A NEW route for cyclists and pedestrians through a disused rail tunnel near Didcot will link up major employment sites in the Science Vale area.

The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is providing £1.4m for the project between Milton Park and the town.

The new facilities will go through the Backhill Tunnel – a route that has been closed for many years.

The money from the Growing Places Fund will also contribute towards improvements on the A4130, including a new crossing.

The county council intends to launch the scheme in the summer with work expected to take about four months.

It will include building a footpath and cyclepath from Milton Park to the north side of the A4130, lighting and CCTV in the tunnel, and improved fencing to prevent access to the railway line.

David Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for transport at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “This is really good news as it will provide convenient and direct pedestrian and cycle access to Milton Park from the western side of Didcot.

“Science Vale is a world-class centre for science and innovation, and transport accessibility is well known to be a key part of enabling business activity and attracting new investment. Major growth is planned across the area with 16,000 additional homes and 20,000 jobs by 2031.”

It is estimated that 8,500 of these jobs will be provided at Harwell Oxford and Milton Park business park as part of the Enterprise Zone launched in 2011.

Mr Nimmo Smith said the new route would reduce the number of vehicles on the roads and boost economic development.