Bedford mayor hails new £950m road project
The new elected mayor of Bedford has hailed the building of a new dual carriageway as “the most wonderful news” for the area.
Construction work on the £950m 10-mile (16km) road through Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire is due to begin by the end of the year and will look to end long queues at two major roundabouts.
Environmentalists had brought legal action against the plan saying the wider road would create more carbon emissions, but the Court of Appeal refused their latest application.
Conservative mayor Tom Wootton said “nobody understands the pollution that ticking over engines create” in queues.
The new route, running south of St Neots, will connect the Black Cat and Caxton Gibbet roundabouts, allowing vehicles to flow more freely between Bedford, Cambridge and further afield.
National Highways said work could start because the Court of Appeal refused Transport Action Network’s (TAN) latest objection to the government’s decision to green light the project.
Mr Wootton said he knew people were concerned about it being built but he thought it was “the most wonderful news that Bedfordshire has had in a very long time”.
He added that the congestion issue at Black Cat, where the Milton Keynes road meets the A1, was a “very long term problem” and had been talked about since the 1970s. Upgrades to the roundabout, external would allow continuous flowing of most traffic.
“We’re making something that’s going to be safe and fit for purpose for another 40 or 50 years,” said Mr Wootton.
Campaigners have said the government would not meet its climate targets because of big road schemes.
TAN director Chris Todd said the project was the third biggest carbon emitter in the whole of its roads programme.
“It’s going to cause a huge amount of emissions at a time when we need to be drastically cutting them, so while we’re not blind to the concerns of people using the current roads we have got to start doing things differently,” he said.
“We’re in an emergency, we’ve seen extreme weather events already this year in Europe, it’s going to increasingly affect us and unless we stop making this worse and [start] looking for different solutions then I’m afraid it’s going to cost us much, much more in the long run.”
He added that while the argument about ticking over engines “might be true for an individual car, the overall effect of opening up the roads and encouraging even more traffic is that congestion overall gets worse”.
Mr Wootton said he was “just looking after north Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough and we’re looking at it saying this is the greatest news ever”.
“The carbon stuff is not as important to me as all those people sitting in the queue at the Black Cat roundabout for 15, 20 minutes while their engines tick over,” he said.
“Nobody seems to understand the pollution that ticking over engines create as they go up to a great big roundabout.”
The new road, which will be called the A421 instead of the A428, is expected to open in 2027.