£4.2m canal towpath spend to promote exercise in the Black Country
Canal towpaths across the Black Country will be spruced up as part of a £4.2 million package of improvements to encourage cycling and walking.
Links between canals and vital services will be created and existing cycle routes refurbished as part of the scheme, with work set to get underway this week.
The 'Managing Short Trips' project is being carried out by public transport co-ordinator Centro in partnership with the Canal and River Trust and councils in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
Money for the scheme has been provided through the local growth fund which supports projects that benefit the local economy.
Areas of canal towpath forming part of national cycle route 81 running from Aberystwyth to Wolverhampton will be improved.
And new links will be created between towpaths and sites including Walsall Train Station, Walsall Hospital and Darlaston town centre.
Councillor 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."
A section of national cycle network 54 at Pensnett Trading Estate in Kingswinford will be refurbished as part of the project, as will part of route five, which runs from Reading to Holyhead, at Smethwick.
A canal towpath route from Walsall town centre to Midland Road will be established and new links to Moseley Park in Wolverhampton will be created.
The Canal and River Trust has welcomed the start of work which will see a total of more than 16 miles of canal towpath improved.
Ian Lane, regional waterways manager, 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."
Bosses said the project will support the aims of the West Midlands Cycle Charter launched last year by the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority. The body is made up of the region's seven council leaders and a representative from the West Midlands' 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.
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