Press release

Environment Minister reopens storm-damaged A591

Storm-damaged A591 reopened three weeks sooner than originally planned. Cumbria and Lake District are open for business.

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The A591 in Cumbria was reopened today (Wednesday 11 May) by Environment Minister Rory Stewart, ensuring the Lake District is open for business this summer, after the road suffered extensive storm damage this winter.

Highways England worked with Cumbria County Council on the project to repair a four-mile stretch of the A591, which links Grasmere to Keswick, after it was badly damaged in December’s storms.

The project has been completed almost three weeks ahead of schedule allowing holidaymakers to use the road during the spring Bank Holiday and May half term.

Supporting tourism in Cumbria is a key part of the government’s long-term plan for the region which had over 41.5 million visits in 2014 worth £2.4 billion to the region.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

The A591 is vital for tourism, business and residents in Cumbria so I am pleased Highways England has delivered this challenging project almost three weeks ahead of schedule, and in time for the Bank Holiday.

I am pleased to have met some of the 100 workers who worked so hard on this project so that the Lake District is fully open for business this summer.

Floods Minister Rory Stewart said:

I am absolutely delighted to be able to open this road on behalf of the government. We took over this project – unusually – because of the extreme flood damage.

The work to open the A591 early shows how we are standing firmly behind communities hit by December’s flooding with investment in infrastructure, new flood defences and promoting the region across the world. I am delighted Highways England has managed to do this at such high quality in very difficult circumstances.

The work continues in Cumbria with a £10 million flood defence repair programme underway and up to £68 million investment to better protect more than 3,500 homes across the county over the next five years along with a £1 million advertising campaign to promote the North as a holiday destination.

We are showing the country, and the world, that Cumbria and the Lake District are back open for business.

Over £250 million has now been provided to areas to make sure communities can get back on their feet and help the North recover from flooding caused by the December storms – covering promotion of the area as a tourist destination, support for businesses and families, and flood repairs.

The road reopened just before 9am this morning and Rory Stewart watched as a minibus of schoolchildren from Grasmere Primary School was the first to travel along it, followed by vintage cars from Lakeland Motor Museum.

A new 106 metre retaining wall has been constructed at Dunmail Raise, where part of the A591 was washed away in the storms, and repairs have been carried out on three bridges, seven other retaining walls and 91 drains alongside Thirlmere reservoir.

A total of 44,000 square metres of the road has been resurfaced – equivalent to the area of six football pitches – and rock netting has been fitted along a 90 metre stretch of the A591 to prevent rocks falling onto the road.

Construction teams have been working seven days a week to repair the road and, at its peak, over 100 workers from specialist contractors – the vast majority based in Cumbria – were working on the project.

Alan Shepherd, North West Director at Highways England, said:

We recognise the importance of this vital route for Cumbria and are pleased we’ve been able to support the county council following December’s floods.

Our contractors involved in the project often had to work in challenging conditions, including constructing a new retaining wall in the riverbed alongside the A591 at Dunmail Raise. They’ve done a great job to get the A591 repaired and reopened almost three weeks ahead of schedule.

Steel posts drilled into the riverbed and large concrete panels were used to create the new retaining wall at Dunmail Raise. A total of 2,500 tonnes of concrete was then poured behind the panels up to a height of 3.5 metres, before the new road surface was laid on top.

Local stonemasons also covered the concrete wall with over 300 tonnes of stone reclaimed from the flood debris to ensure it blends in with the local surroundings. The new wall will provide greater protection to the road from the effects of erosion in the future.

Stewart Young, Leader of Cumbria County Council, said:

I’m absolutely delighted that with the weather finally improving local residents and visitors to the county will now be able to travel easily between the north and south of the Lake District. The floods caused a huge amount of damage to the county’s infrastructure and this unique collaborative effort between local and central government has allowed us to focus our efforts on the many other major repair tasks we’ve had to deal with.

It’s important to recognise the wide range of organisations that have played a critical role in getting us to this point, not least the county council highways teams who did a phenomenal job clearing tens of thousands of tonnes of debris and carrying out technical surveys and investigatory work. This prepared the ground for Highways England who came on board in January and have done an outstanding job to deliver the repairs. Thanks should also go to United Utilities who have done a huge amount on the hillside, Kier Construction and other contractors who have carried out the works and Stagecoach who have operated the successful shuttle bus using the temporary road we opened in February.

The vital Lake District tourist route, which stretches between Grasmere and Keswick, has been closed between St Johns in the Vale and Dunmail Raise since December following significant damage caused by storms Desmond and Eva.

Published 11 May 2016