The scheme to upgrade the Bell Common Tunnel on the M25 in Essex was officially opened at the beginning of March.

The £91M (US$137.2M) project was completed two months ahead of schedule and was opened by Transport Minister Chris Mole.

The project forms part of a major government investment to improve journey time reliability and safety on Europe’s busiest motorway. The work included resurfacing the carriageway through the 515m long tunnel and installing improved lighting and ventilation. Fire safety systems were also replaced, as well as CCTV cameras installed to help traffic officers spot and take care of incidents in the tunnel more quickly.

Chris Mole said at the opening, “I am delighted that this major upgrade has been delivered two months early. The 120,000 motorists and hauliers who use this busy part of the M25 every day will all benefit from the upgrade which brings the tunnel, opened in 1983, up to the highest safety standards.”

“The work is part of a major package of improvements to deliver improved journey time reliability and safety on the M25 as a whole. The Holmesdale Tunnel at junction 25, west of Bell Common, has already been upgraded and the two busiest sections of the M25, between junctions 16 and 23 and 27 and 30, are currently being widened to increase capacity. We also plan to open up the hard shoulder as a traffic lane at peak times between junctions 5 and 7 and from 23 to 27,” Mole added.

Director of Major Projects South for the Highways Agency Peter Adams, said:

“Completing the work at Bell Common Tunnel whilst maintaining three lanes of M25 traffic in both directions was a major challenge. Much of the refurbishment was done at night when traffic flows were at their lowest.”

Chris Mole officially opened the tunnel at a ceremony on the top of the tunnel, between junctions 26 and 27 of the M25 near Epping. The work began in October 2008.