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Hardwick flyover seemed a long time coming to waiting motorists

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It was called the Grand Canyon of Chaos, the Bellingham Gap and the Never Never Flyover.

But, in just under a fortnight’s time it will be the 17th anniversary of a rather important piece of West Norfolk infrastructure.

The pages of the Lynn News were filled for years with stories about the pros and cons of building a flyover over the Hardwick roundabout in Lynn.

Hardwick flyover in King's Lynn
Hardwick flyover in King's Lynn

There was more than 20 years of debate over it but eventually, on Wednesday, October 29, 2003, it was opened to motorists, How many millions have poured across it on the A47 since and not even given it a thought or known about its birth-pains.

The need for it was obvious. If you think the tail-backs on the A149 to the Hardwick roundabout can be grim today, the snarl-ups and gridlock around it before the flyover were even worse.

The Lynn News had been a prominent supporter of the project and indeed collected 4,500 signatures demanding the flyover be built NOW!

It was handed over to Transport Minister John MacGregor in March 1993.

There were many false dawns. Tory Transport Minister Malcolm Rifkind had stood in the middle of the roundabout in 1991 and declared that it would be bypassed in two years.

Less than two months later he had to admit there were no immediate plans to begin building the flyover.

In 1998 there came news that the design had been scaled back from a dual carriageway to a single carriageway. Many saw that as a mistake – and still do.

A year later the final design was unveiled and eventually, three years later, work actually began. At least after 13 months of building it was then finished ahead of schedule.

Such was the excitement that the Lynn News ran a competition to be the first to cross Lynn’s new flyover after it was open by Transport Minister Tony McNulty.

It cost £5.2 million and was designed to carry 12,000 vehicles a day.

Four massive 15ft concrete piers were installed to support the bridge beams. They were claimed to have been designed to have looked as attractive as possible.

The 5.3m high, 160m long flyover weights 340 tonnes and took 195 people to build it.

Henry Bellingham, who had long campaigned for the flyover, couldn’t entirely hide his disappointment when he said at the time of its opening: “It isn’t exactly what we wanted. We wanted a dual carriageway and we would have liked it ten years ago.

“But we shouldn’t be churlish and ungrateful about this.

“What we have got is impressive and we should be thankful that it is complete.”

Even town businessman Kip Baker, who had made a £30 bet in 1999 that the flyover would not be built by 2004 was not too disappointed as the contractors made a £750 donation to charity on his behalf after the work was completed.

“I don’t mind losing,” he told the Lynn News. “We’ve got the bypass and thanks to Birse, Macmillan gets its money.”

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