It has been 40 years in the making...but today the long-awaited Broughton Bypass finally opens to traffic.
READ MORE: The new Broughton Bypass - in numbers
The £32m relief road, designed to end decades of congestion and exhaust pollution in the village north of Preston, was due to get up and running this morning, months behind schedule, but years overdue.
Drivers were being given the green light to use the 2km route, named James Towers Way to honour a local war hero, at 11.30am after an official opening ceremony by Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry.
And by mid-day villagers were expecting to see a 90 per cent reduction in traffic through their notorious crossroads - or 22,500 fewer vehicles a day.
At my age I didn’t think I’d be around to see it. But it’s finally happening.
Pensioner Derek Webster, 81, who has looked out on traffic queues for years, said: “At my age I didn’t think I’d be around to see it. But it’s finally happening.”
Another long-term resident, Jill Billington, who also lives alongside the A6, said simply: “Whoopee!”
The opening ends a traffic nightmare for villagers dating back to the sixties when motoring took off in Britain and vehicle numbers soared.
The narrow traffic light junction has become one of the worst bottlenecks in the whole of Lancashire, with locals saying it can take up to half an hour to drive just half a mile from the M55 intersection to the village.
Air quality tests led to Broughton being branded one of the most polluted villages in the county. Now residents can’t wait for the transformation the bypass will bring to their lives.
With an estimated 2,500 vehicles a day coming through, compared to the 25,000 they have been used to, locals hope today will be a defining moment for their close-knit community.
“We want our village back,” declared businessman Jerome Fellows, a director of the company which owns two filling stations in Broughton.But we want a village - not a desert.”
Once traffic has been re-routed around the village, work will start almost immediately on improvements to Broughton to make it more user friendly for locals and visitors.
Lancashire County Council will be able to close part of the A6 for a month to allow work to be carried out on a culvert which has been causing flooding problems. That is expected to get underway on Monday.
Subsequently the traffic lights which have proved a bottleneck for decades will be removed and calming measures will be brought in, along with a new 20mph speed limit.
Background to the project
While the Broughton Bypass only opens today, it already has a long and controversial history.
Congestion problems in the village, which straddles the A6, have been deliberated unendingly since the 1970s, but it took until 1986 for Lancashire County Council to begin pushing for a new road to be built.
The route around the eastern edge was settled on in 1991, but it wasn’t until 2001, four years after an assessment pointed out excessive air and noise pollution around Broughton, that LCC granted planning permission for the bypass.
For over a decade, the construction was held back by its dependency upon the controversial Whittingham Hospital housing development.
Having gained City Deal funding in 2013, the bypass was made a priority. The necessity of improving infrastructure to accommodate the growing population caused by increases in housing and jobs meant decades of slow movement on plans accelerated, and the contract was finally awarded to Hochtief UK in December 2015.
It is expected that 90 per cent of the 25,000 vehicles which pass through Broughton each day will be diverted by the bypass, but the construction itself has not been without controversy.
Residents say they have been blighted by the work, with road closures causing traffic to worsen to the extent that bin lorries could not access the village for collection for three weeks.
Even since work began in January 2016, the bypass has seen delays and rising costs, initially being touted as a year-long, £24m project. More than a year and a half later, the opening of the bypass today is expected to bring a long-awaited end to roads choked by cars and Broughton villagers choked by fumes.
‘Give us a village, not a desert’
Locals are celebrating the arrival of the Broughton Bypass, with even some businesses expressing relief at the effect it will have on traffic.
Jerome Fellows, a director of the company which owns two filling stations in the village, might have been expected to oppose moving 90 per cent of passing vehicles off the A6.
Instead he said: “Customers who couldn’t get to us before, will be able to now. The congestion was causing people not to come here.
“We still need some passing traffic, but there was too much of it and very little of it was stopping to fill up.
“I’m writing to LCC this week to ask for them to talk to us locals and tell us what they are going to do with the A6 through here now the bypass is open.
“What we need is our village back, not for it to become a desert.”
Householder Jill Billington, whose home looks out onto the A6 in the centre of the village, said: “It’s whoopee from me.
“It’s great news for residents like us if most of the traffic disappears, especially the HGVs.
“Hopefully we can be a proper village now - and we can maybe speak to our neighbours across the road.”
And Derek Webster, 81, who also overlooks the A6, said: “At my age I didn’t think I’d be around to see it. But it’s finally happening.
“I doubt it’s going to be as effective as they say it will be, I think it will just transfer the traffic elsewhere. I’m hoping it will cut traffic, but I doubt it will be by 90 per cent.
“They are putting a 20 mph speed limit through the village and taking away the lights at the crossroads.”