Aberdeen’s bypass route finally opened in full to drivers today.
The final section of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) welcomed its first traffic this morning before the rush hour.
The new 4.5-mile (7.5km) section will link the southern Craibstone to Stonehaven and Charleston section with the Parkhill to Blackdog section in the north, slashing journey times.
Its opening marks the final milestone in delivery of the project, first announced 16 years ago, with council leaders believing it will prove “transformational” for the region.
Steve Szalay, managing director at Aberdeen International Airport, said: “Now the full stretch of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route is open, it means our passengers can arrive at the airport quicker.
“We’re able to reach more potential passengers than ever before as the road opens up a new catchment area for us.
“We hope the ease of the journey to get to the airport will mean the people of the north-east will use their local airport.
“The AWPR is a tangible example the Aberdeen area is primed and ready for the exciting growth period that lies ahead.”
Motorists have been urged to drive with caution when taking to the new route over the coming days and weeks until they get used to the new layout.
Douglas Laird, project manager for the AWPR/B-T project at Transport Scotland, said: “This new section of road between Craibstone and Parkhill will bring a range of benefits to road users, including reduced congestion, improved journey time reliability and enhanced safety.
“However, we would like to remind road users to drive with caution for their own safety and to consider the safety of other road users as there are a number of changes to road layout to become accustomed to.
“There may be a degree of uncertainty amongst some drivers and all drivers should be prepared to react appropriately to ensure journeys can be completed safely.”
The road has spurred bus firm Stagecoach to introduce new services for passengers looking to get to and from the airport.
David Liston, the managing director of the bus firm in the north of Scotland, said: “The AWPR has allowed us to introduce new routes to our Aberdeenshire network and we were delighted to welcome customers on board the 747 and 757 services from the 21st of January.
“These routes offer direct cross-city connections for journeys to the airport that previously required a change of bus in the city centre.
“In some cases like Stonehaven to Aberdeen airport the journey time has been reduced by around 50%.”
The link road connecting the Chapel of Stoneywood to Craibstone junction will also be opened to use, allowing work to begin on permanently closing its junction with the A96.
Chief Inspector Stewart Mackie, responsible for road policing in the north, said: “It is good to see the last section of the AWPR now opening.
“The Stonehaven to Craibstone section had a huge impact on traffic levels in the city and the final section will further improve journey times in and around Aberdeen.
“As with previous sections, I would urge motorists to take time to familiarise themselves with the layout.
“The final section is elevated and provides good views across the airport and north of the city. I would urge motorists to remain focused on the road ahead and not be distracted.
“The bypass is designed to the highest safety standards and, as such, we would hope that we see a reduction in casualties and collisions in and around Aberdeen as a result.”
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The opening date follows Aberdeen Roads Ltd providing the necessary technical assurances for the River Don Crossing, which were required before the new section opened.
This new section follows road openings between Craibstone to Charleston and Stonehaven last December, Balmedie and Tipperty in August, Parkhill and Blackdog last June, and the Craibstone Roundabout and Dyce Drive section in September 2016.
The £745 million project has been dogged by delays during the duration of its construction.
Transport Scotland missed its “late autumn” target date, with contractors saying they hoped to open the full route by December.
This was extended, with roads bosses missing a January completion date due to work repairing defects on the new River Don bridge. Cracks were discovered and required repairs, then contractual wrangles between the Scottish Government and contractors held up the signing-off process.