Sustrans and the National Cycle Network
Working with local authorities across Britain, Sustrans develops green transport routes designed to promote cycling and walking.
Fifty years ago, 25% of all journeys made in Britain were made by bicycle. Today that figure has dramatically fallen to a mere 1%*. Traffic volume, noise, congestion, pollution and road danger discourages people from walking or cycling. Sustrans believes that building practical projects designed to encourage people to start cycling again is a first step in tackling traffic growth and its adverse affects on our communities.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Sustrans demonstrated that people would come back to cycling if the conditions were right. Strategic lengths of disused railway were converted to cycleways. Bristol to Bath and York to Selby railway paths were early examples. The popularity of these routes was self evident for leisure trips and utility journeys, as well as providing a perfect nursery route for new cyclists and walkers.

In 1995 Sustrans embarked on the development of a National Cycle Network supported by an initial grant of £42.5m from the National Lottery Millennium Commission. By the end of 2001, 6000 miles had been officially opened across the United Kingdom including many sections of abandoned railway lines.

*Urban Task Force Report - "Towards An Urban Renaissance"



  back to top

Other important beneficiaries

People with disabilities including disabled cyclists and wheel-chair users have restricted independent access to the countryside. Smooth surfaced paths on former railway lines provide a safe and easily traversed environment.

Horseriding is a popular pastime in rural West Yorkshire. The ancient bridleway and by-way network is well used but on-road sections pose serious dangers for horses because of increasing traffic volume and speed. Converting disused railways to shared use paths in rural areas also provides a unique opportunity for horseriders to gain improved access to the local bridleway network. In West Bradford district there are opportunities to connect with the Pennine Bridleway and other routes which may be developed through the 'Lost Ways Project'.

Critically, the railway legacy remains a resource with huge potential for tourism and leisure. In an area where landowners look to secondary business opportunities to supplement low farming incomes the trail offers an opportunity to diversify into cycle hire, bed and breakfast, riding schools, livery stables and tea rooms.

Other benefits include the protection of local wildlife habitat, railway heritage conservation and school field trips.


  back to top  

Bradford's "Alpine" railway

The Cullingworth to Queensbury railway was an extraordinary late Victorian engineering achievement which required a succession of dramatic viaducts to carry locomotives across the rolling Pennine landscape. The last train ran in 1963. Five stations were pulled down and the station sites at Cullingworth, Wilsden and Denholme were occupied by local business concerns. A school was built on Thornton station site and some landfill tipping has been allowed between Thornton and Queensbury. Forty years after closure however much still remains including undisturbed sections of trackbed and the three famous viaducts of Thornton, Hewenden and Cullingworth. Assessing the feasibility of utilising sections of the railway track, bridges and viaducts, and resolving the route where it is necessary to leave the old railway formation is the purpose of this report - thereby forming a nationally recognised high quality trail, capable of stimulating broader regeneration and further sustainable development.


  back to top  

The Kirklees Experience

"The Spen Valley Greenway is a green corridor that follows the route of the old Spen Valley Rail Line between Bradford Low Moor and Dewsbury. The Greenway forms part of the National Cycle Network Route 66 which will eventually connect Hull and Manchester via York Leeds and Bradford. The Greenway is a partnership between Kirklees Metropolitan Council, Sustrans and the Spen Valley Greenway Forum who represent a broad range of local interest groups. Sustrans acquired the ex-Spen ÒValley Rail Line in 1999 with the Council offering matching commitment to construct a path with a financial contribution to avoid its permanent break-up. The track itself is a 2.5m wide tarmac path with a number of ramped access points providing easy access onto the cycleway from nearby highways, footpaths and bridleways. The path is a permissive one and has shared use between pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users with horseriders permitted to use the adjacent informal ballasted trip for horseriding. The route has been landscaped and embellished with sculptures and route markers to provide information and additional interest. The total cost of all three phases was approximately £730,000.

A Scrutiny Panel set up by Kirklees Council reviewed the process and action which has resulted from the Greenway, to assess the success of the scheme and to review the strategy for schemes of a similar nature in other parts of the District. The Panel has been considering detailed submissions of the background and information from officers, visited the Greenway and received evidence from interested parties. Almost without exception, the development and the use of the Greenway has been commended and welcomed by all parties. Comments have been noted that the Greenway has enhanced the quality of life, health and well being of the community, reduced crime and the perception of the threat of crime. It has also supported the economy in the increased local sales of cycles and the increased use of hostelries near to the route. It has provided safe routes to schools in the area and provided a wildlife corridor through the Spen Valley".

Extract from LTP Annual Report 2001from Kirklees Council


  back to top