EVESHAM'S new Abbey Bridge and Viaduct has re-opened fully to vehicles this afternoon.

All three lanes across the vital route into the town centre are now open and pedestrian and cyclist facilities are also available to use.

Vehicles have been crossing the new bridge and viaduct since March 10 when road closed signs were removed and two lanes were opened.

The re-opening was welcomed by local residents and traders after numerous delays saw the planned closure of ten weeks extended to nearly six months.

The full replacement project, carried out by contractor Hochtief, began in spring 2013 and has a design life of 120 years, meaning the important route across the River Avon will be in place for generations and ensuring the historic market town is open for business.

Despite on-going maintenance and repairs the deterioration to the previous structure meant replacement was essential and without this project it was likely the bridge would have closed to vehicles permanently in 2015.

Cllr John Smith, cabinet member for highways and county councillor for Evesham north west, said: "Replacing this important link was the only option to ensure the key route into Evesham remained in place. Without this work there was a real danger we'd be left with a permanent closure to vehicles by 2015. This could have been the case for a number of years.

"Thankfully, the strong case put forward meant we obtained the funding from government making sure this scenario never became a reality.

"The delays experienced by the contractor over the last few months have been very disappointing and have caused much frustration. I'd like to express my gratitude to the community and our traders for the support shown during these challenging months.

"Now we can look and move forward to the future. There's a number of great events planned in our town over the next few months and I'd urge people to keep backing Evesham by shopping locally.

"Finally, I'd like to remind people that the 20p for three hours car parking offer in Wychavon District Council car parks in the town, has been extended will continue to be funded by the County Council throughout April."

Now the link is fully re-opened the temporary pedestrian bridge, which has been in place since April 2013, is planned to be taken down on Sunday (April 6). A temporary closure of Waterside will be required whilst this takes place.

The diversion route through the town centre in place since September ceased to operate over the weekend.