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Historic structure outside Winchester had lain disused for half a century

Dani King, who last week helped Great Britain defend the world team pursuit title at the UCI Track World Championships in Minsk, was back on her bike today to open a cycle path across a former railway viaduct in her home county of Hampshire.

The Hockley Viaduct, which runs alongside the M3 just outside Winchester, was built in the 1880s but the last train rolled across it half a century ago as the line it was part of fell victim to the Beeching cuts.

A campaign group, Friends of Hockley Viaduct, has been fighting to preserve it for three decades, and Julia Sanderson of the group described today’s reopening as “"wonderful after so many years," reports BBC News Hampshire.

The viaduct, which is 614 metres long with 33 spans, was refurbished at a cost of £1 million, funded by Winchester City Council, Hampshire County Council and Sustrans.

It will now form part of National Cycle Route 23, which runs from Reading to the Isle of Wight.

King, who won gold in the team pursuit at London 2012 and joined the new Wiggle Honda team for the 2013 season, said: "It means a lot to me to get more people on bikes and keeping fit and healthy locally. It's great to have such a long cycle route off-road."

There have been some concerns expressed recently over access to the viaduct for those who arrive by car, however, as many visitors to the viaduct, including walkers, are likely to do.

According to a report in the Hampshire Chronicle earlier this month, motorists heading into Winchester are using parking spaces at a nearby layby, leaving their cars there and share with others to continue their journey into the city.

That’s despite the fact that according to a report from Winchester City Council, commuters are able to use there is a park and ride that meets that need, and also avoids visitors to the viaduct finding that there is nowhere to park in the layby.

In order to stop commuters from using the layby, the councils portfolio holder for planning and transport, Vicki Weston, has been asked to consider putting in place a maximum waiting time of four hours, with no return for eight hours, between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Saturday.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.