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I would like to make a statement about our plan to invest £15 billion in England’s strategic road network. It is a new, five-year funded plan, backed by significant reform to make sure that it will happen.
New schemes and new action, set out in one investment plan for the first time ever—this is a fundamental change for the better, and we need it because the strategic road network is the backbone of our economy and our way of life. Whether people drive or cycle, or travel by bus and coach, it matters; when people buy goods from the shops or travel to work, it matters. The strategic road network needs to work well and it needs to improve. It carries a third of all traffic and two thirds of all freight, and it is busier than ever. Motorway traffic has increased by almost 50% in the last 20 years. Traffic across the entire road network has doubled since 1976, and we have not invested enough to cope with this growth. Our motorway network has hardly expanded since the 1990s. Our trunk A roads are often of variable quality and are running at capacity. Forecasts show that traffic will continue to grow and the problems will get worse.
This Government are responding. We have started construction on 20 major schemes, six of which are finished already—schemes that will add over 300 miles of new lanes to our strategic road network—and we have also committed to major new investments, such as the £1.5 billion in improvements to the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon, but this is just the start. Today I am pleased to set out details of a much bigger plan, which will hugely improve our strategic network in all parts of England—an ambitious, funded and achievable plan.
In shaping the plan the Government have kept three things in mind: first, that action on our roads must be just one part of a much wider commitment to improving our transport infrastructure. We already have a five-year investment plan for our railways, which will see £38 billion spent on improvements and maintenance by 2019. We have also supported work on a northern powerhouse, with faster rail links across the Pennines, so I do not see better roads as an alternative to investment in rail, airports or ports. They are part of the same thing: building a transport network that is reliable and fast.
Secondly, we have to keep in mind changing technologies. Our road network as it stands today was designed for the vehicles and standards of the ’60s and ’70s, but new fuels and new digital systems offer immense opportunities in the years to come and we must be ready to take them. Already, smart motorways offer a big increase in capacity, and Britain is becoming a world leader in low-carbon technologies, including through the £500 million of Government backing for low-emission vehicles, so it is right that we continue to invest in the network for the future, not just rely on the one we have today.
Thirdly, we must make sure that investment in our road network improves lives and the environment and does not harm them. That means schemes that are thought through and that address long-standing problems such as the essential new tunnel at Stonehenge, which will both extend the dual-lane running on the congested
A303 and massively improve the situation of the world’s most famous prehistoric monument. It also means that as we develop our strategic road network, we must make sure it serves the needs of every user, for example by cycle-proofing new sections and making the £100 million investment in better cycling routes across 200 priority locations that we announced last week.
To do all that we need to reform. Until now, the Highways Agency has been hamstrung by annual budgets, which have made a mockery of long-term planning. It has been inefficient and has held our roads back. That is going to change. The Infrastructure Bill now before Parliament aims to create a new Government-owned company to improve and operate the network, with a watchdog to make sure that motorists get what they have been promised, and it is backed by a five-year funding settlement already announced by my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. This will see investment in enhancements to the strategic roads network triple by the end of the next Parliament to £3 billion a year.
That is why the Government can proudly say that we are on the driver’s side, and in today’s road investment strategy we have the proof—in total, 84 new schemes, more than 1,300 miles of new lanes, including 23 new sections of dual carriageway, 400 new miles of lanes on our motorways, junctions that work, bottlenecks unblocked and jams cleared. In addition, Members have contributed to the work of the six feasibility studies launched last year to find solutions to particular challenges. This has been a valuable process and has helped to shape the road investment strategy. I am pleased to say that we have not just been able to act on some of the feasibility studies, but that we are acting on all of them.
Let me now set out in some detail what will happen, starting with the south-west, a region whose vital transport links have been neglected, but under this Government they will not be left behind. Today I can announce that as a result of the A303 feasibility study we will bring motorway-quality journeys to this key route. This will be a £2 billion investment, starting with a 1.8 mile tunnel where the road passes Stonehenge. It is part of over six miles of new dual carriageway between Amesbury and Berwick down, and there will be three miles of new dual carriageway between Sparkford and Ilchester. That will be followed by further work, including linking the A303 to the M5 at Taunton with a new dualled section. Also in the south-west, we are upgrading the A30 between Chiverton and Carland Cross. This will extend the express route to Camborne from the M5.
Let me now deal with East Anglia. The A47 is a vital east-west link between this economic powerhouse, the midlands and the north. As a result of the feasibility study, I can announce substantial work to the east and west of Norwich, upgrading North Tuddenham to Easton, and Blofield to North Burlingham. This will create 30 miles of continuous dual carriageway around the city. My hon. Friend Brandon Lewis has continued to highlight the dangers of the Acle straight, so I am pleased to be able to announce a £10 million fund for safety measures and investigations into the long-term future of this hazardous road. Other schemes include the £280 million upgrading of the A428 between the Black Cat roundabout and Caxton Gibbet. This will create an express standard road between Cambridge and Milton Keynes.
