On Thursday 14th February, we will see the opening of the Newtown bypass. This will be a momentous occasion for Mid Wales.
The Bypass, to the south of Newtown, is approximately 6.5 km long and extends from the A489 Llanidloes Road at Penstrowed to the west of Newtown, to the A483 Pool Road, east of Newtown.
It was over 70 years ago that the need for a bypass was first suggested. During the past 7 decades, the bypass has been on and off the agenda at various points in time.
The campaign for a Bypass began in the 1940s. In 1949, the then Montgomery County Council published an advert which called for school boys aged 16 or over to consider putting themselves forward to record the number of vehicles travelling through the town between Friday September 2nd and Sunday September 4th 1949 in an effort to assess the need for a Newtown Bypass (see advert below).
We should pay tribute to the many people, especially those that are no longer with us, who have campaigned for a bypass over the past 7 decades. Around 30 people who joined me in handing in a 10,000 strong petition to the National Assembly for Wales back in March 2011, are pictured below. Sadly, we have now lost a few of these enthusiastic campaigners but their efforts are not forgotten.
The Bypass itself includes a number of large structures, including 4 new roundabouts and 7 main bridges. For a major project like this to be completed within 3 years from start to finish is amazing in itself. There has been widespread support for this project from the community and a great interest in the construction works.
I was particularly pleased to take an interest in the development of the largest of the new structures, the bridge over the middle Dolfor Road. The picture below is of site manager Nick Cleary showing me the progress early last year. Nick explained that this bridge is a multi-span reinforced concrete structure, with two piers and two abutments. 90 metres in length and standing 20 metres tall the bridge has nine pairs of steel beams which weigh 35 tonnes each. A magnificent example of structural engineering.
Road surfacing of the entire length has now been laid, with road markings also in place. Barriers, signs and lighting have all been installed. An incredible 6.2 km of newly planted hedgerows, approximately 89,000 plants and 200 trees have also been planted. The contractors, Alun Griffiths, should be congratulated on this incredible feat of engineering. It is an outstanding achievement for all concerned.
I’m delighted that the opening of the bypass was also an official opening with the Welsh Government Minister for Transport, Ken Skates AM, cutting the ribbon that will allow the first vehicles onto the new bypass. I should also like to pay tribute to the former Transport Minister, Edwina Hart, who was always very willing to engage with me on plans for the bypass.
It ought to be acknowledged that people who live near the new bypass and construction sites have been incredibly patient over the past 3 years and that some landowners have had to make sacrifices and give up land belonging to their families for generations in order to allow the project to proceed.
It is important to keep in mind that there will still be other construction works such as landscaping that will continue after the bypass has been opened. Responsibility for the existing road through Newtown, will now become the responsibility of Powys County Council. Various maintenance and works by utility companies that have been correctly held back, will take place in the coming months.
Newtown Town Council have been asked by the Welsh Government to consult and suggest names for the new structures along the bypass. I will be meeting with Transport Minister, Ken Skates, tomorrow to discuss these options, and the Welsh Government will shortly be making a final decision.
Many people, including myself, took part in a fun run and walk along part of the bypass last October. I was keen for a further walking event to take place before the bypass opened but the Welsh Government have confirmed that this is not able to take place, but they are willing to consider a further event at a later date.
I believe that the bypass has the potential to transform the economy of towns such as Newtown, Llanidloes and Machynlleth, and I firmly believe that the Newtown Bypass will serve to resolve local traffic congestion issues, improve school safety, and improve response times of the emergency services and support tourism and the wider Mid Wales economy.
If you have any questions on this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Russell George AM
Assembly Member for Montgomeryshire
Above: Advert placed in the County Times in August 1949