A popular Scottish section of the National Cycle Network (NCN) has closed.
Work has begun on a £300 million project to return the traffic-free path between Airdrie and Bathgate, east of Glasgow, to its former use as a railway.
The 14-mile route was opened 10 years ago and formed part of a vital east-west link between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The NCN then extended beyond the two cities to make a Scottish coast-to-coast linking the Clyde and Forth coastlines.
Last month, 5,000 cyclists rode the 47 miles of NCN Route 75 as a farewell gesture to the railpath and its much-photographed Bedrock Bike sculpture.
A new path close to the original route is scheduled to be constructed by the end of 2010. Network Rail estimates it will cost £7.3 million.
In the meantime, sustainable transport charity Sustrans, overseer of the NCN, recommends cyclists and walkers use the towpaths of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals as a cross-Scotland route – a trail shortly to earn official recognition as route 754 of the NCN.
Despite losing a section of route, Sustrans welcomed the new rail service. Katharine Taylor, the charity’s National Cycle Network development manager for Scotland, said: “As a charity focusing on sustainable transport we are very pleased that Network Rail has decided to reinstate train services between Airdrie and Bathgate, even though it means we will temporarily lose a central section of Route 75.”
Trains ran along the track between the former coal mining towns as recently as the early 1980s.