Background

What is the Downslink

The path of the old rail line from Peasmarsh about 1 mile south of Guildford to Cranleigh is a major off-road route for pedestrians, cyclists, and horseriders. In most places it is good enough for wheelchairs as well. The whole route is commonly referred to as the "Downslink", although that strictly refers only to the route south from where the path from St. Martha's hill joins, just north of Bramley. From Cranleigh the route continues past Christ's Hospital near Horsham, past Henfield and Steyning, and finishes at Shoreham-by-Sea. In this area with extremely busy roads, it is a haven and refuge from continuous safety threats and noise.

From Peasmarsh to the Surrey / West Sussex county border near Baynards the route runs through the administrative borough of Waverley. The ownership of the land is split between Waverley Borough Council and Surrey County Council, with Waverley having management responsibility. Significant resources have been put into vegetation clearance, creating a good surface and re-instating missing bridges.

The Current Situation

At the time of writing this, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has written a report, "Connecting Communities" (pdf, 1.3MB), which looks at using new rail links to 'connect communities … that do not have good access to the rail network'. One of these possible links is Guildford to Cranleigh, and the most likely route is to follow the course of the old rail line - it's difficult to see any alternatives due to the topography of the land and the pattern of building in the area.

The challenge is whether it's possible to create a situation where rail, pedestrian, cycle, equestrian and wheelchair traffic can all fit down this corridor. The following pages try to show that, by making a few difficult decisions, this goal could be achieved. It does not include an expert view on the engineering requirements of the route, but it does include the viewpoint that catering for means of achieving 'active travel' is absolutely vital. This point of view is increasing being put forward from medical and social circles, and may make a good business case too.