The Bay Gateway link road has officially opened.
The Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire did the honours, unveiling a plaque after replacing Princess Alexandra who had to withdraw after breaking her wrist.
The 4.8km road has been open to traffic since October 31 but the official ceremony was held at Lancaster and Morecambe College on Thursday.
Scouts from the 16th Morecambe Scout Group at Torrisholme formed a guard of honour for Lord and Lady Shuttleworth as they arrived.
Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster, Robert Redfern, mayor of Lancaster, the leaders of Lancaster City and Lancashire County councils, and other councillors and VIPs also attended.
Before unveiling the plaque, Lord Shuttleworth read out a message from Princess Alexandra.
It said: “I am so sorry that I am unable to join you to celebrate the opening of the new link road which will I am sure be of benefit to all in the area.
“The Bay Gateway is already proving to be a great asset to those travelling between the M6 motorway and Heysham Port and also to residents whose local journey times have been more than halved.
“Thanks must go to all who have been involved in the planning and construction of the new road and I send to you my good wishes for the future.”
Lord Shuttleworth said: “I am well aware that I am an inadequate substitute for the person who you really wanted to be doing this!
“Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra should have been here but she broke her wrist last Friday and has had to cancel all her engagements this week.
“Congratulations to all involved in planning and building this road. It’s been absolutely fascinating to watch its construction and see how quickly it’s blended into the landscape.”
At the event Lord Shuttleworth also met residents, businesspeople and representatives from local agencies.
Those in attendance included Alistair Eagles from Seatruck Ferries, based at Heysham Port, Mick Gorry from JM Gorry and Sons haulage firm, Catherine Butterworth from St John’s Hospice, David Wood, principal of Lancaster and Morecambe College, Ken Russell from Morecambe Bay Movie Makers, and representatives of road builders Costain.
The biggest new road to be built in Lancashire for decades, the Bay Gateway is expected to boost economic growth by providing better access to the Heysham peninsula.
Work to build the road began in January 2014.
Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council who co-ordinated the project, described the road as a “long lasting legacy to the area” which would “benefit generations to come”.
“It doesn’t seem five minutes since I was standing in a field with a spade on a cold February morning in 2014 to celebrate the start of the work on this fantastic construction,” said County Councillor Mein.
“Here we are all today celebrating the completion of this huge engineering feat and I’m delighted that so many of the construction workers are here to celebrate with us.
“The Bay Gateway is going to bring huge economic and transport benefits to the area and Lancashire as a whole.
“As well as easing congestion caused by traffic travelling through Lancaster city centre and Carnforth, the link road will greatly increase the potential for investment in the surrounding area.
“We are already beginning to see evidence of that. The link road is already beginning to improve access to Heysham port and the power stations.
“This road will result in improvement in air quality due to reduced traffic jams around Lancaster and Carnforth.
“Students and staff at this college have managed to cut their journey times to 10 minutes from what was previously a 40 minute trip, which is truly amazing.”
Andrew Jones, Transport Minister, said: “The Bay Gateway is providing a vital link from the industrial areas of Heysham and Morecambe to the M6 and is hugely benefiting motorists by cutting congestion in and around Lancaster, speeding up journeys and boosting the local economy. I’m delighted that this road has opened.”
BAY GATEWAY FACTS
The Bay Gateway completes the link from the Heysham and Morecambe peninsula to a remodelled Junction 34 of the M6 motorway.
It consists of 4.8km of dual carriageway with footpaths and cycleways
The UK’s bigest mobile crane helped build the road bridge over the River Lune at Halton
The link road was originally identified as a route that would benefit the area in 1948
Work on the entire project is due to be completed during the spring, with aspects such as landscaping and signing currently being finished.
3,000 people were employed during construction and 100 local long term unemployed people trained and employed
For every £1 invested in the road the local economy will benefit by £4
13 new trees were planted as part of the road project for every one felled
9 habitat creation areas have been developed as well as an educational nature conservation area to be used by local communities and schools