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Newbury Bypass

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Newbury Bypass
Location Map ( geo)
A34 Newbury Bypass - Coppermine - 23426.jpg
Cameraicon.png View gallery (8)
From:  Burghclere
To:  Donnington
Scheme Type
bypass
Construction Start Date
1984 (projected)
1996 (construction)
Opening Date
17 November 1998
Contractor
Costain
On road(s)
A34

The Newbury Bypass is a grade separated dual carriageway bypass of Newbury, Berkshire. It replaced a significant bottleneck on the A34 between Winchester and Oxford and was the last bypass on the route to be built, opening in November 1998.

The bypass was plagued with environmental concerns and road protesters, which delayed the public enquiry and its subsequent construction. The old A34 is now B4640 and A339.

Pre-bypass and Construction

The current Newbury Bypass is the second incarnation. Like many towns, the traffic around Newbury had been assessed for needs of the motor car in the 1960s, with a network of grade separated dual carriageways around the town. In the event, only a portion of this was built, from Donnington to Greenham, and only part of the junction with the A4 Western Avenue had any grade separation.

The A34 from Winchester to Oxford was gradually improved throughout the 1960s to the 1980s, with a combination of online dualling and bypasses. The completion of the M40 to Birmingham in 1991 greatly increased the importance of the A34, as it was now the highest quality route from the South Coast to the Midlands. The only sections not fully dualled and grade separated by then were a single carriageway section along the Newtown Straight, and the earlier bypass as far as the A4. The section approaching Newbury, where a high quality dual carriageway suddenly narrowed to a single carriageway with at grade turns, was seen as a particular unsafe stretch of road. A second bypass was planned, partially following the old Didcot, Newbury & Southampton railway line.

The initial choice for the route of the bypass was announced in June 1984, but were immediately beset by objections, which delayed the public enquiry to the end of 1987. Environmental concerns continued to stop any final route or date of construction being announced, which dragged on into the 1990s. The final route was proposed in July 1990, with a planned start date of 1993. However, this was subjected to a further public enquiry in 1992, and the cash-strapped government further delayed the start of construction. Work was put out to contract in 1995, with the expectation of construction finally starting the following year. The final contract was awarded in June 1996, and work started.

By this time, the construction and related protests on the completion of the M3 around Twyford Down had given a high media profile to direct action road protests, and as the next nearby road project, they quickly turned their attention to the Newbury Bypass. Amongst other things, protesters dug unstable tunnels along the route of the bypass. A government spy informed the police when few people were guarding the tunnel and they were arrested, with the police then taking control of the tunnel. Other protest camps were set up all along the bypass, and a final protest was held as the road was opened.

Although the bypass was built anyway, significant changes were made to make it more eco-friendly, including the movement of the Desmoulin's whorl snail which campaigners had been fighting to protect.

The bypass opened on 17 November 1998, without any fanfare or opening ceremony. The old route became the B4640 to the Swan Inn, then an extension of the A339 to the north end of the bypass.

Afterwards

The Newbury Bypass is often cited as an example of roads leading to more traffic, as the old road through Newbury is not especially quiet. The flip side of the coin is that it isn't half as busy as it used to be, neither are the surrounding roads, and the towns all along the A34 benefited from a much more reliable road link.

Questions have been raised over the standard of the bypass. Despite being a relatively modern road the junctions with the A343 and A4 are of a relatively low standard, as are the lay-bys along the road. Potholes were found in the road just months after it opened, and in 1999 parts of it were closed and resurfaced. In 2009 the whole length of the bypass was resurfaced again.

The road hit the headlines again in 2006 when it was suggested that the Desmoulin's whorl snail had become extinct in the area they'd been moved to, but other reports suggested the species was no longer as scarce as it used to be.

Traffic levels have continued to increase on the A34. The bottleneck shifted to M4 J13, which was grade separated in 2004. The main pinch points are now the Oxford Ring Road at North Hinksey and the approach to the M3. Both roads are the earliest bypasses on the route (and were originally part of the A4141 and A33 respectively).


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Old Manchester 6. A34 - Coppermine - 232.jpgA34 - A303 Bullington Cross - Coppermine - 20473.jpgA34 Heald Green - Coppermine - 3141.jpgFootbridge over the A34 at Abingdon - Geograph - 1281628.jpgThis should be a dual carriageway! - Flickr - 8377060614.jpg


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