Watch out world – the new Heysham to M6 link road is all set to put Lancaster and Morecambe on the global map.
The £124.5m Bay Gateway will officially open on Monday (October 31) and a business leader has described it as “a tremendous opportunity to open up the area to the world”.
John Regan, leader of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce (recently renamed The Chamber), was speaking before a preview drive along the road for VIPs on Thursday.
“We helped make this happen and we are really proud of that,” said Mr Regan.
“It was a team effort of course, it wasn’t just The Chamber, it wasn’t just one particular MP, it was everybody.”
Business leaders, residents and city council officials were invited to take an exclusive early tour of the road ahead of its official opening on Monday.
The Heysham to M6 Link Road was first identified in the document ‘Road Plan for Lancashire’ in 1948.
Road builders Costain began work on The Bay Gateway in 2014 after years of false starts and delays.
On Monday those plans will come to fruition and congested traffic between Lancaster and Morecambe, a longtime bugbear with local people, is expected to reduce.
“It is fundamentally going to change the traffic flows and on the back of that we can change what is happening in this area from a vistor and business point of view,” said Alistair Eagles, CEO of Seatruck Ferries which runs freight crossings to Ireland from Heysham Port.
“I live here and I think overall Costain has done a fantastic job.
“For Heysham Port it is all about the certainty of the journey time, we all know what Lancaster is like.”
Richard Parsons, a retired highway and civil engineer, described his chance to try out the road as a “busman’s holiday”.
The Lunesdale Rotary Club member has spent his whole career building roads and has worked on some of the most busiest motorways in the country, including the M1.
He praised Costain for their work on the project.
“I think it is a wonderful achievement and will be a huge benefit to the area, relieving traffic to Lancaster and Morecambe,” said Mr Parsons, who lives in Wennington.
“From personal experience I am aware of the challenges that may come during road building.
“Crossing the River Lune with a new bridge, crossing the West Coast Mainline, which in itself is very demanding because it remains live, but one of the most demanding things they have done is tying it in with existing road networks.”
Over the two year project extensive work has taken place on Northgate, Morecambe Road, Torrisholme Road Bridge, Folly Railway Bridge, the A6 junction and Lune Bridge.
A park and ride has also been built on Caton Road which Costain say is expected to boost tourism.
Coun Robert Redfern, Mayor of Lancaster, had some concerns over safety on Torrisholme Road Bridge.
“If you come down Torrisholme Road, it looks like a sheet of plastic. I was concerned that wasn’t safe and drivers could come off the bridge, but we’ve been told this morning in front of them are crash barriers and it’s safe,” said Coun Redfern.
“Overall it will bring more people in. It should reduce heavy traffic on Morecambe Road and Skerton bridge.”
During the preview journey, Costain spoke of some of their biggest challenges during the build.
A spokesman said: “Winter 2015 was a big challenge.
“The weather washed away all the temporary works and basket wires full of four tonne stones, that was all lost.
“It was phenomenal, the force of the water.
“But we have got by and here we are.”
The national speed limit of 70 mph will apply to the road.
On Saturday 5,000 people are expected to walk down the completed Bay Gateway for a ‘Welly Walk’ charity event.
The road will then officially open to traffic on Monday afternoon.