A NEW and vastly improved cycle route around the Mersey Valley could be open by summer 2019, after Trafford Council was awarded £2.6 million by Highways England to push ahead with the scheme.

The plans, which are being managed by the One Trafford Partnership, will upgrade cycling facilities near the M60 and will link Urmston and Sale Water Park to the Mersey Valley Visitors' Centre and Jackson’s Boat Bridge.

Work on the feasibility part of the project has now started, and public consultation is planned for early 2018.

Once completed, both cyclists and pedestrians will benefit from the route that will link with other wider cycle networks.

The Department for Transport has allocated £100 million to Highways England (between 2015 and 2021) to allocate to schemes which improve cycling facilities on or near roads and reduce the impact of roads as a barrier to cycling.

The proposed route will run between Trafford and Manchester and incorporates Jackson's Boat Bridge, which connects the two boroughs over the river Mersey. The old, narrow bridge currently has an ‘extremely steep slope’ on one side and all options as to how the approach embankment and bridge can be improved are currently being considered.

A decision about the bridge’s future will be made jointly by the two authorities.

Cllr John Reilly, executive member for environment, parks and highways, said: “This is a great opportunity to create a fantastic new cycle infrastructure that takes in one of the most popular places in Manchester for both bike riders and walkers.

"We want to encourage more people to come and enjoy what it has it offer while keeping healthy at the same time. This is also an important step on the way to making cycling a natural choice for many more journeys in the area.”

Manchester City Council's executive member for the environment and skills, Councillor Angeliki Stogia, said: "We will work with Trafford Council to ensure that this scheme to enhance cycling infrastructure between our two boroughs results in a fully accessible link over the River Mersey. It's important that our residents and those who enjoy using the surrounding area for leisure purposes have the opportunity to give their views on the development of the scheme."

Bruce Parker, Highways England’s head of planning and development in the North West, said: “We’re committed to making cycling easier around major A roads and over motorway junctions across England, and I’m delighted we’ve been able to provide funding for major improvements to cycle routes around the Mersey Valley. We want to provide safe, accessible and integrated cycling facilities that give people a genuine choice about whether to travel in their car or to get on a bike instead. If we can encourage more people to use their bikes for local journeys then this should also improve the flow of traffic for drivers travelling longer distances.”