THE North-east is facing a travel transformation over the next few years following this winter’s completion of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).

The £745m project, combined with numerous other road and rail improvements, will be the catalyst for a complete change in the dynamics of travel in, out and around Aberdeen.

The £11m Inveramsay Bridge, near Inverurie, was completed last year and has removed one of the area’s worst bottlenecks; and around 12,000 vehicles a day are now using the new third Don crossing. Further good news for commuters and businesses will come with the opening of the AWPR/Balmedie to Tipperty route after which a £30m Haudagain improvement scheme will begin to completely transform that key junction; with the Aberdeen to Inverness road all dualled by 2030 improving journey times, reliability and safety.

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Our rail network is also set for a boost with the Aberdeen to Inverness line upgrade, new trains on the Aberdeen to London service and £200m allocated in the City Region Deal to reduce the rail journey time from Aberdeen to the central belt; in addition to the new station at Kintore.

All this activity is the culmination of many years of planning in which the North-east has been playing catch up to ensure we have the fundamental things which we really should have had years go. So what now?

Well, the focus is shifting from building necessary infrastructure to making the best use out of the new infrastructure.

We must consider how our new infrastructure supports our region’s economy as we progress with the wider work being undertaken to deliver an economic renaissance for the North-east.

Now is a critical time as we look to reprioritise routes, encourage people to rethink old habits and try to reshape travel behaviours.

Regional transport partnership Nestrans says one of the challenges is locking in the benefits of the AWPR. We have to persuade everyone to go around the city rather than through it, thereby improve traffic flows, and reduce the volume of traffic in the city. It will also enable the delivery of the ambitious City Centre Masterplan vision of a more people-friendly environment.

These infrastructure projects allow us to accommodate the existing growth the North-east has experienced but what’s important is that we now must look to the future and anticipate what is needed to help support our economy as it continues to grow and develop.

Russell Borthwick is the chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce.