Seven bridges, four underpasses and 14 tunnels: Newtown Bypass open after decades of debate
After decades of debate, disappointment and delay, the Newtown Bypass is finally open.
In September 1949 a public notice appeared in the local press appealing for local youngsters to carry out a traffic survey ahead of building a proposed Newtown Bypass.
Since that moment talk of a bypass has always been on the lips of residents in the area, but nothing has ever materialised. Until now.
WATCH: £95 million bypass opened
Three years since work began, the multi-million pound Newtown Bypass was finally opened yesterday by the Welsh Transport Minister Ken Skates.
Cars began streaming on to the new roadway shortly before 1pm, and it is now expected that 17,000 vehicles per day will drive on the bypass, halving the amount of traffic going through the centre of Newtown.
Alun Griffiths Contractors has delivered the bypass ahead of schedule and on budget, with transport minster Ken Skates revealing it had cost in the region of £95 million.
Mr Skates, who was on hand to cut the ribbon, said: “This is such a great day and I am really proud of what has been achieved to bring this to Newtown.
“This is one of the single biggest investments the Welsh Government has made in Mid Wales – and it isn’t just going to benefit Newtown, it will be the whole of the region.
“It has been 70 years since it was first talked about and it is magnificent to get to this moment.”
Newtown Bypass Timeline
The former Montgomeryshire County Council first considers the idea of building a bypass around Newtown. A public notice appears in the local press in August, seeking schoolboys aged 16 or over, to work as enumerators to county vehicles for a traffic survey.
Plans never materialised in the late 1940s, and they were again raised both in the 1960s and the 1980s. Many in the town are said to have had a mixed reaction to the idea, and no plans ever got off the ground.
After years of lobbying from politicians and calls from the public, the Welsh Government finally commits to financing a bypass. They say work will begin in 2011.
Any plans or proposed work to the bypass are stopped in their tracks due to a UK Government spending review.
Montgomeryshire’s Conservative Assembly Member Russell George presents an 11,000-signature petition to minsters in the government calling for work to begin on building a bypass.
A public inquiry is held at the Elephant and Castle Hotel in the town in June. It runs for a number of weeks, with objectors calling for a different route to the one proposed by the government. In November, the then transport minister Edwina Hart gives the go-ahead on the proposed route.
At the end of February and beginning of March, the first machines move on to the proposed route of the bypass and work gets underway.
About three years after work first started transport minister Ken Skates finally opens the Newtown Bypass.
The road in figures
Work began on the construction of the bypass back in March 2016. Some of the figures involved in the making of the road are impressive.
More than 1,000 people have worked on site, with hundreds of thousands of tons of soil being imported during the three years since work began.
The route includes seven bridges and four underpasses and 14 tunnels for wildlife to cross under the road.
Senior project manager Nick Cleary, who has overseen the project from the start, was joined by hundreds of the workers who have made the bypass possible, at yesterday’s opening.
He added: “It is great to see it finally come to fruition.
“It has been a huge project that we are immensely proud of. There have been long hours worked throughout the summer, and have been some big challenges along the way.”
Impact on journey times
Now that the bypass has been built it will cut journey times through the town considerably.
On bank holidays it is predicted journeys that currently see commuters stuck in traffic queues for an hour will now see drivers bypass the town in about five minutes.
The idea of building a bypass in the town has been on and off the table multiple times through the decades, and there were points where some campaigners thought they would never see the day it was built.
County councillor Joy Jones said: “It is amazing that this day has come around. I wasn’t born when this was first talked about and I must admit, there has been times over the years that I thought this was just going to be a dream, and I wouldn’t see it in my lifetime.
“So to see it finally being open today and it coming to fruition is amazing.
“This isn’t just going to be Newtown that benefits from this, it is going to be Mid Wales as a whole, Wales as a whole and other parts of the country.”
After the ribbon was cut to open the bypass, some of the workers who had put hard graft and long hours into making it happen became the first to take to the tarmac in a convoy of vehicles.
Then it was time for the public to take to the road for the first time, an historic moment for the region.
For years there has been public support to build a bypass, but Montgomeryshire AM Russell George revealed it hasn’t always been that way.
He added: “This was talked about even before my father was born so to see it happening today is great.
“It wasn’t always this way, though. Years ago the town council in Newtown were against it because they believed it would have a negative impact on the town.”
Along with challenges with the bypass route itself, a number of other obstacles have presented themselves to the contractors along the way.
Campaigners saved The Brimmon Oak Tree on land next to the bypass, with the government having to tweak the route to preserve the tree’s roots.
And home owner Robert Roberts held numerous protests at his home near the Pool Road end of the bypass.
Mr Roberts claimed that he had not been paid enough money for his property and land.
Yesterday he unveiled a banner on one of the bridges, stating he was ‘a victim of the bypass’, and had been left thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Work crews will remain in the area of the bypass for the coming months to maintain the landscape around the bypass.
Contractors thanked residents for their patience and understanding throughout the construction process.
Thanks were also expressed by Newtown Mayor Sue Newham, who said: “We are so grateful to the Welsh Government for bringing such a big investment to Newtown, which will boost the economy and enhance the area long into the future.”