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The multi-million pound road which opens up the Western flank of Carlisle and avoids motorists having to travel through the centre of the city, has opened to the public two months ahead of schedule.
The new Carlisle Northern Development Route, a PFI project more than 15 years in the making, was opened by Cumbria County Council's Chairman John Woolley in a ribbon cutting event attended by other key county councillors and officers, contractors and local businesses.
Cllr Woolley said: "I was extremely pleased and very proud to be able to officially declare the Carlisle Northern Development Route open. The road opens up new possibilities for commuters and commerce alike, forming an important new link around Carlisle to the north west of the county. I’m sure it will soon become a vital part of everyday life for people who live and work in Carlisle and bring more jobs and prosperity to the area."
Vehicles representing local transport businesses, including an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally Car, a KC Superbikes Suzuki GSX-1000, local cyclists Willy and Sue Ward, a Connect Roads/Cumbria County Council gritter, an Eddie Stobart HGV, a BSW Timber HGV, and a coach provided by Irvings of Carlisle, formed a mini convoy to travel the length of the 8.25km/5.13-mile route, which was then systematically opened in stages behind the convoy.
Now that the much anticipated road is open, it will not only reduce journey times through Carlisle but will massively reduce the number of HGVs and other vehicles travelling through the city centre. Engineers will be monitoring the operation of the network and gathering data on the usage of the new road.
Drivers are asked to take extra care whilst people are getting used to the new road layout.
Cumbria County Council's contractor partner Connect Roads, who will manage and maintain the road until 2039, also attended the opening event with the main contractor Birse Civils.
Andy Dean, Regional Manager for Connect Roads, said:
"We are delighted to have achieved an early opening of CNDR for the benefit of the road users, local community and businesses. I would like to thank all of our partners in the successful delivery of this important piece of infrastructure for Cumbria."
CNDR starts from the Wigton Road (A595) to the south west of Carlisle, follows a route around the west of the city crossing the River Eden on a new bridge near Stainton and the West Coast Main Line on a new two-lane bridge constructed at Kingmoor. The new road layout allows easier access to West Cumbria from the roundabout at Junction 44 of the M6 rather than having to travel through Carlisle city centre providing better links to Scotland and the North East.
Major construction work on the road started in October 2009, although preliminary construction work had already began before the county council and Connect agreed their £176m 30-year partnership in July 2009.
The combination of both building the new road and maintaining existing roads is the first PFI (Private Finance Initiative) project of its kind for a local authority in the UK. The contract has been made possible thanks to Department for Transport approval of £158m worth of PFI funding for the scheme. PFI (also known as PPP, or Public Private Partnership) works by the contractor financing the construction of the new road, and then recovering the capital cost over the 30-year life of the contract.
Picture shows: Holding the banner in the foreground on the left is Cllr Tony Markley, Cabinet member responsible for highways. Cutting the ribbon is Cllr John Woolley, Chairman of Cumbria County Council. Holding the banner to the right is Cllr Eddie Martin, Leader of Cumbria County Council.