ATOG is now four years old! Our supporters have been patient – indeed they may have thought we had stopped. We have not. The small committee has continued to beaver away in the last couple of years, and during this time we have had both good news and bad news. Fortunately there is more good than bad, and the number of organisations listening to our plans is increasing.
People have been suggesting a foot crossing over the Kent since the viaduct was first built. Councillor Ian Stewart has been active on the issue since about 2001. Now is a good time to recap where ATOG is.
A survey was undertaken of households in Arnside back in 2011 and that showed significant support for a pedestrian/cycle path on the Arnside railway viaduct.
In 2012 we persuaded cycling charity Sustrans to write a report on the feasible routes for this new link between Arnside and Grange. There were seven possibilities and each had advantages and disadvantages. This report is available on the ATOG Facebook page. The consensus seems to be that the new path should be hung on the Milnthorpe side of the bridge, but this is far from decided. There is a problem finding a route alongside the west side of the railway around Meathop Fell, but a slightly longer route around through Meathop would be an acceptable alternative. There are some issues on access from Arnside – the best option would seem to be from the car park at Arnside and through the first arch on the Arnside side. There would be an issue with very high tides but we think there is no reason why the new path should not be closed whenever the water-tight gates to the carpark are closed.
We are still none the wiser about the cost of a new cantilevered path on the side of the viaduct, but this would be high. It has been suggested to us that the engineering problems are too great to overcome for a full-width cycle path. The minimum required by law is three metres wide. However we think it would be reasonable to ask cyclists to walk not ride over the viaduct and so a path of about 2 metres would be sufficient. The minimum width is 1.5 metres. This would reduce costs and make the engineering issues simpler.
We are having good meetings with other bodies who are generally supportive. This includes Natural England who are developing the new England Coastal Path and they are well on the way to reaching Walney Island from Gretna. Over the next year or two they will be turning their attention to Walney to Arnside section of the England Coastal path. The Arnside Viaduct could be an important part of that and they might be able to help with funding.
Cumbria County Council appear to be supportive – although anxious about costs! We are hoping that our local Councillor Ian Stewart will have an early opportunity to commend the scheme to the Cabinet of CCC.
The Arnside & Silverdale AONB Partnership and the Morecambe Bay Partnership are very helpful, their advice and experience in tapping funding sources are invaluable. An estuary crossing has been on both partnerships future plans for some time. Cycling charity Sustrans has also been helpful and we hope they will continue to be involved, also with offers of funding.
We are also pleased that local businesses on the Furness Peninsular are keen to support this project. We have always thought that a true coastal path would benefit the local economy and access to the viaduct would be a tourist attraction in its own right. The Highways authority would welcome the opportunity of reducing the risk of danger to cyclists on the A590 and other routes in the area.
The next step will be for the various interested bodies to come together to raise perhaps £40,000 to £60,000 to pay for a detailed report on engineering options and benefits for the local communities. We hope that at least 60% of this sum can be found from non-public bodies. Morecambe Bay Partnership and Local Councils plan to carry out further work to enable tender documentation to be produced and issued before the end of 2015.
Of course the Arnside Viaduct is only one part of the England Coastal Path and there are similar issues with the Leven estuary and those further North. Arnside does seem the right place to start because there is currently no crossing over the Kent estuary. But if we can get the project started in Arnside, there is a better chance of the coastal path succeeding further round the Furness peninsular.
We will keep people informed of progress. We also hope that more people will support the project. Any suggestions for funding sources or offers to join the ATOG Committee would be most welcome. Please encourage your friends who can see the benefit of a new route between Arnside and Grange.
If you have any questions or suggestions please contact Stuart on ATOG201[at]talktalk.net
ATOG is dedicated to the establishment of a cycleway and footpath on the side of the railway viaduct across the Kent estuary between Arnside and Grange, on the north shore of Morecambe Bay. We are working hard to provide a coastal route of only three or four miles between these two coastal resorts whereas the only present route is in excess of sixteen miles.