The first cars travelled along the new £102 million A11 bypass between Barton Mills and Thetford this morning.
After more than 60 years of safety and community campaigns the opening of the dual carriageway has been largely welcomed by residents and businesses in Elveden.
Elveden Parish Council chairman, Ian Robertson, said: “The peace and quiet have arrived. At 3am this morning all went quiet and at about 5am the dawn chorus could be heard for the first time in a long time.”
Previously the A11, which connects the East with London, included a single carriageway road through Elveden. The nine mile stretch was an accident blackspot where drivers would frequently encounter long delays.
Elveden resident, Nigel Glister, said: “It could not open to soon. It’s brilliant.
“It’s a good thing for the village and the whole area. We have had so many accidents on the A11 - this has got to cut those down.”
A number of businesses sit on the former route and Elveden Village Stores is concerned about the loss of passing trade.
Store owner and sub-postmistress, Maggie Pendlebury, said: “I have mixed feelings. It’s got to be a bonus both to us and the rest of the village not to have the famous A11 here. From a business point of view it’s highly improbable it will do me any good. It could well be the death nail for us because we will loose the majority of the passing trade.”
In contrast Elveden Estate food shop manager, Richard Howard, believes that once the new route is complete visitors will be more likely to travel to the area.
He said: “We talk to customers regularly who are eagerly awaiting easier access from Norwich and Cambridge. Lots of people have previously been put off visiting on Bank Holidays or Fridays because they anticipate delays.”
MP for West Suffolk, Matthew Hancock, has also welcomed the opening.
He said: “Although there will only be one lane at 40 mph to start with, I’m sure it will make a real difference to the local residents as it marks the beginning of a major project for safer and less congested journeys in Suffolk.”
Work will now begin to construct the new southbound slip road less than a mile south of the Thetford roundabout. This work is expected to take approximately 12 weeks.
Highways Agency project manager, Geoff Chatfield, said: “Work on the A11 dualling and improvement scheme is progressing well, and with the opening of the A11 bypass we have reached a key milestone.
“This opening brings us one step closer to delivering smoother, faster journeys along and around the A11 in Suffolk. We have worked closely with local partners to ensure disruption to road users during the closures is kept to a minimum.”