Fact 1 – Transwatch’s claim that ‘thousands of acres of derelict railway land would become valuable’ with railway conversion, ignores millions of acres of unsold derelict sites, where industry threw in the towel, because of wage levels, not road access problems. Government data shows over 6m hectares in England alone. Photos of industrial towns taken to respond to their claim, show dozens of sites where factories closed in the face of Far East competition. (see derelict land examples)


Fact 2 – Transwatch frequently highlights an undated photo taken near Battersea as proof of waste capacity on railways. It may have been taken when lines were closed for engineering, or perhaps an accident when a lorry fell onto the track because its driver fell asleep, or it may have been Christmas Day. In contrast, my book (see below) includes photos of waste capacity on motorways and dual carriageways.


Fact 3 - Conversionists have included in their publications, photos of closed lines “converted to roads”. Without exception they are very lightly used, and invariably without buses! One such route which had been in a cutting had to be built up with thousands of tons of stone to lift the base to a level which would give reasonable width for a single carriageway road. This ‘conversion’ was mentioned in a paper “How to get the roads we need”, with a photo of an under-used road with one lorry and two cars captioned ‘East Grinstead bypass is a converted rail route’. This road is Beeching Way, not the bypass which failed to get planning approval. Less than a mile of the 16 mile Three Bridges-East Grinstead-Groombridge line was used as part of a road. A narrow tunnel had to be opened out, and 34,000 tons of stone used to raise the formation to secure adequate width. It cost £2.75m and took over two years to build. (see A History of East Grinstead, page 181, by M.J. Leppard). Having no pavements, it does not separate people from traffic which was an objective of the paper! The remaining 15 miles of the closed railway form Forest Way and Worth Way bridleways/cycleways/footpaths.


Fact 4 – A photo frequently used by Transwatch to show a closed line “in the heart of Northampton”, overgrown with weeds, was closed about 30 years ago. Network Rail say it is not owned by them, but do not know who the current owner is. Focussing on this as waste is an own goal for conversionism, since it proves that it  was useless as a road or it would have been snatched up by the highway authority which gets first call on closed lines! Having found and visited the site, it is in the shadow of a superfluity of good roads. Part of the line has been built over by a factory, which certainly has no lack of road capacity. Moreover, I would say it was about ten minutes walk from the town.


Fact 5 – An increase in available land will not create more entrepreneurs.


See also “Railway Conversion – the impractical dream