In the midlands, we are committing £20 million to upgrading the Chowns Mill junction between the A45 and the A6, and junctions along the A52 around Nottingham will be improved. Junction 10A of the A14 will be built, opening up a substantial development site.
In the north-west, the port of Liverpool will benefit from a £250 million upgrade on the link between the docks and the motorway, and we will also act on the trans-Pennine feasibility study, which will cut jams through a new link road to Glossop. There will be new passing lanes on the A628 and dualling of the A61. We will commission a new feasibility study focusing on the M60 around Manchester, working closely with the local transport authorities. We will consult on the options around Mottram and Tintwistle while keeping in mind the scenic importance of this area on the edge of the Peak District national park.
In the north-east and Yorkshire, two further feasibility studies on the A1 will lead to improvements around Newcastle and a significant improvement to the road towards the Scottish border. This is a main link between the two capitals of the United Kingdom and it has been made clear that action is needed, so I can announce that we will invest more than £600 million to improve the A1 Newcastle-Gateshead western bypass and to dual the A1 north of Newcastle between Morpeth and Ellingham. Work will be done on tackling the notorious pinch point at the Hopgrove roundabout on the A64.
Finally, in their commitment to all parts of England, including the north, the Government have not forgotten that the south needs good roads too. My hon. Friend Nicola Blackwood will be pleased to hear about the junction work on the A34 around Oxford, and we are looking at the long-term future for this road. Ashford will benefit from a new junction 10A on the M20, facilitating growth in the south-east of the town. Junction 30 of the M25 will see huge improvement, strengthening access to ports in Essex. As a result of a further feasibility study on the A27, improvements will include a new dual carriageway bypass around Arundel, and improvements to the road junctions in Worthing and Lancing. Furthermore, £75 million has been ring-fenced for the A27 east of Lewes.
This is a comprehensive package for all parts of England. It is funded; it is committed; it will bring change. It sits alongside our much wider investment in better transport, including a transformation of our railways. There will be proper co-ordination with work being done by local transport and Network Rail. I commend the statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for giving me advance sight of his statement. However, the whole country has had advance sight of these projects, first when they were announced in June 2013 and subsequently at the time of their re-announcement in November this year. This latest re-announcement represents not so much an upgrade of the nation’s roads as an upgrade of the Government’s press releases. If the Government were as good at upgrading roads as they are at making announcements about upgrading roads, life would be considerably easier for Britain’s hard-pressed road users.
The Secretary of State is right to talk about the vital importance of our road network to families and businesses throughout the country, but is this not a classic case of all talk and no delivery from the Government? We know that they have failed to deliver, not just on roads but on their infrastructure promises. Will the Secretary of State confirm that infrastructure output has fallen by more than 11% since 2010, and that only a third of the projects in the national infrastructure plan will have started by 2015? If the prehistoric builders who began work on Stonehenge had taken the approach to construction that the Government are taking, we would still be waiting for the first stone to be erected four and a half thousand years later. Is it not high time that the Government backed Sir John Armitt’s proposal for an independent national infrastructure commission to identify our long-term infrastructure needs? Why do Ministers disagree with—according to the CBI—89% of businesses about the need for such a commission?
We support proposals to tackle congestion hot spots, and we support long-term funding for roads, but given the Government’s track record, we will be looking at the detail very carefully, and scrutinising their plans against clear objectives. Those objectives are that the public get value for money, that the schemes support economic growth, and that the schemes deliver tangible improvements for road users.
Labour spent £94 billion on the road network between 1997 and 2010, delivering significant improvements in both strategic and local road networks. Can the Secretary of State confirm that, in marked contrast, the Government’s record includes the cancelling of schemes for roads such as the A14 and their subsequent reinstatement, a process that wasted millions of pounds; promises of private investment on which they failed to deliver; and the repeated issuing of deadlines for the completion of improvements, which they missed time and time again? We know that the Government cut £4 billion from Labour’s planned road investments in 2010. Will the Secretary of State confirm that what he has announced today includes no money in addition to that which the Government have previously announced?
The Secretary of State said nothing about tackling the desperate condition of many of our local roads, and the pothole crisis throughout the country. The Department’s own statistics for this year show that spending on local authority minor roads has fallen by 20% since 2010. The latest figures also reveal that over 2,250 more miles of our local roads now need maintenance. That is the equivalent of the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats and back again. What is the Secretary of State doing about the urgent need to improve the condition of those local roads?
Let me now comment on some of the individual proposals that the Secretary of State has announced today. First, we favour the long-term investment in our roads that the road investment strategy provides, but when will the Government present firm proposals for the new strategic highways company? Secondly, what assessment has the Secretary of State made of the possible impact on the five-year funding settlement of a delay in the proposed reform of the Highways Agency?
Thirdly, the £l00 million for cycle schemes and cycle-proofing is welcome, but cyclists and transport planners are right to ask what the Government are doing to deliver much-needed long-term investment and planning for cyclists. Fourthly, will the Secretary of State publish the environmental impact assessments of all the proposed road plans?
