Published: 18th AUGUST 2022

Transforming a disused railway line into Warwickshire's greenway

A disused railway line in Warwickshire has been transformed into 4.2km of excellent off-road, accessible track making up part of Route 41 of the National Cycle Network. Residents have long dreamed of repurposing the space and after years of campaigning, fundraising, and planning phase is finally complete.

Jeremy Wright MP meets our Midlands and East Director, Clare Maltby, on the newly opened greenway.

As custodians of the National Cycle Network, we carried out our Paths for Everyone review in 2018.

We were brutally honest about the state of the Network, which passes within one mile of around half of the UK population.

Many of the routes suffered from a poor surface and poor accessibility because of barriers.

At that time, almost half of the network was deemed unsafe for a child aged 12 to ride alone.

In Warwickshire, National Route 41 was one of those routes identified.


Revitalising the Lias Line

Named after the stone buried beneath it, the Lias Line railway closed in 1985 after 134 years of transporting minerals and passengers.

Along with residents, we dreamed of repurposing it for many years.

It offered an obvious way to improve accessibility and connectivity with neighbouring towns and villages.

When we were successful in our bid to the Department for Transport for funding, we involved our key stakeholders every step of the way.

We kept local residents and landowners informed when we submitted our planning application.

And we worked closely with key partners like Long Itchington Parish Council at the design stage.


Making active travel safer and more accessible for all

In October 2021 work finally began on our project as part of our Paths for Everyone vision of making active travel safer and more accessible for all.

It was funded through an England-wide programme, supported by the Department for Transport, to enhance the National Cycle Network.

This was supplemented by further money raised from the British Horse Society, Warwickshire County Council, Warwick District Council and Rugby District Council.

Chair of Long Itchington Parish Council, Barbara Atkins, addresses guests at the formal opening of the Lias Line in July 2022

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This project goes alongside the government’s goal of encouraging more cycling and walking to tackle some of the biggest health and environmental challenges that we face. In addition, it will complete a long-held community aspiration to develop the entirety of the Lias Line so that it becomes a “path for all”, enabling local people and visitors alike to get outdoors and experience some beautiful parts of Warwickshire. Blockquote quotation marks
Jeremy Wright MP, Kenilworth and Southam

What has been delivered?

The scheme was completed and opened formally in July 2022 at a cost of around £5.1m.

The project has diverted 4km of the National Cycle Network off road and onto 4.2km of completely sealed very good off-road track.

It follows the branch line of the old Lias Line railway route to create a safer and more direct link between Offchurch Greenway and Long Itchington.


Boosting tourism

Nestled in beautiful, rural Warwickshire, the area also attracts a lot of visitors.

As explained by Barbara Atkins, Chair of Long Itchington Parish Council, it is hoped that this infrastructure will give a real boost to tourism.

"Long Itchington attracts many tourists and visitors.

"The canal, particularly in the summer, has significant numbers of narrow boat visitors giving a unique way to enjoy our towns and villages and now the Lias Line adds another, different, dimension for tourists.

"The fact that the Canal, its towpath and the Lias Line will be connected to one another is really exciting and a great opportunity.

"We also have many walking visitors. At least one of our pubs – The Harvester – offers walking groups a lunch as part of a visiting package.

"So not only will the Lias Line add to the various ways people can view the countryside, but it will also help our hospitality businesses grow."

Cyclists enjoying a new section of the Lias Line. A special decked section has been built to allow wildlife to thrive on the greenway

Encouraging wildlife to flourish

The Lias Line provides a safe space for people walking, wheeling, cycling and riding horses.

But its role as a greenway means that it’s also a haven for wildlife.

As part of the project, we worked with Warwickshire County Council’s Ecology & Landscape team to build wetland areas to encourage great crested newts.

The team installed bat boxes and are working closely with Warwickshire Butterfly Conservation group to improve the habitat for the common blue butterfly.

We are also planning more events to encourage the community to participate in activities such as planting and wildlife counting.

This historic route now has a bright future to look forward to once again as a valued part of the National Cycle Network.

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From the very beginning, we’ve worked closely with the local community and that’s reflected in the outcome. What we have is a path for everyone, it’s for the walkers, the cyclists, the horse riders and for nature too. Blockquote quotation marks
Clare Maltby, Sustrans England Director, Midlands and East

What’s next?

The next phase of the programme will close a 120-metre gap at the western end of the scheme between the Fosseway overbridge, which is being constructed by HS2, and the start of the Lias Line Greenway.

HS2 will start construction in 2024 and Sustrans in mid-2023.

The Network will be totally diverted onto the disused railway line and over the Fosse when HS2 is completed.

In the long-term, subject to funding, Sustrans are planning to make use of the old railway main line to create a new off-road track to improve connectivity with Birdingbury, Rugby and other nearby villages.

The third and final phase will follow the branch line route south to the Stockton reservoir. 

Many other exciting schemes are in the pipeline across the country thanks to support from the Department of Transport.

By enhancing the National Cycle Network, we’re improving access to the areas in which we live and work – reducing congestion and making journeys safer.


Find out more about our vision of paths for everyone.

Read more about the Lias Line.

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