A PROJECT TO IMPROVE ACCESS, HEALTH AND TOURISM
ALONG A HISTORIC RAILWAY ROUTE IN WHITSTABLE, KENT
Registered charity, the Crab and Winkle Line Trust, is leading a project with Canterbury City Council, Kent County Council and Sustrans to build two pedestrian bridges in Whitstable, Kent along the route of the world’s third oldest railway. The six-mile route, built by the Stephensons, is 175 years old. The bridges will cross two roads and a railway and allow pedestrian access to the town centre, harbour, beach, medical centre and six schools.
The Canterbury to Whitstable railway opened in 1830 and was the third railway line ever to be built. It was the first in the world regularly to take passengers. The first ever season tickets were sold in Canterbury to take people to the Whitstable beach for the summer season. The Industrial Revolution took place here – George and Robert Stephenson built the route, Telford built Whitstable harbour and Brunel used the route’s tunnel as his inspiration. The world’s oldest railway bridge was on the route. But this bridge was knocked down in the 1969 and the whole route became abandoned, overgrown and forgotten.
In 1997, the Crab and Winkle Line Trust was formed to bring the route back into public use. 40% of the route is now accessible and part of National Cycle Network Route 1. To bring the route into the centre of Whitstable, we need to re-bridge two roads and the London-to-Ramsgate railway. Two bridges are needed, of 48-metre and 13-metre spans. The bridges will link the existing foot path on the south to the town centre and Whitstable harbour on the north. No easy, step-free pedestrian link currently exists.
A re-bridged Crab and Winkle Line at Whitstable will bring material benefits to the people of Whitstable and to the whole district.
• First, Whitstable has severe traffic problems. There is only one major road into the town, and no safe, step-free pedestrian or wheelchair access into the town centre. This increases short-distance car journeys. The bridges would provide a convenient traffic-free route from houses to shops, from houses to schools and from houses to the beach – all journeys of a mile or less. Traffic and parking problems would decrease, and a safe route to six schools would be created.
• Second, there are health benefits, particularly for young people walking to schools, of a re-bridged line. Local doctors have expressed strong support for the scheme which would make the town’s medical centre more accessible by foot.
• Third, the whole community will benefit from less anti-social behaviour and vandalism on the abandoned, overgrown land beside the bridges. Local residents’ associations are in support of the scheme.
• Fourth, the district will benefit from better access for tourists to the centre of Whitstable. The current route from Canterbury finishes in the residential district south of the bridges, leaving visitors unable to find their way into the town – a poor first impression. An innovative bridge, and the history of the route, should become a tourist attraction in its own right.
• Fifth, the bridges will bring this forgotten part of Whitstable’s history back to life, and be an attraction for schools and tourists and a source of local pride.
The project is led by the Crab and Winkle Line Trust, a registered charity (no. 1077110) established in 1997 to bring back the whole of the old Canterbury-to-Whitstable railway into public use. The Trust has already ensured public access to 40% of the original route. The Trust is joined in partnership on the Whitstable bridges project by Canterbury City Council, who own land to either side of the site of the bridges, by Kent County Council, responsible for transport policy in the county, by Sustrans, the civil engineering charity, by Kent Police, and by firms of architects, and civil engineers. The route is part of the Council’s corporate plan, ten-year transport action plan, walking and cycling strategy and climate change strategy.