The £1.2 million Rugby Viaduct Cycleway has been officially opened by the town’s Mayor.
The ambitious project, a partnership between Rugby Borough Council, sustainable transport charity Sustrans, Warwickshire County Council and St Modwen Properties, links Newbold with Rugby railway station and the town centre via the historic viaduct which spans Leicester Road and the River Avon.
The borough council has invested more than £300,000 in the cycleway. The project was one of 50 throughout the UK given the go ahead after Sustrans secured £70 million from the Big Lottery Fund for its Connect2 initiative. Connect2 aims to improve links to Sustrans’ National Cycle Network.
Cllr Anthony Gillias, Mayor of Rugby, officially opened the Rugby Viaduct Cycleway at a ceremony yesterday (Wednesday).
The cycleway starts in Newbold’s Brownsover Road and crosses the Oxford Canal - linking to the Glebe Estate - before taking cyclists and walkers over the viaduct. The grade II listed viaduct was closed in 1965, but remains one of the town’s iconic structures.
It was opened by the Midland Counties Railway in 1840 and was the brainchild of influential railway engineer Charles Vignoles. The viaduct comprises 11 arches and spans nearly 700 feet.
From the viaduct, the cycleway follows the old raised railway bank. A ramp leads down to the end of Hunters Lane before the cycleway connects with the Black Path, where the old steps to the railway bridge have been replaced by a ramp.
From there, cyclists and walkers can either head for the town centre via Park Road or the railway station via Wood Street and Railway Terrace. The whole route is accessible to wheelchair users.
The Rugby Viaduct Cycleway also includes a Portrait Bench, part of a national Sustrans project to create works of public art to commemorate local culture and history. Rugby’s Portrait Bench, located in Consul Road, features steel cut, life-size portraits of Alice, from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Ralph ‘The Rugby Flyer’ Dougherty, a star rider for Rugby Cycling Club in the 1930s, and Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer, the Rugby-born scientist and astronomer who jointly discovered the gas helium.
All three were voted for by the public.
Cllr Heather Timms, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for economy, development and culture, said: “The Rugby Viaduct Cycleway will bring a lasting benefit to Rugby residents and supports the council’s regeneration strategy.
“It’s also a major leisure amenity which brings one of Rugby’s iconic structures back into everyday use.”
Peter Rudd, senior development surveyor at St. Modwen, said the company was delighted to have helped fund the path to the tune of nearly £300,000.
“It will provide cyclists and walkers with a valuable leisure facility and links to the town centre and railway station,” Mr Rudd added.
“St. Modwen has helped fund the path as part of the multi-million pound urban community we are creating on Leicester Road in Rugby, which will include hundreds of new homes, public space, local play areas, Warwickshire College and a family focused public house.”
* Rugby hosts a family walk/cycle on Thursday 29 August to celebrate Pedal On UK, a nationwide cycle tour organised by Sustrans to celebrate the new walking and cycling routes on its National Cycle Network.
Rugby Pedal On takes place on the Leicester Road viaduct between 12.15pm and 1.15pm, and includes a Fresh Air Mile ride or walk, live music, a family picnic and the chance to ‘bling’ your bike. Visitors can also cheer on the Pedal On tour as the 20 volunteer riders pass through Rugby on the way to Birmingham.