Combe DownIs there a big hole in your life?
Some engineering endeavours achieve a new life totally different to and beyond the dreams of their creators despite being horribly misguided in their inception.
Take the Eiffel Tower. It was a disaster. It was constructed in iron when the material was on its way out. It was supposed to be temporary, initially due to be taken down in 1909. It was pilloried for being expensive, for not being fully built in time for the 1889 Exposition, and for being hideous. It is now the most visited monument in the world, and France’s most recognizable icon.
The Combe Down Tunnel shares some of those characteristics. It effectively bankrupted the Somerset & Dorset Railway Company. It was the longest of its kind in the country, but at one section could only operate with one line. It killed three railway workers in 1929 having been built with no intermediate ventilation. And it was closed in 1966 and left vacant until 2010.
And that’s when it’s new lease of life arrived. It is now a cycling and walking tunnel – the longest in Britain – and along with the shorter Devonshire Tunnel is known as the Two Tunnels Greenway. At a cost of £1.8m and reopened in 2013, it is the home of art installations, the haunt of thousands of walkers, runners and cyclists – and is a delightful commuter route to Bath Spa station.
Of course it isn’t the tallest structure in France. But that is surely only a matter of time.