Cheshire’s newly constructed £192 million A556 Knutsford to Bowdon dual carriageway was officially opened on Friday (March 24).
The four mile new road, which bypasses the old A556 and the villages of Mere, Bucklow Hill and Over Tabley was completed on time and on budget.
It provides a quicker and more reliable link between junction 19 of the M6 and junction seven of the M56 for the 50,000 vehicles which rely on the connection every day.
Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, said: “The A556 is a key strategic route linking the West Midlands and Cheshire to Greater Manchester and Manchester International Airport.
“The old road was heavily congested and compromised by busy crossroads.
“This new road, built to modern standards, will provide faster and more reliable journeys between the two motorways - benefiting commerce and commuters alike.
“We would like to thank local people and road users for their patience and support over nearly two and a half years while we have worked to deliver this new road on time and on budget.”
Mr O’Sullivan joined Tatton MP George Osborne, chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, to mark the project’s completion.
They planted a tree on the innovative Green Bridge which crosses the road south of the A50 at Mere and is a key feature of the new road’s environmental mitigation measures.
The new road is the first major north west project to be delivered in the government’s £15 billion investment in the strategic road network up to 2021.
With the new dual carriageway now open, work will focus on converting the old A556 to the B5569, with a new single carriageway road and a segregated green corridor for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.
Once this work is completed the new B road will be handed over to Cheshire East Council.
Work will also be taking place over the next few weeks to complete the unique Green Bridge, providing connectivity for farm animals and for wild mammals, birds and other animals.
The Green Bridge is one of seven bridges to either carry key local roads such as the A50 over the new road or provide a link to the new dual carriageway for local communities.
In the last 28 months the project has also involved:
- Digging out one million cubic metres of earth – all of it recycled to other parts of the project such as embankment and noise bund construction – enough to fill the Manchester Arena three times.
- Pouring 7,500 cubic metres (18,000 tonnes) of concrete for the seven bridges and underpass and other structures – enough to fill three Olympics-size swimming pools.
- Rolling out over 200,000 square metres of blacktop for the new road surface, enough to cover 30 football pitches.
- Making hundreds of pre-cast manholes off-site and building an on-site concrete batching site to reduce ready-mix concrete deliveries and cut down lorry movements.
- Installing more than 30 kilometres of new drainage pipes along the route.
- Providing four large attenuation ponds to store water run-off from the new road to prevent flooding.
- Delivering nine new habitats for legally-protected Great Crested, man-made badger setts, replacement bat roosts, a network of 21 ponds, new barn owl boxes, and mammal tunnels.
- Carrying out extensive landscape planting including new species-rich grass, 280 semi-mature trees, around 60,000 whips and saplings, almost 117,000 square metres of shrubs, and more than 7,000 metres of hedgerow.
- Securing work for about 4,000 people, including 14 apprentices, across a variety of engineering and project management disciplines.
- Hosting or supporting hundreds of science, technology, engineering and mathematic days, giving students an insight into engineering.
- Registering 1.7 million accident-free working hours.
The new road, which has already scooped a number of environmental and considerate constructor awards, including a gold award earlier this week, has been delivered as part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative.