AFTER decades of campaigning, Dalkeith residents are set to reap the benefits of the new northern bypass, which officially opened this week.
Transport minister Stewart Stevenson, opening the 30 million road on Tuesday, said it would bring “significant benefits to the people of Dalkeith.”
He told the Advertiser: “I think the important thing is it will take 1.35 million cars and 180,000 commercial vehicles out of the centre of Dalkeith each year. That will be a significant benefit to the people of Dalkeith — in noise, in the reduction of pollutants and of course, safety.”
The 3.5 mile single carriageway, delivered by Morgan Est on Transport Scotland’s behalf, combines a new junction on the A720 Edinburgh City bypass east of Sheriffhall with the A68 to the south of Dalkeith. It is expected it will cut heavy traffic in the town by more than half.
Mr Stevenson, who planted a beech tree to mark the official opening, also announced the next stage for improvements on the A68 with the publication of the road orders for the Soutra to Oxton road widening scheme later this week.
Labour MSP Rhona Brankin said: “I’m delighted it’s here and I think it’s a huge improvement, not just for Dalkeith but for Midlothian.”
Ms Brankin added she would be calling for speed cameras to be installed on the road and alongside Midlothian MP David Hamilton would step up the campaign for grade separation at the Sheriffhall Roundabout.
Mr Hamilton said: “It has been 30 years in the making. As someone who was born and bred in Dalkeith, I think it’s a godsend for the people of the town. People will see it as a great benefit - taking off heavy lorries, while making the environment even better.”
Also attending the opening ceremony were Labour’s Councillor Alex Bennett and Councilllor Margot Russell.
Cabinet member for strategic services Russell Imrie said: “Midlothian Council welcomes the opening of the A68 bypass,” adding: “I now call upon the SNP government to complete the job by upgrading the Sheriffhall roundabout.”
Preparations for the bypass included the recently completed 2.2 million package of improvements to Sheriffhall.
Mr Stevenson is seen with Morgan Est director Jag Paddam at the official opening.
Staff Photo: 25/09/08/MA/bypass9228