Wales

Newtown bypass makes town 'a pleasure to visit again'

The opened Newtown Bypass
Image caption The first cars began using the Newtown bypass in February 2019

A multi-million pound bypass which was 70 years in the making has made a town a "pleasure to visit again" in the year since it opened.

Hold-ups of 45 minutes in and around Newtown, Powys, were commonplace and the area was "gridlocked".

The town's mayor David Selby said "endless queues" and air pollution were now "bad memories".

But one business said some traders had lost custom without traffic travelling through the town.

Following decades of discussions, the bypass was given the go-ahead in 2015 and formally opened in February 2019.

"From the visitors' perspective Newtown can be more than an feared obstacle on the way to the coast," Mr Selby said.

"The bypass has freed the town from a lot of its traffic and made it a pleasure to visit again."

Image caption Local AM Russell George said the bypass had helped business growth

The four-mile (6.4km) road runs to the south of the town, with two lanes in one direction and one in the opposite direction to provide overtaking points.

Montgomeryshire AM Russell George said: "Traffic flow has greatly improved and the bypass has already supported business growth."

"The town was gridlocked before the bypass opened - the bypass is now helping people get to and from work much more quickly," he added.

Colin Owen, who runs a coal and agricultural merchants, said the contractors did a "fantastic job".

Image caption Colin Owen said the town was "easier to navigate"

"Journey times have significantly reduced which has reduced transport costs. You can do business with ease in town, as there's less congestion."

A Welsh Government spokesman said the scheme was "delivering huge benefits" to how traffic moves through and around the town.

"Early indications show an improvement in air quality in the centre of Newtown but a definitive assessment will be available in March."

A post-opening evaluation report has been commissioned which will show "the full benefits", he added.

Seventy years in the making

Image copyright BBC | County Times
Image caption Now and then: Traffic in Newtown and a public notice from 1949

A public notice printed in 1949 showed a bypass was being considered by the former Montgomeryshire County Council.

There were also discussions about a bypass in the 1960s and the 1980s but the green light never came, as there was a mixed reaction to the idea.

As congestion around the town worsened, it was blamed largely on traffic lights replacing a roundabout.

In 2008 the Welsh Government confirmed it would finance the bypass, with work to start in 2011.

But it was put on hold after a spending review in 2010.

Following a three-week public inquiry in 2015, then Transport Minister Edwina Hart gave the green light for work to start.

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