AN UPGRADE to a section of the National Cycle Network between Leamington and Rugby is on the cards.
Walking and cycling charity Sustrans has submitted a planning application to re-route a section of Route 41, also known as the Lias Line, taking it off-road onto a completely new purpose-built track.
Work on the project is expected to start in April 2021, and will be split into three phases.
Phase one, which will cost around £4.5million, will create a new sealed surface off-road stretch of track. This will follow the ‘main line’ of the old Lias Line railway route, creating a more direct route between the villages of Offchurch and Birdingbury.
A new bridge over the A423 at Marton will be built to replace an existing bridge which is nearing the end of its life.
Subject to funding, the second phase will make use of the old railway ‘branch line’ to create a new off-road track to improve connectivity with Long Itchington and other nearby villages.
The third and final phase will follow the branch line route south to the Stockton reservoir.
When complete, around 8.3km of on-road cycle route between Leamington and Rugby will be replaced with 6.18km of off-road track, improving the safety of the route and also making it Warwickshire’s longest traffic-free greenway.
The improvements have been made possible thanks to a £20m funding package from the Department of Transport to improve the network.
The Lias Line was identified as in a poor condition when Sustrans reviewed the National Cycle Network last year.
The ‘Paths for Everyone’ review found much of the off-road sections were overgrown with a poor surface. The existing route will be also severed by HS2.
Sustrans has submitted the planning application to the three local authorities where the route passes through – Warwick District Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Rugby Borough Council. Stratford will take the lead on the application and will consult with residents and the other councils before reaching a final determination.
Sustrans Senior Network Developer Carmen Szeto said: “The National Cycle Network belongs to everyone and it can help all of us to lead happier, healthier lives. That’s why I’m so excited by this project which will transform cycling and walking in Warwickshire.
“Clearly, we have been delayed by the pandemic but we’re now back on track and raring to go.
“Throughout this project we’ve worked closely with the local community to ensure we have a project which works for everyone. So we want everyone to have their say on this application so that the result is something truly special which we can all be proud of.”
Long Itchington Parish Council has voiced support for the project.
A spokesperson said: “The parish council is delighted to hear the project is now moving to the planning approval stage.
“The purpose-built track will provide an excellent facility to the surrounding area and will give improved opportunities to residents for safe cycling and walking.
“We are hopeful the Lias Line improvements will provide better connectivity for Long Itchington to the national cycle network.”
Visit https://tinyurl.com/y32wo25k for more information about Sustrans and the Lias Line.