Leicester City Council has secured a £33m funding boost from the Government’s Transforming City Fund to help with their improvements to public transport, cycling and pedestrian routes across the city.
The boost in funding makes up just over half of the £65m required for the ambitious project, which is expected to be matched by funds from the council and other partners. Changes to the city’s public transport services should see an improvement in journey times and reliability of bus services around the city, and there is expected to be an extension to the council’s Connecting Leicester cycle lanes and walking routes into the city neighbourhoods.
The goal is to provide citizens with more attractive, sustainable methods of transit into the city for work and leisure, supporting the city’s growth and delivering on the commitments made by the council regarding the climate emergency, air quality and healthy living.
This programme has been developed with Leicestershire County Council and local universities and businesses. Certain bus operators have also committed “substantial funds” to the scheme.
These improvements build on top of the £100m investment that the city council has already made through this ongoing Connecting Leicester programme. Their first successful bid for funding was in 2019, in which they secured nearly £8m from the Department for Transport.
The new cycle paths linking the city centre to both De Montfort University and the University of Leicester, and the Clarendon Park area have been a result of the first load of funding, as well as the new routes on the inner ring road, Belgrave Gate and Abbey Park Road. There will also be a bike hire scheme which is due to start this summer with support from Santander, and a number of electric buses are being purchased for the Birstall Park and Ride.
Whilst winning this funding bid is a great result for the city, it wasn’t all that the City Council had hoped for. Funding for improvements to Leicester’s railway station have not been provided yet.
Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Today’s announcement will allow us to move ahead with our ambitious sustainable transport schemes for cyclists, pedestrians and bus passengers. We are committed to delivering a greener solution to the future growth of our city and its economy, including better links into our existing city neighbourhoods.
“While I am disappointed that we didn’t receive the funding we had hoped for to improve the railway station this time around, we will continue to work closely with train operators to support their plans to upgrade the station.
“Our rail links to St Pancras International makes that a very attractive proposition for development.
“The programme will also build on the transformational work we have delivered through our Connecting Leicester programme, and provides a strong platform for continuing investment in future public transport provision through a Workplace Parking Levy.”
The East Midlands Rail Hub is still due to receive £20m upgrades and improvements to connections between towns and cities across the Midlands including Leicester and Birmingham. Other schemes set to receive funding include £500m for major strategic roads between 2020-25, such as improvements to the M1 to better link Leicester and Nottingham, and £56m additional funding for local road maintenance and fixing potholes.
By Sam Ellison