A1 expressway opened
The A1 Expressway between Haddington and Dunbar was opened today by the First Minister.
As well as boosting the economy, the £35 million, 13.7km dual carriageway is expected to improve road safety.
Jack McConnell said that record investment in transport would drive up Scotland's prosperity for years to come.
"Greater investment in new roads and railways is one of the key decisions the Scottish government has taken to change Scotland for the better. We want to get people to work and goods to market more quickly. We want our economy to benefit from a transport network that works for business. We want to get Scotland moving to get Scotland growing.
"The A1 is a vital artery for the Edinburgh and East Lothian economies, and for Scotland as a whole. The opening of the Expressway completes the dualling of the busiest section in Scotland from Edinburgh to Dunbar, reducing congestion and improving links between Scotland and England.
"The benefits of improved transport links - like this Expressway - will be felt for generations to come. It will be felt by those travelling to work on buses and in their cars on a daily basis and by our businesses as they grow and flourish in the future."
The accident rate on the Haddington to Dunbar section of the A1 is twice as high as rest of the road in Scotland. Three of the five accidents involving deaths between 2001 and 2003 took place on this stretch. It is estimated that the new Expressway will halve the number of casualties.
Speaking at the opening, Transport Minister Nicol Stephen said:
"The opening of the Expressway is a major milestone in our transport improvements. We are putting right years of neglect in Scotland's transport system and investment for better public transport and roads by the Executive will be over £1 billion every year by 2006.
"The A1 between Haddington and Dunbar has an appalling record for accidents. The improvements that have already been made on other sections of the A1 have more than halved the number of accidents involving death and serious injury. The new Expressway will have a similar positive impact on the busiest stretch in Scotland."
Work started on the Expressway in June 2002 and was completed in under 100 weeks. Construction included the 217m long bridge over the River Tyne at East Linton.
Great care has been taken to protect the surrounding countryside and wildlife habitats. A continuous shared pedestrian/cycle way along the length of the existing A1 and a crossing below the new dual carriageway at Biel Mill Road has also been created.
The remaining length of the A1 to be upgraded under current plans is the one kilometre section which will complete the gap between the Haddington - Dunbar Expressway and the Bowerhouse - Spott Dualling. Bids are now being sought from Contractors. Once it is completed, two thirds of the A1 in Scotland will have been improved with dual carriageways or climbing lanes at a total cost of around £120 million.
The completion of the Expressway forms part of a package of upgrades to dual the A1. These include:
• The 3km section from Spott Wood to Oswald Dean which was completed in 1999 at a cost of £4.5 million.
• The 2km stretch from Bowerhouse to Spott Road which was opened in 2002 at a cost of £5.5 million.
• The 2km between Howburn to Houndwood which was completed in July 2003 at a cost of £5.35 million.
The scheme runs east from the end of an existing dual carriageway at Haddington East to a new roundabout at Thistly Cross west of Dunbar. Now two thirds of the route in Scotland has been upgraded to provide a series of unambiguous guaranteed overtaking opportunities.
The section of the A1 between Haddington and Dunbar carries nearly 4.5 million trips a year. The annual average daily flow is 12,220 vehicles. 18 per cent of these vehicles are heavy goods vehicles.
Work on the A1 between Edinburgh and the Border since 1990 has reduced the accident rate by over one third. Those involving death and serious injury have more than halved. This improvement has not been seen on the Haddington to Dunbar section which, although it amounts to 20 per cent of the length in Scotland, has had 35 per cent of the accidents.
Draft Orders for the Haddington to Dunbar scheme were first published in 1994. Following a public exhibition and subsequent design review, a second set of draft Orders and accompanying draft Compulsory Draft Order was published in 1996. A public local inquiry was held in 1997. Following the Strategic Roads Review (SRR), the scheme was given the go ahead by the Scottish Executive in November 1999. This is the second of five SRR projects to be completed. Nicol Stephen officially opened the Arisaig to Kinsdel section of the A830 ('The Road to the Isles') in March 2004. The Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston Bypass on the A78 should be completed in summer 2005. The M77 Extension should be completed in 2005/06. A Public Local Inquiry was held into the Fochabers and Mosstodloch Bypass in autumn 2003 and the report is waited.
During the construction of the Expressway, over 450,000 native trees and shrubs were planted to integrate the road into the landscape.