The newly-appointed contractors for the Bingley Relief Road say they hope to finish the £47.9million project months ahead of schedule.

Amec Capital Projects, which was awarded the contract for the bypass yesterday by the Highways Agency, has announced its aim to have the route open to traffic by autumn 2003 instead of the expected opening date of the start of 2004.

Campaigners for the relief road welcomed the news that the deal had finally been sealed to build the dual carriageway, which will cut traffic in Bingley's congested town centre.

The contract, which was originally estimated at £60million, is expected to create hundreds of jobs in the area, and Chorley-based Amec pledged to source most of its supplies locally, offering a boost for businesses which provide construction materials.

Pat Rand, chairman of the Better Bingley Campaign which has battled for the scheme for a decade, described the bid for early completion as "excellent news".

"The relief road cannot come too soon," he said.

" We are aware there will be more upheaval in the town before it is completed, but it is pain that has to be endured for a better outcome. We are very pleased it is finally happening as we have waited for a long time."

The five-kilometre stretch of dual carriageway from Crossflatts roundabout to Cottingley Bar is expected to relieve up to 20,000 vehicles from the traffic-choked town each day.

Extensive advance work has already been carried out by the Highways Agency, which has diverted canals and sewers and the railway to construct a new bridge at Dowley Gap, but the main construction is due to start in summer.

Project engineer Peter Scally said: "The road will bring a number of improvements for motorists and residents. It will ease a major bottleneck through the Aire Valley and will allow the centre of Bingley to regenerate free from constant heavy traffic."

He said residents would be kept up to date with the scheme and Amec is planning a public consultation for April to explain the plans and how residents will be affected by the building programme.

Shipley MP Chris Leslie said the end of congestion and frustration for drivers and residents was in sight.

And Bradford Council leader Councillor Margaret Eaton, who represents Bingley Rural ward, said: "This really should make a big difference to the development of Bingley town and the potential for trade in Bingley to thrive yet again."