Two key pedestrian routes, which connect the north and south sides of Swindon under the railway tracks, will be undergoing a spring facelift over the next couple of months. The improvements will make walking between Swindon town centre and some key sites on the other side of the tracks, feel much more pleasant and safe.
The north side of the Paddington to Bristol line, is home to a range of important organisations and local amenities, including the Swindon Designer Outlet at Churchward, North Star – including BT, Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the Research Councils UK (RCUK), Swindon College and the Oasis. Up until now the subways underneath the railway tracks have been off-putting for pedestrians.
The diagram indicates the tunnels to be improved.
The project to improve Great Western Underpass, the former GWR workers’ tunnel which leads into the historic Churchward quarter, has started on site and includes increasing lighting levels and installing new artwork along the length of the tunnel. Artist Bruce Williams is creating ten “Railway Worker” stainless steel, back-lit artistic wall panels to go on the North East wall of the tunnel (pictured).
On the opposite wall, 500mm high stainless steel back-lit letters will spell out “Swindon Works”. Bruce Williams has been commissioned for other public art around Swindon, including at Nova Hreod College (pictured).
The Hawksworth Underpass which connects Sheppard Street to the Hawksworth Estate and the rest of the North Star area, will benefit from much improved lighting levels and cleaned up walls through the length of the subway making the trip under the tracks much more pleasant for workers and students who use it as a cut-through to work or college.
Ian Piper, Chief Executive at Forward Swindon, who is currently overseeing a town centre master planning process, “Planning Swindon Together”, emphasises the importance of smaller scale projects as well as major, long term schemes to improve Swindon.
He says of the two underpass works: “One of the issues to emerge from the master planning exercise so far is the need for improved connectivity between the north and south of the railway line. These tunnels are used by commuters getting to and from work, or as a route between the two main shopping zones in the town. They represent relatively small scale investments by Forward Swindon that will make a real difference to people on a daily basis.”
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council Deputy Leader said: “Not only will this improve the quality of hundreds of individual journeys every day, the artwork in the Great Western Underpass will remind people of Swindon’s railway heritage and the justifiable pride that thousands of workers had in the magnificent machines they created.”
Tina Cumpstey, Centre Manager at McArthurGlen’s Swindon Designer Outlet says, “The renovation of the Great Western Underpass is a fantastic idea that will benefit all involved, it will allow for a pleasant and more importantly safe journey for customers who want to walk the short distance between both shopping zones.”
The two tunnels are due to be completed during April this year.