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Ely's over budget bypass opened to traffic

Ely by-pass opening (5146418)
Ely by-pass opening (5146418)

Ely's new bypass was opened to traffic yesterday with combined authority boss James Palmer dismissing a multi-million pound overspend as "short-sighted, low-level politics".

The £49 million bypass crosses the Great Ouse and two railway lines to connect the A142 at Angel Drove to Stuntney Causeway.

The ribbon was cut by Cllr Mandy Smith, chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council, who said "it was a great day for Ely".

Shortly after motorists crossed the bypass for the first time, avoiding 'the most bashed bridge in Britain' in Stuntney Road.

Under construction since January 2017, in April Cambridgeshire County Council said "tricky conditions" led to a £13 million increase in the final bill.

But Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority boss, and former leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, Mayor James Palmer defended the overspend.

The Ely Southern Bypass will avoid 'Britain's most bashed bridge' (5147878)
The Ely Southern Bypass will avoid 'Britain's most bashed bridge' (5147878)

"I pushed for this to be be built because it was desperately needed. The cost of building this bridge would have been £49 million whether or not there was an underestimation of the costs."

He added: "If you want to build this bridge tomorrow it's going to cost you £49 million. If you want to build it in five years time it will cost you £60 million. It's about building it now for the people of the county. I am not going to take this £13 million over budget figure - that's short-sighted, low-level politics getting involved. This bridge needed to be built and it cost £49 million."

Mr Palmer said he did not want to get "bogged down in rubbish or nonsense in local politics" about the project.

"The facts are there. Building on boggy ground is sometimes more expensive - anybody who has ever built any house or extension knows the costs aren't certain.

"What is certain and what has always been certain is that the boost to the economy for having this bypass is far in excess on a yearly basis of £13 million or even £49 million.

"It has been opened to stop the misery of people travelling along this road, never knowing how long getting to Ely is going to take them, never knowing how long getting through Ely is going take them, missing trains and costing them money, having lorries queued up, this is why we are here today," he said.

Soham and Ely's MP Lucy Frazer said she was 'delighted' the bridge was finally open.

"I think it is worth it. This is what people want. People want to get to work. Of course it's an expensive project but we had very difficult soil here in Ely, we have got a viaduct over the river, bridges over the railway, so it was expensive but vital to ensure we have the infrastructure to support our economy," she said.

Ely bypass viaduct (5149641)
Ely bypass viaduct (5149641)

Work on a new underpass at Ely’s rail bridge is due to get under way today.

The underpass is being closed so work can start to develop a new one with the introduction of traffic lights at either end to create space for a new shared use footway and cycleway, and a new one-way cycle lane from Angel Square roundabout.

The existing pedestrian crossing will be upgraded allowing people to cross both carriageways at once. Access for cyclists and pedestrians will be maintained at all times. The work is expected to take 12 weeks.

The project was funded by Cambridgeshire County Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Network Rail and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.