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Engineers clear way to Whitstable tunnel re-opening

EFFORTS TO reopen one of Britain's oldest railway tunnels moved a step closer this week when engineers declared the project technically feasible.

The 700m Victorian tunnel is on the long-abandoned Canterbury & Whitstable Railway line and there are plans to use it as part of the National Cycle Network.

The 10km line which includes the tunnel was abandoned after 120 years in 1952 and has since fallen into disrepair.

It has been adopted by the Crab & Winkle Line Trust, which hopes to bid for lottery cash to fund site investigation work later this year.

The tunnel partially collapsed in 1974. It was blocked off and back-filled from boreholes with low grade concrete.

George Stephenson was one of the original engineers for the project and his son Robert supervised construction.

The initial report, commissioned by the Trust and carried out by Alan Auld Associates, fed data from a visual survey into a desk-top study and concluded that ground conditions appeared good enough for re-excavation.

However, the visual inspection was limited by the fact that only 200m of the 700m tunnel is currently accessible.

The Trust is eager to re-open the whole line, and has a formal agreement with cycle charity Sustrans to integrate the line into the National Cycle Network.

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