MULTI-MILLION POUND: A303 dualling begins
The Sparkford Roundabout Where The A303 Meets The A359, Image: Daniel Mumby
Construction work has officially begun on a multi-million pound project to finally dual the A303 through Somerset.
National Highways (formerly Highways England) was granted permission by the Department for Transport (DfT) in late-January to dual the single carriageway stretch between the Podimore and Sparkford roundabouts.
Local MPs Marcus Fysh (Yeovil) and David Warburton (Somerton and Frome) were present on Friday morning (October 1) for an official tour of the construction site as work finally got under way after decades of campaigning.
The new road is expected to be open to the public by early-2024.
The scheme was originally budgeted to cost taxpayers up to £250M; however, this has subsequently been reduced down to £135M, with all the funding coming from central government.
Roads minister Baroness Vere said: “This is a fantastic moment for the south West as work gets under way.
“Not only will it enhance capacity, cut journey times and improve road safety, but as we continue to build back better from the pandemic this project will provide a real boost to the local economy in Somerset and the surrounding region – creating jobs, improving access to housing and opening the region up to the rest of the country.”
The construction will be primarily based out of a new compound built on the northern side of the A303 near West Camel, with National Highways promising that motorists will suffer minimal disruption through diversions or contraflows for the rest of the current year.
Programme manager Hannah Sanderson said: “The three new miles of dual carriageway will support economic growth and facilitate a growth in jobs and housing by creating a free-flowing and reliable connection between the south east and south west.
“It will also tackle a long-standing bottleneck, reduce journey times to the south west and improve traffic flows in that area at peak times and during peak seasons.”
Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, added: “It’s really satisfying to see work commence on this vital scheme, which is so important for Somerset’s economy and future growth.
“We’ve worked really had to promote the need for this investment and we’re delighted to be supporting National Highways as they deliver these much-needed improvements.”
In addition to dualling the carriageway, the A303 scheme will provide safer routes for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians, as well as maintaining access for local farmers.
The scheme is one of three connected projects designed to provide an unbroken dual carriageway link between the M3 and the M5.
National Highways is about to begin a fresh round of public consultation on its £328M scheme to dual the A358 between Taunton and Ilminster, with a view towards plans being formally submitted in the new year.
The other scheme – concerning the A303 at Stonehenge – is proceeding through its early stages despite a successful legal challenge by heritage campaigners.
For more details on the A303 Somerset scheme, including a breakdown of the construction programme, visit www.highwaysengland.co.uk/our-work/south-west/a303-sparkford-to-ilchester.
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