Missing link of motorway opens months early thanks to tram firm

NEARLY half of a "missing link" section of motorway on Scotland's busiest north-south route will open some six months early, removing a major bottleneck, it emerged yesterday.

Transport Scotland said drivers will be able to use five miles of the 11-mile upgrade of the A80 to M80 between Glasgow and Stirling in around week's time.

It is being built by a consortium led by German firm Bilfinger Berger, currently embroiled in a bitter dispute with Edinburgh trams developers Tie.

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The new road extends the existing M80 north of Glasgow from Hornshill to Mollinsburn, bypassing the Crowwood roundabout and the last two sets of traffic lights on the route, at Muirhead and Moodiesburn.

The route will initially open to northbound traffic in the week of 7 February, depending on weather conditions, followed by southbound vehicles about a week later.

However, the existing temporary 40mph limit through the roadworks, enforced by average speed cameras, will also cover the new road until the whole project is finished.

The entire 320 million scheme, which began two years ago to link to the northern end of the M80 at Haggs, is due to be completed this autumn.

Early opening of part of the motorway had not been previously announced, but sources close to the consortium said it had made "exceptional progress" despite two severe winters.

The A80/M80 carries more than 70,000 vehicles a day and forms part of the main link for traffic between England and the Highlands, via the M74, M73 and A9.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: "A major milestone for the M80 Stepps to Haggs project has been reached.

"This early opening to traffic is dependent on weather conditions and will be undertaken while works continue to complete this new section of road; providing benefits to road users and the communities of Chyrston, Muirhead and Moodiesburn at the earliest opportunity."

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Motoring groups welcomed the opening as "finally some good news for drivers" after a bleak winter of rising fuel costs.

Neil Greig, policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "Drivers have been suffering two years of roadworks, and this should increase safety and cut congestion as it will remove several right-hand turns and bypass two sets of traffic lights."

In a further boost for drivers, around two miles of the existing M80 between junction two at Robroyston and Hornshill will be increased from 50mph to 70mph when the project is completed.

This is because a sharp bend towards the Crowwood roundabout, built when that section of the motorway was opened in 1992, will also be bypassed.

Mr Greig said the lower limit had been a regular complaint among drivers.Transport Scotland said: "The scheme has its tie-in with the existing M80 between junction two and an improved junction at Hornshill.

"Therefore the 70mph for the new scheme affects part of the length of the existing road but will not change speed limits west of junction two."

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