Major decisions are set to transform the way we travel around Bolton. SEAMUS MCDONNELL looks at the latest plans for the Bee Network set to change the face of the town.

MILLIONS are being set aside for huge new walking and cycling paths which would cut through Bolton.

The latest plans for the Bee Network include a £9m transformation of Astley Bridge and £5.8m of work in Westhoughton.

The proposals were given the green light by transport bosses at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) last week following months of planning.

They will be added to the current plans which include a Dutch-style cycle path running parallel to Chorley Old Road, seven new crossings, several two-way cycle tracks on one-way streets and more bike parking.

Overall there have been 82 projects approved as part of the Bee Network across the region and, according to the GMCA, these schemes make up a third of the overall plan, which is set to reach £1.5bn of investment.

The network itself is backed by Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman, who now serves as Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester. Speaking about the Bee Network, he said the new routes could transform the way people travel in their towns.

“We are working very closely with Local Authorities across Greater Manchester to identify key routes, develop new schemes and encouraging them to submit their bids,” he said.

“We have shortlisted 25 new schemes which will deliver huge benefits – making cycling and walking a real choice for many, improving people’s health and helping to tackle congestion and poor air quality. GMCA will now be considering them for programme entry.

“The Bee Network will be transformational for Greater Manchester and will deliver real benefits for everyone. I believe the number and scale of the schemes we have now got in development really shows our commitment and ambition and we are determined to deliver.”

In addition to the proposals for Bolton, there are also plans for new cycling and walking routes in Bury, Oldham and Manchester, which Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has praised as the future of travel.

“It’s a very impressive piece of work from Chris and his team at Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to put us in this position,” he said.

“I think we are in a strong position now and on the cusp of real change in regards to cycling and walking across Greater Manchester because many of these schemes will start to be built in the new year and people will begin to see changes.”

The most recent proposals would create a central segregated north-south spine through Westhoughton, developed by the Bolton Active Travel Forum. This aims to address the lack of dedicated and safe access to schools, rail stations, retail and key employment areas.

It also seeks to overcome severance issues with improved crossing points and in the process facilitate an increase in active travel.

The other scheme, covering parts of Astley Bridge and Crompton, provides crossings over six major roads, as well as the deep valley of Astley Brook.

It would provide walking and cycling access to four secondary schools, 11 primary schools, two major local shopping streets and two supermarkets, as well as opening up access across several neighbourhoods.

The proposal deals with four known rat-runs currently used by motorists on residential streets.

Previously agreed projects include more accessible subway routes and the Chorley Old Road cycle path.

This had already been approved and would take travellers down Bark Street and through Queens Park before cutting across smaller roads and ending at the Moss Bank Way Roundabout in Doffcocker. Planned new crossings in Bolton include one at Bradford Street, another on Bow Street and two on St George’s Street. The initial Bee Network cash came from the government’s Transforming Cities Fund.