it would be.

Funding…
The project cost £4 million, and was instigated by Sustrans who won Big Lottery money, so it’s obviously important. But the Council paid quite a bit too (libraries still being cut though). We are told it was an idea that someone thought of in a pub, just an ordinary guy in a pub thought of it, amazing, and the idea was just so good that it took off and got immense funding. Incredible! It must be a really good idea, one which really high up people want to fund.

Logo…
Sustrans have a strange logo for a cycling charity. It’s a curvy cornered square with a curvy arrow going out of the top of the square and disappearing upwards. Looks more like recycling than bicycling. The logo is over the Bath end tunnel entrance, I mean “portal”. It looks very odd next to the hole that is the tunnel, as if something will take you out of the tunnel and upwards.

For families…
It’s advertised for families. The inaugural (everything is inaugural these days) bike ride was for families. Fun day out in a tunnel! “Children love the thrill of tunnels” says the Two Tunnels website. “Where have all the children gone?” says the Sustrans website. Maybe they have gone into the tunnels. More feelings of Pied Piper.

For marathons…
Conveniently, if you follow the Two Tunnels out of Bath and then come back in along the canal, it is exactly 13 miles. Perfect for the Bath Half Marathon, it is suggested. I am trying to imagine 15,000 runners running through a 1.2 mile long tunnel with very little air. Even the fastest guy will take over 10 minutes to get through. The normal half marathon always includes a fair few casualties and that’s out in the open air. More Pied Piper feelings.

Gates…
The tunnel ends, I mean “portals”, are gated. That’s not because gates are required. It’s just in case. The gates will always be open. They aren’t intending to use them. But just in case, there is a document in place with lengthy procedures to follow if it is necessary to introduce gate control. They just need an incident, and there they have it. A fully lockable 1.2 mile long tunnel. With the locking endorsed by people clamouring for more safety. And the gatekeeper funded by council tax or tolls.

Lights…
The sign at the entrance tells me that lighting is in operation from 5am to 10pm. It’s over a mile long and it’s dark in there for 7 hours every night. What fun! Children love the thrill of tunnels. When the lights are on, it’s not that light… From the Independent: “lights placed every seven metres cast soft pools of illumination on to the smooth road surface and the sooty brick and limestone walls. So as not to disturb the resident bats, the low roof of the tunnel is kept in semi-darkness.” From the Guardian: “Lights are seven metres apart but the crown remains dark for the sake of the bats, creating a calming, even hypnotic, effect.” Hypnotic sounds like the Pied Piper.

Music…
From the Independent “Halfway along, you hear violins playing. An acoustic trick, you wonder. But no: the music is in fact coming out of speakers set into recesses.” More Pied Piper feelings. It was the Pied Piper’s music that hypnotised the children to follow him into the hillside. Music is potentially very hypnotic. And if they are putting out music, what else can they put out?

Access…
For some reason, big security fences have gone up either side of the Greenway, approaching the Combe Down portal. 5′ high with 3 layers of barbed wire topping. No messing around! This is military or industrial style stuff. The trees have been chopped down, so that’s a lot LESS green than it was by my reckoning. There are footpaths on either side, but you can no longer get across unless you climb the 6′ high locked access gates. You can peer in through the bars, prison camp style. It looks like they don’t want people getting on or off the Greenway, except at specially designated access points. A bit like motorway mentality. Head down, blinkers on, follow signs. It looks exactly like a road, carving up the countryside, and it could easily be turned into one with just a simple change of law.

Deaths…
The long Combe Down Tunnel has already been responsible for at least 3 deaths when it was a railway for steam trains with no ventilation. Rumour has it that there is a real ghost train, what fun! The fireman on the train had to lie down with a damp cloth over his face and hope to survive. One ex stoker is quoted as saying “It was terrifying. It really frightened me. I must have gone through hundreds of times and I never got used to it” , but now he can’t wait to go through it on his bike!

Accidents…
There has already been an accident, someone was hit by a bike. Although it is “great” in there (everyone says so), it’s very disorientating. You can hear others, but you don’t know if they are ahead or behind, because of the echos. There is such a mixture of “users”, cyclists are overtaking walkers and prams (babies must love the thrill of tunnels), and there are lots of super fast serious cyclists using it. And of course the light is low for the bats.

Horses…
Already, horse manure has been seen in the tunnel. I am trying to imagine horses in an enclosed 1.2 mile long tunnel, combined with bicycles, families, walkers, wheelchair users, dogs, pushchairs and lots of children. There are only two exits, one at each end. Once you are in it, it’s a long way to get out if anything goes wrong.

Portals and Crowns…
The tunnel entrances are called “portals”. And the ceiling is a “crown”. Where is the portal taking us to? And if the arrow on the Sustrans logo is anything to go by, the way out is via the roof, the crown.

Green…
There is not much green on the Greenway anywhere, a lot less than there was before they tarmac’d it and cut down the trees. So why call it Greenway? Why not Greyway or Blackway? The smaller tunnel goes under Greenway Lane. I also notice that a search for the Pied Piper brings up a lot of results for Kate Greenaway, who illustrated a Pied Piper book. We are being deceived by the word “green” into thinking that it means something good for the planet, whereas it usually means destruction of green things like grass and trees and meadows.

Under the Field of Fires…
The Combe Down Tunnel, the railway one, runs underneath the Combe Down underground stone mines tunnels. How many layers of hillside tunnels have we got? These mines have been filled in, apart from the parts left open for the benefit of the bats. In order to leave them for the bats, they had to be shored up and made safe for people, and a brand new mine shaft and elaborate ventilation shafts were built. All for the bats ! We are so lucky we have such a caring council and government that care for the bats. Any comings and goings into the now filled in mines will be to do with the bats. We know that, because the bat thing was very well publicised, so we know it can’t be any other reason. Directly above the Combe Down tunnel and the mines is The Field of Fires, with it’s recently added modern day standing stones. (See my earlier post). There are three layers of activity going on in this one place !

66…
There are a lot of 66’s around this year, and here we have two more. The railway and its tunnels were closed in 1966. And the much publicised ex train worker character is 66 this year, same as David Bowie. 66 is like an open speech marks. It signifies some sort of opening. Maybe that’s why we have 66 twice to go with the two tunnels being opened.

911…
The Combe Down tunnel is 1829 yards long. I don’t know how they got such a precise measurement, but if you add 18.29 you get 911.

Twin towers…

The Twin Tunnels seem like a female version of the Twin Towers. Maybe The Twin Tunnels will be so popular, they will join up the tunnels and have an even longer One World Tunnel. Noone will ever want to go outside ever again. Soon we will be able to get about everywhere via tunnels, nice flat tarmac’d tunnels, suitable for all users including disabled. How green is that? And so much fun!

Links:
http://www.sustrans.org.uk/news/thousands-join-us-celebrate-opening-two-tunnels-greenway-bath
http://www.twotunnels.org.uk/gains.html
http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/tunnel-vision-for-bath-8569400.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/mar/22/two-tunnels-opens-cyclists-bath
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2308364/Combe-Down-Tunnel-Britains-longest-cycling-tunnel-opens-Bath-4million-spent-converting-disused-railway.html

(See also earlier posts: The Field of Fires, Killing Bath, The Bath Waitrose Store, Boring Bath, Stories of the Borehole, Hot Springs Go Cold, The Next David Bowie, Another 911, Do As You’re Told Days, Tracking the Stations)

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One Response to The Twin Tunnels

  1. Nixon Scraypes says:

    very sus.trans

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