Works have started in earnest on the eagerly anticipated £36 million Ely Southern Bypass designed to alleviate a congestion blighted area of the city which currently gridlocks Ely.
A special sod cutting ceremony was held today, Thursday, 9 March, involving all the partners who have made the scheme happen and presided over by the Deputy Lieutenant, The Rt Hon Sir James Paice DL.
The new route will bypass the railway level crossing and underpass by providing a new link between Stuntney Causeway and Angel Drove to the south of the city.
Currently long tail backs can be caused in the area near the station as Heavy Goods Vehicles are forced to use a level crossing which is due to be closed more often due to rail improvements.
The new bypass is expected to reduce journey times for drivers between A10 and Stuntney Causeway by up to 56%. It will also reduce delays for motorists leaving the station by 50% at peak times and the addition of a new walkway will bring extra opportunities for walkers and cyclists.
Residents also see solving the bottleneck as a top priority as outlined in the newly adopted Transport Strategy for East Cambridgeshire.
The County Council have been working closely with contractor VolkerFitzpatrick since August who started preparation works in January this year.
Now building work will start to create 1.7km of road which will include two significant bridges to cross the River Ouse and its flood plain as well as railway lines.
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Ian Bates, Chairman of Economy and Environment Committee, said: “It is great to see excavators start on building this new bypass which will allow better access for all road users in and around the historic City of Ely. In turn this project will support local business, encourage growth and boost the local economy continuing to make Ely an attractive place to live and work. I would also like to thank all the partners that have helped fund this scheme and make it a reality. Not only will it benefit East Cambridgeshire but also further afield helping local businesses and residents.”
East Cambridgeshire District Council Leader, Councillor James Palmer said: “Today is a fundamental day in the history of East Cambridgeshire and one we have been looking forward to. This is something the people of the area, the district council and I have been campaigning for and it is very rewarding to see the project commence. I welcome the day that this new road is opened which will not only solve the current issues but bring even more opportunities to the area.”
Neil Darwin, Chief Executive of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP said “It is fantastic to see work get underway on the much-needed Ely Southern Bypass. As a key priority of the LEP we are investing £22 million of our Growth Deal into this scheme, our biggest funding commitment from this deal to date. We made this investment decision because we understand the significant growth that this new road can unlock for the local area, as well as easing the traffic problems that local people and businesses currently face on a daily basis. We look forward to seeing the work complete and the road in good use in the future.”
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “I’m delighted to see work beginning on the Southern Link Road, a scheme we are investing £16 million in. The project will benefit motorists including HGV drivers, as well as rail users and residents. It will ease road congestion, remove the level crossing north of the station reducing delays on the railway, allow new housing to be built in the area and boost Ely’s economy.”
MP for South East Cambridgeshire Lucy Frazer, said: "Today's Ely Bypass 'Start of Works Ceremony' marks a monumental milestone. The need for a bypass to relieve traffic in Ely which is heavily congested has been known for many years and along the way there have been numerous obstacles to overcome. Making progress with the Ely Bypass is something I campaigned on even before I was elected in May 2015 and has since become one of my key campaigns. I have worked closely with the County Council, the District Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the Department of Transport and I will continue to do so at each stage of the project to ensure, as far as I am able, that it progresses on schedule. I am so thrilled to be here today to mark this moment and to acknowledge the hard work of so many that has got us to this point."
Richard Schofield, Managing Director for the Anglia Route said: "The work on the Ely bypass will make a huge difference to the way people travel in this area. It will enable us to remove a level crossing at the station, which is the first step to changing the way trains travel through the constrained Ely area as we continue to improve the railway as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan."
The project is being funded by Cambridgeshire County Council (£8m), East Cambridgeshire District Council (£1 million), Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership grant (£22 million Growth Deal) and Network Rail (£5 million).