A bridge too far as route 66 hits buffers

Reporter: Janice Barker
Date published: 02 February 2010

PLANS for a new route 66 between Oldham and Ashton have been put on the back burner.

The route — part of a national English cycle route, not the iconic American route made famous by the Chuck Berry song — would have encouraged people to cycle from Oldham to Ashton.

However, the cost of using a bridge across the Medlock Valley in Tameside has forced a change to the plan.

But work on creating better off-road cycle and walking links to Rochdale is going ahead.

Both schemes were part of a successful bid to win £50 million from the National Lottery for the Sustrans: Connect2 scheme to create cycling and safe walking routes up and down the country in 2007.

The Ashton link is part of national cycle route 66, from Hull to Liverpool.

Oldham people played their part by voting in support of the local scheme and Oldham Council shared £1 million of the lottery grant to build traffic-free routes between Oldham and Rochdale and Oldham and Tameside.

But problems with the route to Ashton have led to it being put on the reserve list.

Councillor Mark Alcock, cabinet member for environment and infrastructure, said: “The scheme centred on improving cycling and pedestrian links between Oldham and Ashton town centres along the disused railway line.

“The centrepiece for the project was a bridge crossing of the Medlock Valley near Park Bridge.

“Recently Tameside Council has had to withdraw from the scheme due to the high costs of the bridge element.

“It is hoped to complete the route along the former line, without the bridge, by 2012.”

The Rochdale link, along the disused rail line between the Rochdale Canal near Middleton and the now closed Werneth Station, runs through Chadderton.

Sections of the new route between the Rochdale Canal, Hunt Lane, Broadway and Walsh Street, passing Crossley Playing Fields, have gone out to public consultation.

Peter Green, Sustrans area manager for Greater Manchester, said: “The Connect2 route through Oldham to Ashton is part of our reserve list.”

l Sustrans is a national sustainable transport charity.

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