BCP Active Travel Scheme — Follow Up

This article is a follow-up to our original article about a dedicated active travel scheme through the heart of the BCP along the railway line. We recommend that you read that article first before reading this one. In this article we’ll explain why we think this idea is — in reality — a no-brainer, and what potential opportunities it could open up for the BCP.

Why does the BCP need a project like this?

The BCP is a sleepy backwater conurbation on the south coast of the UK. It relies heavily on tourism for its economy to function, which is a highly volatile industry, as we can see clearly from the current beating it’s taking from the COVID pandemic. The BCP needs to diversify its economic offerings into other industries in a big way, but for that to happen the conurbation needs to appear to be a progressive location that is enticing for businesses in those industries.

Who’s paying?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that BCP Council would pay for a scheme like this. It’s probably not that they wouldn’t, it’s just that they can’t afford it. So funding from other sources is the only option. If you’re moving towards the frame of mind of thinking “So it’s a nice idea, but we can’t afford it, so let’s move on.” it’s time to change your approach.

Why the Central Government

We have to delve into the murky world of politics for a moment to understand this. It’s a simple step-by-step process. Governments want to stay in power, to do that they have to get votes. To get votes they have to prove (or attempt to prove) progress and achievement. Landmark projects on trending (but also necessary) topics achieve these aims. In a post-Brexit world the UK’s central government is hungry for projects it can hold up to the world and say “This is what post-Brexit Britain is all about.”

Why Network Rail

The railway line is owned and operated by Network Rail. They are actively looking for ways to reduce the running costs of their infrastructure, and are trying a number of different methods to achieve that.

Why South West Trains

South West Trains are the local train operating company for our region. The reasons given for Network Rail work equally well for South West Trains. We are suggesting that harvested renewable energy be utilised to directly power both Bournemouth station and Pokesdown for Boscombe station. These two stations are owned by Network Rail, but they are managed by South West Trains. It is in their interest to reduce their costs.

How to convince Network Rail to pay for an Active Travel Scheme (ATS)?

If you think that Network Rail and indirectly South West Trains are going to jump at the chance to fund an ATS it’s time to bring your head back down from the clouds. Asking them to fund an ATS would be like asking JD Rockefeller to pay for electricity cables back in the 19th century. If you don’t get the reference, the short story is it’s 99% impossible to convince a business to fund its competitor. Make no mistake, Active Travel is a direct competitor to the railways. If you’re walking or cycling you’re not buying a train ticket, so that’s lost revenue for them.

We’re not selling an ATS, we’re selling a Renewable Energy Generation Scheme, that just happens to have an ATS on top.

How to build our tunnel

Let’s get down to the exciting stuff, building the tunnel!!! To start with, let’s think about materials. Most railway tunnels need to be incredibly strong and durable because of the potential weight going over them. It’s either trains going over roads, or cars, lorries and buses going over railways. Luckily for us, neither of these situations is the case. We’ve only got pedestrians and cyclists on top, so the weight differential is much less. Hooray!

Steel is our friend

Since our surface weight ratio is drastically reduced we could most likely construct the tunnel using a steel framework. This is much cheaper and quicker to do, so the project is already saving money and disruption time.

A modular design

Modular is all the rage, and there are a number of reasons for that. One of the best ones is the speed with which a structure can be built. It also provides an easy method of refurbishment or renovation to a structure without having to rethink the entire building.

The coal yard for the previous Boscombe station is the perfect location for module assembly.

Two tunnels not one

We’re advocating the use of wind turbines all the way along the inside of the proposed tunnel. Wind velocity is faster in narrower tunnels. We’re talking a little bit about fluid dynamics here, so let’s think carefully what we’re designing.

Wind turbine design

You’d be forgiven for thinking we’re suggesting putting wind turbines along the ground on the inside of the tunnels between the passing trains and the walls. This is a waste of space, and we don’t have much of it to play with.

Image comes from https://home.uni-leipzig.de/energy/energy-fundamentals/15.htm
  • We don’t want these turbines to affect the flow of other banks of turbines.
  • We need to vent the wind out of the system from these turbines somehow. It can’t just hit a wall and dissipate, because it will mess up the flow.
  • We also want to hopefully try and harness this spent wind again in a “2nd wind” theory.
These are theoretical/conceptual designs only, not exact specifications.
Design of a black hole in space

Tunnel entrance design

The tunnels along this project are designed to be wind tunnels. As such their entrances should be considered to maximise the amount of wind that gets dragged into them when a train goes through. Flat surfaces with sharp, hard angles are not a good idea. The entrance design should be curved to make it easier for wind to enter the tunnels. The supporting image of how a black hole appears can give you an idea on how to go about this.

Point of most energy harvesting

There are two types of trains that run along this stretch of track. Local trains stop at both stations, the higher speed trains only stop at Bournemouth. The energy derived from local trains going through the system will not be substantial, but it will be something. The major harvesting will come from the higher speed trains.

Traffic light system showing optimum wind energy harvesting positions along route.

Carbon-cutting & energy generating opportunities for the ATS

This project is all about cutting carbon footprints, through a mixture of active travel and renewable energy generation. We’ve talked about how to harvest wind energy within our tunnels, so let’s talk about how we can harvest energy from the surface.


We mentioned piezoelectricity in our first article. To be clear, no one is going to save the world’s climate with piezoelectricity, because on its own it just doesn’t generate all that much energy. However, as part of a broader spectrum of integrated energy harvesting methods throughout the project, it is absolutely worth including.

