Totnes. The missing link…

3rd February 2020

When it comes to how we get around, here in the South Hams we have little choice but to rely on our cars, due to our limited public transport.  One potential alternative we do have however, is to get on our bikes. Unfortunately, our road network is simply not bike friendly. One of the principle road connections into Totnes is the A381 from Newton Abbot. Due to the presence of the river Dart, this road serves as the only connection for the many villages to the north and northeast of the town.

There is no denying that this dangerous road is unsuitable for cycling, however there is a solution to cross the Dart without using it. This option is direct, safe and mostly flat, all the prerequisites for any successful cycling and walking trail. Importantly, it also makes use of existing infrastructure, the well-known Bulliver Bridge that crosses the river near the old Diary Crest site, now the Atmos project. Opening this route would also enable Totnes to become part of the National Cycle Network, which currently has a missing link on a route called NCN2 that runs from Dover to St Austell.

And here lies the problem. Despite the bridge being 50% publicly funded back in 1993, its current owners, The South Devon Railway, do not want to share it. A position they have maintained for over a decade. Met with this kind of objection one might ask why the campaign to share the bridge is now more popular than ever.

Image Courtesy Wikimedia

The answer is simple, times have changed.

It’s 2020 and Totnes is faced with growing congestion and pollution breaching recognised safe limits. We have also just entered a decade where urgent action is required to tackle the climate emergency. Business as usual is no longer an option. Communities are now coming together to determine how to reduce emissions and cut pollution. This means looking at everything from energy use to waste management, housing and of course, transport. We need to create alternatives to relying solely on our cars.

That is why we are calling on the South Devon Railway to reconsider their position and agree to enter into discussions on how their security concerns could be dealt with.The redevelopment of the Old Diary Crest site is set to redefine the land use around the bridge. This will go a long way towards combatting these concerns. Further work could be done around the bridge to create a secure and attractive solution. Our campaign is prepared to fund this investigation.


Of course, we could build a second bridge.  This is something we have looked at in detail and something we have the skills and resources to pursue.  However, embarking on such a costly infrastructure project, when there has never been a practical discussion on how to share the bridge that already exists, seems like folly.

Nick Oldridge is the Chairman of South Devon Cycle Link

Should Totnes improve the cycle network? Comment below…

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