A DECADE after a consultation group was set up and with a total of £12million now spent, the final phase of the Galashiels Inner Relief Road was officially opened this week.
Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker was joined by the town’s festival principals, Braw Lad Ryan Mania and Braw Lass Nicola Mackay – who cut the ribbon – for Tuesday morning’s ceremony.
It followed the reintroduction of full two-way traffic on Ladhope Vale earlier in the day.
The new route should ease congestion in the town centre and provide opportunities for environmental improvements that will benefit residents, visitors and local businesses.
As well as two-way traffic in Ladhope Vale, the scheme also sees a signalised junction at High Street/Island Street/Bridge Place and a new mini roundabout at the top of Bridge Place.
Mr Parker said the ceremony marked the end of six years’ worth of roadworks in the town.
“It’s great to be here today. The plans we’ve been talking about for a very long time have now come to fruition. The next stages are getting the transport interchange in and to prepare for the arrival of the railway.”
Although there has been some concern that larger vehicles using the latest roads layout might experience problems at certain pinch points due to the tighter turning manoeuvres needed, Mr Parker was confident there would be few hitches.
“A lot of work and modelling was done before we went ahead with the scheme and I’m very confident congestion won’t be an issue and, in fact, that the inner relief road will have a big benefit in reducing congestion and allow folk to travel through Galashiels in a much easier way,” he said.
“None of our Borders towns were built for the modern day vehicle or articulated lorry, but unless we radically alter how our towns look, then we just have to appeal to everybody to have a bit of common sense and patience when driving.”
Councillor Gordon Edgar, SBC executive member for roads and infrastructure, says such major projects always have teething problems.
“There is the odd chance that, in certain instances and at certain places, there will be slight obstructions with bigger vehicles,” he said.
“When these buildings were put up, it was probably horses and carts using the roads – now we’ve got 40ft artics and 20-tonners.
“Drivers in Galashiels will be used to the old system and we have to educate them about the new system.
“But the problems are not something that cannot be overcome and with consideration this will be an ideal system for getting traffic through the town.”
Local Chamber of Trade chairman, David Houston, who also heads up the local consultation group formed back in 2002, was pleased to see traffic finally flowing along the remaining completed section of the new network.
“It’s good to see because it’s been a long time coming. It will take a wee while to bed in – like everything new.
“But we need to make sure access is clearly marked into the town centre, so that those cars that want to be there can go – the whole point of the bypass was to take through traffic away from the town centre to make it a much nicer place to be, sit, shop, drink coffee or whatever.”
And he pointed out there was still a lot to do, with three other major projects in the pipeline, including the scheme to build a transport interchange to service the new rail line.
Following the road opening, dignitaries and guests moved to Market Square where singer/songwriter Fish officially opened the refurbished plaza.
The former frontman of the band Marillion said he was humbled that lyrics from the band’s chart-topping hit, Kayleigh, had been engraved into the new stonework in the square.
The Haddington-based star – real name Derek Dick – lived in the town in the 1980s and drew on memories from this period for part of the song.
He told the crowd: “I’d like to thank the town, it’s a great honour, I’m humbled.”
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