Archways expanded with solar film

Coming back to our wind turbine archways, we can really go to town on them above ground. We can coat the tops of them with solar film, which is a flexible alternative to solar panels. They are not as effective, but they do work. So let’s say that we cover our archways’ top surfaces with our solar film, we’re probably looking at an overall coverage of perhaps 1/20th — 1/30th of the total surface of the route. Run those numbers in your head and you get 866.66m2 — 1,300m2 of solar film to harvest energy from.

Archways expanded with green roof style side-cladding

Sorry, we didn’t get time to do a model of this, but you’ll understand what we mean by our amazing and informative description…we hope. We can clad the sides of our archways with curved sheet metal with regular machined holes in. Between the sheet metal cladding and the actual archway structure we can place “cups” (best word we could think of), that we then fill with soil and plant winders/creepers in. After a bit of time our archways are no longer the industrial behemoths that were put in, but beautiful natural-looking structures. The plants will help to capture and convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Utilising rainwater effectively

On a 2.6km stretch of track that is approximately 10m wide (yes, that’s 26,000m2 for the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed of you) we should see annual rainfall of approximately 20,982m3. Not sure how much that is? (neither were we) It equates to 8.3 Olympic-sized swimming pools, or for those of you who don’t swim, it’s 52 1 litre bottles of water for every single one of the 400,000 residents of the BCP.

Thirsty doggies

We can install water tanks (out of sight) along the route that collect nearby run-off. We can then add pedal-powered hydraulic pumps to them from above. Step on the pedal, water comes out, your thirsty doggie won’t be thirsty any more! If you manage to train your dog to step on the pedal itself that’s just viral video gold dust in the making!

Vertical farming

If you don’t know about vertical farming, we strongly recommend that you look it up. It is absolutely the future, but it’s very expensive to do at the moment. Besides energy, you also need water to make it happen. The amount of water needed is just 5% of standard agricultural farming, but it still needs to come from somewhere.

Integrating energy-harvesting and aesthetics

If we piped all of our run-off into the two nearby railway stations, we could store it in large tanks on those sites. As the tanks reach capacity they can periodically release their load onto water turbines, which in turn release the water in a waterfall effect into a trough before entering the sewer system. We get direct energy generation for the stations, and a beautiful aesthetic effect for little or no cost.

Urban dams

If we really wanted to push the boat out, we could consider urban dams, but we’re only going to mention them in this article. You can learn more about them here and here.

Hang on aren’t we building an ATS here?

OK, let’s get back to that portion of the project! On the surface of the fancypants new tunnel along our route we’re going to plonk an ATS for pedestrians and cyclists, or cyclists and pedestrians depending on your preference.

Entry/Exit points

The ATS should hook up to all 4 existing crossings along the route, because we’re all about progress not regress. Hooking up to existing transport links should go further. There are opportunities along the route to create entry/exit points on other nearby roads that could bring those micro-communities to life. The following image shows some suggested access points.

Existing access points in pink, suggested new access points in blue. Might need to enlarge the image to see clearly.
  • Kings Park Cemetery, Boscombe
  • Corner of Tamworth Rd & Somerset Rd, Boscombe
  • Corner of St. Clements Rd. & Vale Rd, Boscombe (would require some rejigging)
  • Southcote Rd, Boscombe/Bournemouth

Utilising cuttings for social, communal and energy harvesting opportunities

In certain parts of this stretch of track the cuttings are quite wide. Since our ATS is designed to be at “road height”, we can make use of these cuttings to gain more space.

Sections of the route with useable cuttings to provide social space marked in green

Is there more? Yes there’s more

Still awake? OK, we’ll give you the final section of this surprisingly long article. There are a few more things to consider off the back of this project.

Opening up of adjacent spaces for beneficial developments

There is a large urban brownfield site along this route that is just screaming out to be developed. We are, of course, talking about the previous Boscombe train station site. It sits either side of the tracks, and part of it is utilised as an under-developed industrial park right next to Kings Park. You can see the site in the image below.

Boscombe station site shown in green

Hooking up to other cycle routes

This proposed route in and of itself is a great idea. We’ve had some fantastic feedback from local residents and one thing that stood out was the concept of circular routes. That is connecting this route up to other routes so that cyclists and pedestrians could do a circuit and end up back where they started.

Suggested circular cycle route incorporating this project. Project shown in green.
  • The promenade is great for cycling in winter, but not in summer. We could utilise the cliff-tops either with a dedicated cycle path or the roads that run along it.
  • Somehow we need to come back to our start. Our target should be Landsdowne roundabout, because we can hop onto the upcoming Landsdowne pedestrian section along Holdenhurst Rd. and zip under the Asda roundabout back to our start.

Last but not least…extension!

If this project was successful in generating the amount of energy needed to power the stretch of railway track it covers and the nearby stations (we believe that it could), then it is a success. As such it would be a few things; Firstly the coolest urban ATS by far. It would be the longest tunnel in Dorset at 2.6km, and it would revolutionise the way BCP residents (specifically Bournemouth, Boscombe, Southbourne, Springbourne and Charminster) would think about commuting, but also active leisure and exercise.

Proposed route shown in green. Links to BU Talbot Campus through Talbot Heath, Meyrick Park & Bournemouth Upper Gardens shown in yellow.

This project is a no-brainer. It would be scandalous to not consider it.

Any and all thoughts, suggestions and ideas about this project for the BCP or any other project are always welcome at our door. You can reach out to us at info@crimson.rocks

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