Storm-damaged Lake District road reopens ahead of schedule
A major connecting road in the Lake District which collapsed when Storm Desmond ripped through Cumbria has reopened.
Five months on from December's devastating floods, the "vital" A591 is back in operation after part of it was swept away, signalling that the Lake District is "open for business".
The road allows traffic to travel from the southern half of the Lake District to the northern half but its closure meant motorists had faced long diversions via Kirkstone Pass.
Highways England worked with Cumbria County Council to repair the four-mile stretch of road and resurface an area the size of six football pitches.
The route, which stretches between Grasmere and Keswick, was reopened on Wednesday - three weeks earlier than originally planned - by environment minister Rory Stewart and Cumbria County Council leader Stewart Young.
A minibus of schoolchildren from Grasmere Primary School was the first to travel along it, followed by vintage cars from Lakeland Motor Museum.
Mr Stewart said: "We are showing the country, and the world, that Cumbria and the Lake District are back open for business."
He added: "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."
Cumbria had been the worst-hit council and saw around £175 million in damage to local authority-owned infrastructure, with costs for flood-hit bridges, landslips, carriageway damage and survey work.
During the road closure, residents and motorists had faced months of misery and pupils from Keswick School had faced an impossible journey to cross Dunmail Raise before a shuttle bus service was put on.
Additional landslides owing to the heavy rain meant hundreds of tonnes of additional rock had to be cleared from the main A591.
Council leader Mr Young 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."
More than £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.