A new bridge over the Swale, connecting the Isle of Sheppey with mainland Kent, has been opened.
The crossing links the Isle of Sheppey with mainland Kent
Roads Minister Stephen Ladyman, MP for South Thanet, opened the Sheppey Crossing and led a procession across the bridge before it opened to traffic.
The £100m four-lane crossing, which will carry about 26,000 vehicles a day, is the first fixed link to the island.
Until now, drivers had to wait for the Kingsferry Bridge to be raised and lowered for shipping traffic to pass.
It carried about twice the number of vehicles it was designed for in the 1950s and regularly added 15 minutes to the journey times of people crossing to and from the mainland.
Campaigners began lobbying for a fixed link in the 1970s.
"There were so many promises, I never really thought that something would happen until I saw construction actually start," said Bill Hogben, former vice-chairman of Sheppey Chamber of Trade.
The 115ft-high (35m) bridge is part of a Highways Agency scheme to upgrade the A249 between Queenborough on Sheppey and Iwade on the mainland.
It is hoped reduced journey times and congestion will encourage economic regeneration in north Kent.
Mr Ladyman said: "The new bridge is playing a major role in bringing new life to Sheppey by improving the transport links between the island, the M2 motorway and the rest of Kent.
"The bridge will greatly improve accessibility to the regeneration areas on Sheppey, including the port of Sheerness."
Pedestrians and cyclists will not be allowed to use the new crossing, but should have a much quieter and safer journey across Kingsferry Bridge, according to the Highways Agency.
Sir Roger Moate, who was Conservative MP for the area until 1997, lobbied colleagues at Westminster for the new bridge, but said it would not change Sheppey - which measures about nine miles by five miles.
"Sheppey is an island and putting up one bridge does not change that - it is still a unique part of the south of England," he said.