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Transport Minister Baroness Kramer this morning formally opened the new £24 million Luton Town Centre Transport Scheme.
The Baroness performed a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the completion of engineering works on the new link road, which runs from the junction of Old Bedford and Hucklesby Way to St Mary's roundabout, and finally completes Luton's inner ring road after a wait of more than 40 years.
Phased opening to the public of the full Town Centre Transport Scheme, which also delivers a range of access improvements for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists on the north side of the town centre, is scheduled over the next few weeks during the school holidays.
The scheme has been supported with nearly £16 million of Government funding.
Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said: "The £16m we have provided for the inner ring road will help make a real difference to Luton.
This new scheme will drive down congestion in the town centre and boost the local economy."
Councillor Dave Taylor, Portfolio Holder for Environment at Luton Borough Council, said the scheme is a vital part of the major infrastructure improvements being delivered by the Council to attract new investment and employment into the borough which also includes the upgrading of M1 Junction 10a and the opening last September of the Luton Dunstable Busway.
He said: "Today represents another landmark moment in the regeneration of Luton town centre. Not only does this scheme provide additional vehicle capacity but it will also remove through-traffic from Guildford Street and make the town centre more attractive for pedestrians and cyclists.
It delivers major benefits for Luton's retail sector and greatly improves prospects for delivery of major regeneration projects including mixed-use developments at Power Court and High Town Village and extensions to The Mall shopping centre."
At the heart of the project, which began last July, a new two-way, single-carriageway link road has been built between Midland Road and the railway line, and passes under the station multi-storey car park.
The completed inner ring road then continues into Crescent Road to another signal-controlled junction with Crawley Green Road, and from there the next section is dual carriageway as far as St Mary's roundabout.
The scheme also includes a new bridge, which crosses the mainline railway and Luton Dunstable Busway, and also a shared cycle/pedestrian route.
A new access road serving Midland Road from Gillam Street, and a new one-way system for Guildford Street and Cheapside, were opened earlier this year, with both ends of Midland Road permanently closed to traffic.
Guildford Street will be closed to through-traffic when the new link road is opened to the public which will then allow work to improve the pedestrian connection between the new Luton Station Interchange and the town centre via a new public square to begin next month, better connecting the train station and bus interchange to the town centre.
The 30-week programme will create a new shared open space in Bute Street, finished in high-quality granite similar to Town Hall Square, which caters for high levels of footfall and encourages use of local businesses.
In order to provide pedestrians with a safer and more pleasant environment, vehicle access outside the Hat Factory is to be restricted to loading only from 6pm-10am.
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