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November 5, 2003 12:00 AM

UK-transport charity SUSTRANS has received £2.5 million of funding to maintain and upgrade Scotland's National Cycle Network, it was announced today. The grant is the largest single award the Scottish Executive has made to SUSTRANS.

The funding will benefit practical projects to encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport. Projects will include work to improve bridge safety, cycle lanes, foot bridges, crossing safety, signage and general repair work.

Transport Minister Nicol Stephen said:

"I am delighted to announce funding of £2.5 million to allow SUSTRANS to continue to upgrade the cycle network across the whole of Scotland and to encourage more people to walk and use bicycles. This grant is our largest investment in cycling to date.

"The impressive upgrading work already undertaken by SUSTRANS using Executive funding has demonstrated the effectiveness of partnership working which delivers tangible benefits in remarkable timescales for cyclists and walkers throughout Scotland.

"This not only benefits current users but encourages more people to make use of the cycle network in the future. It is vital that we encourage cycling and walking as they bring significant health benefits. Both are also environmentally friendly, inexpensive and easy for most adults and children to get involved in.

"The Executive supports the National Cycling Strategy which aims to increase the use of bicycles by all age groups. We are also committed to reducing congestion in Scotland and we are keen to see more adults travelling short distances by bike.

"We are committed to delivering real and tangible improvements to facilities for cycling and walking and today's announcement contributes towards that aim."

SUSTRANS is an UK-based charity group with a proven record of partnership working. It works on practical projects to encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport. SUSTRANS' National Cycle Network aims to create 10,000 miles of routes throughout the UK. Further information can be found at www.sustrans.org.uk.

The Scottish Executive previously contributed £1.462 million in 2002-03 to SUSTRANS to support various projects to upgrade Scotland's Cycling Network. This work was completed in April 2003, on budget and in time. The Executive also contributed £150,000 in 2001-2002 to SUSTRANS and a further £135,000 over two years until 2004 to complete other projects improving the National Cycling Network. Today's funding of £2.5 million comes from the Integrated Transport Fund.

This money is in addition to the Executive's core-funding of the Cycling Scotland promotional organisation and the dedicated allocation to local authorities for Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets (CWSS) projects, including Safer Routes to School (the latter totals nearly £38 million over the period 2000-2004).