NATIONAL CYCLE route charity Sustrans has protected more than 100 sections of former railway land which is potentially vital to allow the re- opening of a rural rail network in the future.
The old rail routes - more than 350km in all - were transferred to Sustrans this week for a nominal sum from the British Railways Board. They will be safe from development and used to link sections of the National Cycle Network - which Sustrans hopes will reach 3,000km by 2000.
Since privatisation, the Board has already sold many old lines to private land owners. There has been increasing concern from rail operators and rail enthusiasts that vital links between networks could be lost. But as part of the deal, Sustrans has agreed with the Government that the routes would be made available again for rail use if needed.
Transport minister Glenda Jackson commented: 'This transfer of disused railway lines will help Sustrans to establish more routes contributing to the (National Cycle) Network but will at the same time provide protection for future rail use. This is a transaction that has full government support.'
Twenty historic viaducts will also be refurbished as part of the transfer. The structures, which include the Hengoed over the Rhymney Valley, the Larpool spanning the River Esk at Whitby and Big Water of Fleet in Galloway, will be repaired in a five year programme of work to make them safe for cyclists and prevent further structural deterioration.