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Mayor Slams Black Cat Roundabout and A428 Upgrade Delay

July 27, 2018 5:00 PM

Mayor Dave Hodgson over the approach to the Black Cat Roundabout on the A421The crucial, long-awaited upgrade for the notorious Black Cat roundabout and the A428 east of the A1 has been delayed, in a move described as "costly for business and desperately disappointing for motorists" by Mayor Dave Hodgson

The latest delay pushes back the scheme, which had been scheduled for delivery in 2019/20, to construction during 2021/22.

The dualling of the route between Oxford and Cambridge was announced to great fanfare by then-Chancellor George Osborne back in 2014. The project will include the critical 'grade separation' of the Black Cat junction, meaning the A428 and A1 will no longer meet at the roundabout, removing a key cause of congestion. It will also see the dualled A421 from Bedford to the Black Cat roundabout continue on to the junction of the A428 and A1198 at Caxton Gibbet, providing a continuous dual carriageway route from Bedford to Cambridge and beyond.

However, having won positive headlines for the Government, the project has since suffered from delays and seen other projects take precedence while Bedford Borough motorists and businesses have suffered continuing congestion. Now, in the latest blow to those awaiting the scheme's overdue benefits, Highways England has announced that it does not expect to commence construction until 2021/22.

Commenting, Mayor Dave Hodgson said: "This delay is costly for businesses and desperately disappointing for motorists. It's four years since George Osborne got his positive pre-election headlines when announcing this project back in 2014, and it will be up to eight years on before construction even begins on this crucial project.'

"In the meantime, Bedford businesses and motorists have continued to suffer years of daily congestion and delay at the Black Cat Roundabout. If the Government is serious about realising the economic potential of this area, it needs to start recognising the importance of vital infrastructure upgrades like this and get on with them."

Highways England expect to announce the preferred route announcement in late 2018, subject to the necessary approvals. As soon as the route is confirmed, we will engage with all those directly affected to further understand concerns and opportunities. We will hold a further public consultation on the route with public information exhibitions which will provide another opportunity for stakeholders and customers to help shape the scheme before the start of the formal Development Consent Order process.

The next step for the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet scheme will be Highways England's announcement of its preferred route, which it states it expects to make 'in late 2018'. It has moved its 'commitment for the construction start date' to Roads Period 2 (between 2020 and 2025), and 'currently expects' construction to commence in 2021/22.