THE LONGEST ‘traffic-free greenway’ in Warwickshire is coming together.
A ceremonial ground-breaking event has taken place to begin a £5.1million phase of improvements to a section of the National Cycle Network in the county.
It was attended by stakeholders and representatives including Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright, and Warwickshire County Council Leader Coun Izzi Seccombe.
Route 41 or the ‘Lias Line’ – named after the old railway route it will follow – will connect villages across the county via a safe cycling and walking track.
The current work will deliver ‘phase one’ of the improvements, costing around £5.1m, and will see the creation of a completely new sealed surface off-road stretch of track which will follow the ‘branch line’ of the old Lias Line railway route – creating a more direct connection between the Offchurch Greenway and Long Itchington.
When complete, around 2.5miles of on-road cycling routes between Offchurch Greenway and Long Itchington will be replaced with 3.4 mile of off-road track – improving the safety of the route which will form part of Warwickshire’s longest traffic-free greenway.
A spokeswoman for walking and cycling charity Sustrans, which is overseeing the project, said the ‘exciting’ project would transform provision for cycling and walking in Warwickshire.
Clare Maltby, Sustrans’ England Director Midlands and East, said: “For many years we have been working closely with the community and local authority partners to make this project a reality so I’m thrilled to see phase one being delivered.
“We’ve been delayed by the pandemic but we’re back on track and raring to go. I’m incredibly grateful to our partners and the Department for Transport who have been instrumental in making this happen.”
Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris MP said: “I am delighted the Government is backing this project with £5m funding, delivering some much-needed improvements to make the Lias Line greenway safer and more accessible for walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike.”
Subject to funding, the second phase of the work – estimated to cost around £3.4million – will make use of the old railway ‘main line’ to create a new off-road track to improve connectivity with Birdingbury and other nearby villages. This will include a replacement bridge over the A423 at Marton.
The third and final phase will follow the branch line route south of the Stockton reservoir.
The Lias Line was selected for improvement following a review of the National Cycle Network in 2019.
A review entitled ‘Paths for Everyone’ review, carried out by walking and cycling charity Sustrans which is overseeing the project, found many of the off-road sections were overgrown and had a poor surface.
The existing path will also be severed by HS2.
‘Phase one’ is expected to be completed by September 2022.
Visit https://tinyurl.com/2p9a5b6x for more information about the Lias Line and Sustrans.