Work is set to start on a £4.2 million package of schemes to boost cycling and walking across the Black Country. Public transport co-ordinator Centro is working in partnership the Canal & River Trust charity, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton councils to deliver the Managing Short Trips project, which aims to make it easier for walkers and cyclists to travel in the area.
The initiative will also take advantage of the Black Country’s rich industrial heritage by improving its historic canal towpaths as well as providing improved connections to on-road cycle routes. The project will help connect people to busy residential, employment and education hubs like the i54, Walsall town centre and Pensnett Trading Estate.
Cllr Roger Lawrence, chair of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority, said: “We have already seen great improvements to walking and cycling facilities in our area through the Smart Network, Smarter Choices project and this scheme will really allow us to build on that. “This funding will help us breathe new life into some of the canal towpaths, some of which date back to the 18th century, and improve routes for people travelling by bike or on foot.”
More than 26 kilometres (16 miles) of canal towpaths will be improved and enhancements will provide connections to parts of the National Cycle Network which pass through the area. Ian Lane, West Midlands Waterways Manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “The canals in the Black Country provide a ready-made network of green traffic free routes in and around towns and cities. “These projects will improve the towpath for everyone, making it more accessible for cyclists, walkers, joggers, anglers and boaters.“The canals in the Black Country really help to connect local communities. Once this work is complete, it will be easier than ever for people to visit their local waterway and escape the daily hustle and bustle.”
The project has been funded by the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Deal. The fund is aimed at supporting projects which boost economic growth. Ninder Johal, Black Country LEP Board Member said: “The Managing Short Trips project, will improve travel for walkers and cyclists and enhance the Black Country as a place to live and work.” The project will support the aims of the landmark West Midlands Cycle Charter which was formally launched last year by the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority. This is made up of the region’s seven council leaders and a representative from each of the three Local Enterprise Councils.
The Charter aims to improve facilities and training for cyclists to increase the number of bike journeys made in the West Midlands.
Councillor Phil Bateman added,” it would be good to see some of that short trip money spent on Wyrley & Essington Canal, lots of short trips are made from Wednesfield to the giant New Cross Hospital site, and this site can easily be accessed by walking or cycling along the canal tow path from either Wolverhampton City Centre or Wednesfield.”