There is a great discussion in parts of the UK right now about the government’s proposed second high-speed rail route. The first phase of this line would pass through some very picturesque parts of the country such as the Chiltern Hills. Driving transport links through beautiful countryside isn’t a new thing, we’ve been doing it for centuries. In the 1700s when the canal boom got going the routes tended to twist around, following the contour of the land and avoiding the need for expensive tunnels and locks. Of course the canals were soon to be superseded by railways, which were built in much straighter lines and were faster. There lies the crux of the matter with high-speed rail. High-speed trains need very straight rails and building long straight tracks is hard to do without hitting something (such as the Chilterns). This clearly wasn’t an issue for the builders of the Ohio and Erie Railway, part of the route that we cycled on today. The route felt as if someone had drawn a straight line on a map from a to b and that was the line of the railway. The track stretched out ahead of us for miles and miles only twisting slightly when we reached roads.
The straightness of the trails and the fact that they’re fairly flat makes it possible to really pick up speed, at times were cycling along at 25 mph. Our thanks go to those earlier railway pioneers, without you we wouldn’t be enjoying the ride quite so much!