Derelict Welsh tunnel set to become the longest cycle route of its kind in Europe

Derelict Welsh tunnel set to become the longest cycle route of its kind in Europe

Breathing new life into former industrial sites can offer visitors exciting new experiences and provide a huge boost for the local economy. The Rhondda tunnel in South Wales is currently undergoing extensive surveying as part of plans to re-open it as a cycle route. At 3,148m (nearly 2 miles) the cycle route would be the longest of it’s kind in Europe.

The Victorian tunnel has stood derelict since coal trains ceased to travel from the mines of the Rhondda to Swansea Bay. The entrances at either end were buried and could have been long forgotten were it not for a dedicated community group who formed the Rhondda Tunnel Society and set out to re-open the tunnel in it’s entirety. Funded by a £90K grant, survey teams have been carrying out full inspections of the tunnel between the Rhondda and Afan valleys and report that it is in remarkably good condition considering that it has been buried and largely forgotten for almost 50 years.

Cycling tourism

The tunnel is currently owned by Highways England who are willing to hand it over to the local authorities. Excavated spoil would be used to make the surrounding ground suitable for constructing visitor centres, parking and campsites at either end.

Whilst lagging behind our European counterparts, leisure cycling continues to grow in the UK. In 2015, Sustrans estimated that leisure and tourism cycling on the National Cycle Network supported over 15,000 jobs and directly contributed £650m to the economy each year. The sustainable transport charity recently produced a report suggesting that a proposal to reopen the Queensbury Tunnel in West Yorkshire as a cycle route could deliver £37.6m worth of economic, health and tourism benefits over 30 years.

Previous success stories include the Two Tunnels cycle route which opened in Bath in 2013. The Combe Down tunnel is now a visitor attraction in its own right and features an interactive light and sound installation.

In 2011 The Monsal trail opened on the old Midland Railway line in the Derbyshire Peak District. In 2016 over 120,000 cycle movements were recorded, making it one of the national park’s most popular attractions.

Planning Solutions Consulting can advise on all aspects of visitor attraction planning and operations. To find out more please director Richard Linington on 023 9248 1999 or email