Fort to Glenfinnan cycle route a step closer after study gets funding

Kate Willis, of LEG, tries out one of the two ebikes that were loaned for a trial last year. NO F38 Kate forth bike
Kate Willis, of LEG, pictured here trying tout an ebike in Fort William in 2019, says locals and tourists would be able to cycle to Glenfinnan using the scheme ebikes, and access forestry tracks along the route by bike rather than having to drive. NO F38 Kate forth bike

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An active travel trail between Fort William and Glenfinnan is a step closer this week with news that the jointly proposed project between The West Highland Community Rail Partnership (WHCRP) and Lochaber Environmental Group (LEG) is to get cash to fund a feasibility survey.

This May and June the two groups will be working with consultant engineering firm, Aecom, to undertake the feasibility study after funding was approved from Transport Scotland via Hitrans, the regional transport authority for the Highlands.

WHCRP secretary Hege Hernæs explained that the vision for the feasibility study is to investigate route options for a high-quality cycling trail that runs at a safe distance from the heavy traffic on the A830 and links the residential areas between Fort William and Glenfinnan with the railway stations along the corridor.

‘At the end of the project we will be familiar with the practicalities, challenges and
costs involved with different route options’, she said. ‘We will also have raised local awareness of the benefits that an active travel trail may bring to the communities involved.’

All members of the project group live along the corridor between Fort William and Glenfinnan and are familiar with local concerns and ambitions. They will be working with the consultants, community groups, Highland Council, Hitrans and ScotRail, as well as businesses and local  residents, to ensure  the plans take account of all accessibility requirements.

The idea is to complement the ongoing work to improve infrastructure for active travel in Fort William, as well as ScotRail’s active travel train carriages to be introduced on the West Highland Line in the near future.

The steering group told us: ‘We are extremely grateful to Transport Scotland and Hitrans who have made the funding available for this project. Special thanks go to Hitrans’ Active Travel Officer Vikki Trelfer whose help and support have been pivotal.’

Kate Willis, from LEG, added: ‘A Road to the Isles cycle path extending the National Cycle Network has been discussed for years, so the funding for the Glenfinnan path feasibility study is an exciting step forward.

‘The proposed active travel trail from Glenfinnan will connect with existing paths in Fort William improving opportunities for everyday commuting and recreational riding. With the development of the public ebike share scheme, locals and tourists will be able to cycle to Glenfinnan using the scheme ebikes, and access forestry tracks along the route by bike rather than having to drive.’

Hitrans chairman and Caol and Mallaig councillor, Allan Henderson, said: ‘Hitrans are delighted to support this eminently achievable active travel route through all the commuter villages on the A830, south of Glenfinnan.

‘Making it easier to access railway stations would encourage commuters to use the train as well as take the healthy option of cycling/walking to work. The safety aspect of cycling/walking on the A830 for the current users needs to be carefully considered while the safe recreational benefits for all are a given when an active travel route is constructed.’

Russell Leaper, secretary of Kilmallie Community Council, told us: ‘A cycle route would benefit everyone. Road safety, noise and congestion on the A830 are an increasing problem for the community and a safe cycle route linked in to the railway stations would help people to get around in their everyday lives as well as providing a great experience for visitors. Fewer vehicles on the roads means fewer accidents, less congestion and less pollution’.

If the active travel trail is deemed to be feasible, the next project stage will be ‘Concept Design’, one of three design stages that need to be completed before the construction stage.