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25 April 2016, 17:28 | Updated: 25 April 2016, 17:35
Traffic is now using the £18.6m new northern section of the Bedford Western Bypass.
A new highway that is eventually expected to carry 20,000 vehicles a day has been opened to traffic, helping to deliver better journeys for road users in Bedford Borough.
Bedford Borough Council says:
"The northern section of the Bedford Western Bypass, which links the A4280 at Biddenham with the A6 at the Clapham roundabout, completes a north-south route bypassing Bedford ending a 50 year wait since it first began appearing in local and national plans and strategies.
Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson, and members of Bedford Borough Council were joined by contractors Breheny Civil Engineering, funders and local schoolchildren at a special ceremony on the site, to mark the completion of the £18.6 million scheme.
As part of the official opening of the new bypass, named The Great Ouse Way, a Routemaster bus led a convoy of vintage and classic cars in a tour of the highway. And volunteers from Sustrans took to their bikes to ride on the new cycle and pedestrian path which runs along the length of the road.
Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson, said:
"The final section of the Bedford Western Bypass has been completed on time and in budget, and its opening is fantastic news for all local road users. It's also a great boost for the local economy, making Bedford Borough an even more attractive place to invest in and create jobs and growth.
Quite simply, a complete Western Bypass will help all road users to get into and around Bedford. That's why it's been in plans and strategies for over half a century, and we're delighted to have overcome the obstacles in the way and made this final section a reality."
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said:
"I am delighted this new bypass is complete as it will help cut journey times in Bedford. Delivering projects like this, which pave the way for new housing and businesses, is a key part of making Bedfordshire fit for the future. We are spending £21bn nationally as we deliver the biggest upgrade to our roads in a generation to help deliver better journeys for hard-working people."
Stephen Catchpole, Chief Executive of SEMLEP, said:
"We contributed £2.5 million of Local Growth Deal funds to the Bedford Western Bypass in 2015/16 and are delighted that this project has been completed on time and within budget.
The new bypass will have a positive impact on the local economy enabling more new jobs and homes to be delivered in this area. Over time this road will ease traffic congestion in the town centre as drivers travelling beyond Bedford from the north or south will no longer need to use the busy roads and junctions in the town. This is great news for the local economy."
John Breheny, Chairman of the Breheny Group, said: "With their positive approach, Bedford Borough Council has been a great client to work for. Completion of the Western Bypass has been a real team effort between us and this has resulted in a high quality scheme which has been completed on time and on budget."
The first phase of the Western Bypass between the A421 and the A428 was completed in 2009 and has proved to be hugely successful giving greater accessibility to the area through improved traffic flows and increased efficiency and safety for journeys.
Construction of the final phase began in autumn 2014 after Bedford Borough Council secured external funding, including £4.5m from the Department for Transport, and reached agreement with the principal landowners and a wide range of interested parties after successfully pursuing a Compulsory Purchase Order.
The northern section of the bypass will allow 1,200 new homes, including affordable dwellings, to be constructed and will also enable the creation of a new employment park providing 650 new jobs.
Breheny Civil Engineering won the tender to construct the 2.4km-long road, which has involved building a bridge over the busy Midland Main Line and creating a new pedestrian subway.
Wildlife conservation has been a key consideration during construction of the Western Bypass. New planting and pond areas have been introduced to support the existing ecosystem and allow it to continue to thrive.
Other measures to protect local wildlife include fencing to prevent badgers straying onto the carriageway and the construction of a new artificial badger sett.
To find out more about the Bedford Western Bypass, visit www.bedford.gov.uk/westernbypass
FACTS & FIGURES
* 47,000m2 of surfacing works to new and existing roads
* 5,000 tonnes of concrete for the new bridge and subway
* 8,000 tonnes of concrete elsewhere for kerbs, drainage, etc.
* A 1,000 tonne crane, one of biggest in the country, was used to build the bridge over the railway line.
* New wildflower meadows have been created over an area of 40,000m2, equivalent to the size of four football pitches.