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New multi-million pound cycling route in Edinburgh city centre officially open

Celebrations got underway this week to mark the completion of the City Centre West to East Link (CCWEL) in Edinburgh, a £23 million project set to transform walking, wheeling and cycling across the city centre.

On Wednesday 20th March, members of the local community and key delivery partners turned out in number to commemorate the close of construction on the CCWEL project in Edinburgh.

Stretching from Roseburn to Leith Walk via Haymarket and the West End, CCWEL provides a safe and direct segregated route through the heart of the city centre, as well as significantly enhancing streets for those walking, wheeling and spending time there.

Local primary school pupils took part in a group ride from Old Colt Bridge to Haymarket to test out the route, arriving at Haymarket in time to take part in the festivities.

Music to welcome the group ride was performed by St Mary’s Music School pupils and a range of fun activities, including cargo bike trials, were on offer for all those who attended.

Shortly after lunchtime, a ribbon to mark the official opening of the route was cut to usher the new city centre route into being.

Setting the standard

Segregated cycleways, resurfaced footways, and improved crossings are key features of the new CCWEL route. City of Edinburgh Council ©2024

Following an extensive consultation process beginning in 2016, the input of residents and local businesses helped shape the designs put forward by Sustrans and Edinburgh City Council, and construction got firmly underway on CCWEL in early 2022.

With works carried out by Balfour Beatty, CCWEL has set a benchmark for how safe and accessible walking, wheeling and cycling can be delivered amongst within bustling urban centre such as Edinburgh. The first of its kind to be complete in Scotland, CCWEL delivers a 3.6km bidirectional cycle route to better connect Roseburn with Leith Walk via Haymarket and the West End.

For the vast majority of the journey, cyclists are protected from heavy traffic flows through a segregated design, meaning vulnerable and less confident cyclists will be able to use the new paths in safety and ease.

CCWEL hasn’t just delivered new routes for cyclists, however. Improved crossings, footways, and street surfacing have also been introduced as part of the scheme, as well as street greening initiatives and additional seating areas for people to relax and enjoy.

The opening comes just a day after the launch of the 2023 Walking and Cycling Index report in the capital, which includes amongst its findings that almost 50% of residents in Edinburgh want to walk, wheel and cycle more.

An historic occasion

A group ride was completed from Roseburn to Haymarket by local primary school pupils to inaugurate the new route. City of Edinburgh Council ©2024

Karen McGregor, Scotland Director for Sustrans, was delighted to see the new route completed.

“The City Centre West to East Link is an absolute game-changer within the world of active travel. For the first time ever in Scotland, we’ve delivered a fully segregated walking, wheeling and cycling connection that cuts through the heart of a major city centre. In doing so, this fantastic new route gives the people of Edinburgh a safe and accessible driving alternative, allowing people to get to where they want, how they want, regardless of age or ability.”

Karen McGregor, Scotland Director, Sustrans

Councillor Scott Arthur, who joined the group ride from Roseburn to Haymarket, said:

“Today we celebrated a major development for walking, wheeling and cycling in the Capital, with the completion of CCWEL. This major scheme is not only one of the largest pieces of active travel infrastructure delivered in Edinburgh, but it has transformed spaces along the route for the use and enjoyment of people who live, visit and work here.”

Councillor Scott Arthur, Transport and Environment Convener, City of Edinburgh Council

In total, £23m was invested in the design and construction of the CCWEL route.

Of this, £14.8m was awarded from Transport Scotland through Sustrans’ Places for Everyone programme, with the additional funding from the Scottish Government and the Council’s transport budget.

Going forward, CCWEL will link up with the George Street and First New Town and Meadows to George Street project, which aim to deliver improved walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure across the Edinburgh city centre and enhance high-traffic public spaces for generations to come.

The project also neatly connects with the Roseburn to Union Canal project, which is set to finish construction in Summer 2024.