A road which has been closed for nearly three and a half years after a major landslip is finally opening tomorrow – ahead of the Easter weekend.
The B6344 road at Crag End, near Rothbury, was shut after the incident, which started on Boxing Day 2012 and worsened during the following months. The repairs have cost in the region of £10million and after 13 months of construction, contractors have been pulling out all the stops to open it before the busy Easter period .
And today, Northumberland County Council has announced that the stretch will reopen tomorrow at 5pm. Rothbury county councillor Steven Bridgett said: “It is with a huge amount of relief that I am pleased to see the road re-opening. It has been a long protracted process to reach this point and a far more technical process than the patch and repair jobs that have taken place on this stretch of road in the past.
"I want to thank the residents and businesses of Coquetdale for their continued patience and support while this work has been carried out. I know it has been difficult for many, but the shortest route into Coquetdale is now accessible again and our beautiful valley is open for business. It is true when they say that ‘difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations’ – this seems pretty apt in these circumstances."
The work to repair the land slip has been one of the most complex engineering projects carried out by the council in many years. The difficult geology of the ground meant that a great deal of design and investigation work was needed before repairs could start.
Construction began in February 2015 after engineers spent the previous year installing a pumping system that could remove millions of litres of water from the ground underneath the landslip.
The work was made even more complex as the landslip took place in a sensitive environmental area containing a number of protected species.
The physical construction work involved driving hundreds of concrete filled steel tubes up to 80 feet into the ground, with a large concrete beam across the top and 144 ground anchors connected around 100 feet into the ground to stop the land from moving.
A length of approximately 400 metres of road has also been fully rebuilt, while council staff have checked the entire length of the B6344 from Weldon Bridge to rectify any other defects which may have happened since the road was last used over three years ago.
Coun Bridgett added: "Understanding the geology and underground water problems have been crucial to developing and implementing a solution on this site and I want to thank the council for contributing the majority of the money to pay for this and VBA along with all of the other contractors for working hard to get the road opened in time for the Easter weekend."
There will be an official opening ceremony for the road next month. After Easter, there may be some minor traffic restrictions and the need for temporary traffic lights on the stretch of road to complete some final landscaping of the area.
Coun Ian Swithenbank, Cabinet Member for Local Services, said: "I am delighted we have been able to open the road ahead of the Easter holidays. This has been a complicated engineering scheme and there was no option for a quick repair.
"I appreciate this has caused a level of disruption for local residents and I’d like to thank them their patience and understanding over the years this project has taken – it’s been a long time but money well spent.
"This should give Rothbury and surrounding areas a great boost as we head towards the summer months and is another sign that Northumberland is well and truly open for business."