Hundreds of schoolchildren will be given a safer route to school following the development of a disused railway line in the Spen Valley.

To date, only a 2.5km stretch of the new Spen Valley Ringway - named because it forms a circular route - has been opened. But already it is proving popular with youngsters from local schools keen to avoid the busy roads, pollution and noisy traffic.

The railway lines and sleepers had already been removed from the route and most of the required ballast was down.

It required levelling, asphalting and fencing. Some of the greenery was cut back and landscaped to make the route more open and inviting to users.

Councillor Gordon North (Lab, Spen) said: "The popular Spen Valley Greenway was formed from the disused railway by Sustrans. This left the railway at the other side of the valley disused.

"The beauty of the Ringway is that it can form a circular route with the Greenway and is a safe route to school."

He said many children had been walking to school along Bradford Road and the A62 Leeds-Huddersfield Road among cars, congestion and pollution.

Sustainable-transport charity Sustrans managed to earn a cash award from the New Opportunities Fund for £90,000 towards the cost of the scheme.

Kirklees Council contributed more than £100,000 from various funding sources.

The first phase of the Ringway - from Royds Park in Cleckheaton to Cook Lane in Heckmondwike - has now opened and is already busy with dog walkers, cyclists and children.

It means that youngsters can get to school without having to cross the busy A62.

"The Ringway passes Littletown J&I, Holy Spirit J&I, Heckmondwike Grammar, Millbridge J & I and Cawley Lane J, I & N schools," said Coun North.

"And it has been incredibly well-used from day one.

"It eases congestion because parents are not having to drive their children to school, it gets children out walking in the fresh air and it doesn't pass any sweet shops!"

David Hall, regional manager for Sustrans, said the long-term plan was to bring the Ringway all the way up to Cleckheaton viaduct. The whole project is expected to be completed in two to three years' time.