A pair of classic Mercedes-Benz trucks were the first vehicles to venture onto a long-awaited, £35.5 million bypass at Sittingbourne in Kent, which finally opens to the public on Monday (19th December).
Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle dealer Sparshatts of Kent has been in the forefront of a campaign launched more than 30 years ago to secure the town’s Northern Relief Road.
The opening of the last, 1.4km stretch of single-carriageway marks the completion of the project. The result will be dramatically reduced traffic congestion in the centre of Sittingbourne and much improved access to the key Eurolink Business Estate.
Sparshatts of Kent was the first company to take up premises when the new estate opened in 1974; the dealer secured its Mercedes-Benz franchise the following year.
Chief Executive Officer David Jones said: "A lot of people have worked long and hard to secure this relief road. It was promised to us a number of years ago so we’re all delighted that it’s finally become a reality."
The bypass was formally ‘opened’ at a ceremony on Monday (12th December) by Councillors Ben Stokes and Sylvia Bennett, respectively the Mayor and Mayoress of Swale. Both took the opportunity to hitch lifts aboard the Mercedes-Benz tractor units as they made their way onto the road.
The older of the two vehicles was a 1976 ‘bullnose’ 1418 belonging to Maidstone-based shared-user distribution specialist Lenham Storage, an operator of Mercedes-Benz trucks since the late 1940s and a leading customer of Sparshatts of Kent. The other was Sparshatts’ own 1628 model, built in 1990.
The new road, which incorporates a couple of bridges spanning Milton Creek and the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway, is confidently expected to lead to further commercial and residential development, and help regenerate the town centre.
Continued David Jones: "It’s sure to bring major dividends for Eurolink industrialists during these difficult economic times. In our own case, it’s going to make it a lot easier for customers to bring their vehicles to us for servicing, while the horrendous bottlenecks we’ve become used to – it can take two hours to get on and off the estate in the rush hour – should now be a thing of the past."
Kent County Council Cabinet Member and Member for Swale Central Mike Whiting said: "After such a long time in the planning, it is great to see the road finally opening. Times are hard for everyone and this development will relieve congestion in the town and make the lives of those living in and working along the northern relief road so much better."