Friday, October 29, 2010

oh dr beeching what a naughty man you are

Here in Newport we're sooooo over the Ryder Cup. We're far more excited about the brand spanking new enormous branch of Sainsbury's that's opened up at Crindau, near junction 25a of the M4. So having negotiated the new traffic lights on Heidenheim Drive (aka the A4042) to get in via the main entrance I wondered if there was a sneaky back way in that might provide a short-cut. It turns out there isn't, or not a particularly useful one anyway, but while looking for an aerial photo on Google Maps I made the in hindsight fairly obvious discovery that Google's aerial view of the store is still of a big grassy wasteland. Which wasn't very helpful, but made me wonder: I wonder how regularly Google refresh the pictures on the aerial view and StreetView maps? And how would they know which ones need updating? Maybe they monitor new building works and the like and just send the car and helicopter round once the work's finished. Anyway, I'll monitor things and let you know when a new Sainsbury's miraculously appears fully formed on top of what was previously just grass and concrete.

What the cleared waste ground also reveals (via StreetView) is the interesting former life of what is now Heidenheim Drive as a railway embankment. Zoom in a bit and the brick architecture on top of which the A4042 now sits is instantly identifiable as a former railway. It's actually the former line between places like Cwmbran and Pontypool and now defunct stations like Newport Mill Street and Newport Dock Street. Defunct in this case for a pretty good reason, which is that there was (and indeed still is) another perfectly good railway line between Newport and Cwmbran, and two was felt to be a bit of an extravagance. In this case I concede Dr. Beeching probably had a point. The picture captures a fleeting moment between the warehouses that formerly occupied the site (and would have obscured the view) being demolished and the new Sainsbury's being completed and the whole historic edifice being covered with anonymous stone cladding (as it now is).

You can compare the line the old railway took with the line Heidenheim Drive now takes (and verify that they are the same) by looking at this old map and this new one.

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