The upgraded A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme has opened eight months ahead of schedule, speeding up journey times and improving access to and from the UK’s largest container port.

Highways England said work on the upgrade continued throughout the coronavirus outbreak, with measures introduced to ensure work was completed safely and in line with Public Health England’s advice.

Beginning four years ago, the £1.5bn scheme is expected to strengthen links between the Midlands and the East of England and to the Haven ports.

Roads minister Baroness Vere said: “Our roads are more important than ever as we work to keep Britain moving, and I’m delighted that this key stretch of road will benefit drivers even sooner than planned.”

Natalie Chapman, FTA head of South England and urban policy said the A14 had been plagued with congestion and safety issues and an upgraded had been needed for years: “After all, this stretch represents an important strategic link for freight transport, connecting the ports in East Anglia with the Midlands and the rest of England; our members – who continue to work tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 outbreak – will benefit greatly from the improved reliability, connectivity and safety this vital upgrade affords,” she added.

Construction of the upgrade began after a plan to introduce a toll on the new road was scrapped in 2013.