Highway officially opens in ‘secret’ 3.30am operation
The new South Devon Highway has officially opened for business. The road opened this morning after 60 years of waiting for the Kingskerswell bypass.
In the early hours of this morning a convoy of cars with highways maintenance, police and engineers opened the road to its first traffic, with lucky drivers heading towards Newton Abbot at 3.30 am making South Devon history.
Residents in Kingskerswell were unaware of the new road opening, though they may have noticed a strange new peace in the village centre as traffic finally bypassed the village after a campaign going back some 60 years.
By rush hour, thousands will have the pleasure of the shorter drive to work and school this morning on the new road between Penn Inn, Newton Abbot and Hamelin Way, Torquay.
Contractors Galliford Try, who have been hampered by the recent wet weather, worked through the night on getting the final touches ready for the opening.
This work included deconstructing the temporary mini roundabout at the bottom of Hamelin Way, Torquay, last night. This had to be dismantled and the computer controlled new traffic light junction there and on Hamelin Way put into operation before the new 5.5k £110 million dual carriageway could be opened to its first cars and lorries.
A carefully organised operation got under way just after 3.30am with the convoy headed by highways maintenance lorries.
Devon County Council project manager Paul Couttie explained how they had to drive slowly down the road, taking away cones and bollards between Hamelin Way and the Kingsteignton end of the new Penn Inn flyover as they went, to maintain health and safety for following drivers.
They had wanted to avoid any problems caused by hundreds of drivers wanting to be the first on the road.
As the actual opening time of the new road had been kept a closely guarded secret, there were few motorists around to appreciate the sweeping new empty road. The first was Steve Parr from Kingskerswell who said he had been impressed by the smoothness of the road. “I’m just glad it’s open,” he said.
David Whitton, head of highways at Devon County Council said the main message they wanted to give drivers in the first days of the road opening is “take it steady”.
VIPs gathered in the car park at Maddacombe Bridge for a bird’s eye view of the proceedings. They included Mayor of Torbay Gordon Oliver, leader of Devon County Council John Hart, Torbay MP Kevin Foster, and Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County cabinet member for economy, growth.
John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been leader of Devon County Council from the beginning to the end of this long-awaited major road project. The people of Kingskerswell have waited for far too long for relief from the traffic congestion that has blighted their lives. Now thanks to the close cooperation and partnership between Devon County Council, Torbay Council and the Government – with additional support from Teignbridge District Council – the dream has become a reality. Just as importantly, the new road will improve access to South Devon and Torbay and bring lasting economic benefits. So we now have a superb stretch of highway that will bring major economic benefits and thousands of jobs to South Devon as well as removing the traffic bottleneck that has been growing there year on year.”