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Railways Conserve the Environment (1970)


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Some of the ways, large and small, direct and indirect, obvious and not so obvious, in which Britain's railways are contributing to the conservation of a good social environment.

Part of the former Somerset and Dorset railway has been converted into a nature trail, and local authorities have been encouraged to develop similar greenways for rambling, field study centres and recreational areas. At Clipsom in Rutland, a former section of line is now a training ground for racehorses. Former railway buildings have become restaurants (Widmerpool) private houses (Wolferton) or performance spaces (the famous Round House, in Chalk Farm, North London).

Architecturally, British railways have tried to reflect the spirit of the age, and modern British Rail architecture links modern technology with history and tradition. Hudson House in York, seat of British Rail's Eastern Region, has been designed to complement rather than contrast the nearby ancient city walls. Railway buildings are designed to contribute to the character of their surroundings - examples include Kemble, Stroud, Euston, Marylebone, Cambridge, Malvern Link and Hampton-in-Arden.

At the Railway Technical Centre, computers are taking over routine paperwork, leaving the staff free to do perform more stimulating tasks. Present-day train drivers have comfortable cabs, and staff amenities have also been updated. At the British Transport Staff College in Woking, new and senior managers, and not just from Britain, are encouraged to swap their ideas.

British Rail and the Central Electricity Generating Board have recently joined forces in a project designed to transform industrial eyesores into agricultural land. Pulverised fuel ash is transported from power stations to disused clay pits near Peterborough, which will help provide soil for newly fertile ground.

Rail transport can also conserve the countryside by providing fast, inter-city and frequent commuter services, thus reducing the necessity for creeping urban development and expanding cities.