PICTURES: Highland Council opens new Caledonian Canal swing bridge, the Torvean Bridge, in Inverness
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THE Highland capital's newest bridge has 'swung' into action after it opened to traffic for the first time today.
The new Torvean Bridge, a swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal, brings the latest part of the West Link project closer to its conclusion.
The bridge has long been seen as a vital solution to traffic congestion on the A82, with the existing Tomnahurich Bridge causing a bottleneck for motorists whenever it swings open to allow ships to pass.
The completion of its near neighbour, the Torvean Bridge, means that at least one of the bridges can now remain open to traffic at all times, with one providing continued access over the canal whenever the other is in operation.
Cllr Trish Robertson, chairwoman of the economy and infrastructure committee, was the first person to cross the new swing bridge last week, ahead of today’s official opening to the public.
“This is a landmark day for the city of Inverness which sees the new swing bridge come into operation," she said. "The West Link project will deliver a greatly improved infrastructure to support the future development, growth and prosperity of Inverness and the Highlands.
“Despite the halt in works caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns we are delighted to have been able to deliver this project with such minimal delay and on budget.”
She added: “The project also forms part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal which is aimed at stimulating sustainable, regional economic growth.
“The West Link will allow the peripheral growth of Inverness and reduce traffic congestion in Inverness city centre. It will also reduce existing canal bridge delays and waiting times. The associated developments enabled by the West Link will expand the active travel network removing bottlenecks and barriers to cycling and walking and will release land for development identified in the local plan.”
The West Link Project was made possible through investment by Highland Council and the £315m Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal. The City-Region Deal included £135m from the Scottish Government, supported by £127m from Highland Council and its partners and another £53m from the UK government.
The project has seen the completion of the link from the Southern Distributor Road at Dores Road to the A82 including crossing the River Ness on the new Holm Mills Bridge; new sports facilities at Canal Parks including synthetic pitch and clubhouse; and a relocated golf course.
A core element of stage two was the inclusion of the second swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal to the south of the existing Tomnahurich swing bridge.
There will normally be two routes available for vehicles to cross the canal and vehicles will be diverted over one or other bridge, only while the other is open to allow boat passage.
Highland Council said there had been enthusiastic public support for the project, and wished like to thank the Community Liaison Group for its "valuable input" during the consultation phases.
Chairman of the Community Liaison Group, former Cllr Graham Ross, said: “The group’s input has been extremely valuable throughout the whole project and has ensured that there has been excellent communication between the council, the contractors and the community.”