Finally, we know that the current Government’s sudden interest in roads has more to do with the forthcoming general election than the transport needs of the country. This is a sad attempt at motorways for the marginals, new lanes for soon-to-be-defeated Liberal Democrats, and trunk roads for Tories about to be turfed out by Labour.
Ministers will be judged not on what they say they will do after the next election, but on what they have actually done since the last election. The sad truth for Britain’s hard-pressed road users is that this is a desperate pre-election move from a Government who have failed to deliver on our nationally strategic roads, and when it comes to our important local roads, the reality is that things have got much, much worse.
I think I heard in part of that rant a commitment to support a roads investment strategy. That is much needed in this country. The simple fact is that we have had such a strategy for the railways for the last few years, and we should have one for the Highways Agency and our strategic roads, because big projects like this do take time. On the idea that somehow we have ignored these projects, I would point out that since 2010 we have completed eight major road schemes left to us by the last Government, and we have completed a further six started by this Government. We have also started construction on a further 14 schemes. Mr Speaker, because you like short replies I will not list them all, but I could easily do so if I needed to.
On funding for local highways, between 2005 and 2010, at the time of the last Government—when the hon. Gentleman was a spokesman for the former Prime Minister and for some time did the job of writing his press releases—local highways maintenance funding was £3.7 billion. Between 2010 and 2015, thanks to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the spending on highways authorities has been £4.7 billion. So, yes, Mr Speaker, I make no apologies for the fact that we have had to cut some schemes that were announced in the very late days of the last Government, but we have also invested in the roads programme—and we have invested substantially, and we will continue to do so.
The answer I have just given was on local roads. As I said, between 2005 and 2010 the funding was £3.7 billion and between 2010 and 2015 the spending going to local authorities is £4.7 billion.
Today we have set out some ambitious programmes, because I am ambitious for the roads of this country, but that should be set alongside the ambition that we have also laid out for the railways and the investment we are making in them, which is seeing more people use the railways today than at any time in our history. We have also got to make sure our road network is sufficient for future generations. That is what today’s schemes will achieve.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the details. They were set out in the written statement I made this morning. Four documents explain what will be expected of the new roads investment strategy and the new highways department.
I thank my right hon. Friend not only for helping in the seats identified by Michael Dugher, but for giving me the information that the Labour party is going to challenge me in Worthing. There was clearly support for dualling in Worthing and either side of it. There are clear benefits for safety, in air pollution reduction, and for environmental protection for the other roads and the countryside. Were the Dutch to come to the A27, they would say, “Why haven’t you put this dual carriageway in a long time ago?”
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has made a strong case for dualling the road around that particular part of his constituency, and we would certainly want to work on that with him and other Members in the area.
The hon. Lady, the Chairman of the Select Committee, says that this is a renewed announcement. Yes, the figure was set out last year but we are now putting the flesh on the bones in terms of what that figure will buy. I know that her Committee will want to look at the figures in more detail, but when she looks at what we are doing, she will recognise that we have struck a good balance across the whole country. She makes the point about what has happened historically regarding investment in London, but those figures are made larger by the huge investment in Crossrail. I am also keen to see investment in the rest of the country, spread across the whole of England.
I warmly welcome the announcement of investment in the A47. Is the Secretary of State aware that that artery is vital not only to our regional economic success but to west Norfolk’s future? Now that the road has been designated a key strategic route, does he agree that today’s announcement should be a precursor to the dualling of the whole route?
I have already been accused of being over-ambitious. I am sure that my hon. Friend will repeatedly make the case for the dualling of the whole of that route, but the plans that we have outlined today will go a long way towards providing some of the shorter-term improvements for the road.
I welcome what the Secretary of State has said about the importance of the A1 linking the Tyne and Wear conurbation with the Edinburgh-Glasgow conurbation. I also welcome the work that he has announced today, but it will still leave 25 miles of single track that ought to be dualled. Will he set out his plans for the future dualling of the road on the English side of the border?
In Yorkshire and the north-east, there will be 26 schemes worth £3 billion, including 18 new schemes worth £2.3 billion, the A1(M) to Newcastle will be fully open by 2017 and the A1 will be dualled to Ellingham, 34 miles north of Newcastle. So I think we have made a start in the right direction. It is a pity that that start was not made in the 13 years when the right hon. Gentleman and his Government had responsibility for these matters.
This investment, which will include improvements to the M3 and the M27, will be a particular boon to my constituents, although more work needs to be done on quietening the M27. Does the Secretary of State agree that the dualling of the A303 and the A358 in the south-west, the dualling around Ellingham and the vital reduction of black spots on the A30 will represent a boon for the economy in north Cornwall and the area around Berwick-upon-Tweed and a help for local businesses, as well as helping to reduce pollution and carbon output as a result of the reduction in congestion?
The hon. Gentleman is correct to say that a good transport system will lead to fewer emissions, which will be welcomed right across the House. As far as the south-east and London are concerned, we are talking about 29 new schemes worth £3 billion, with 18 new schemes worth £1.4 billion.
Given that investment in transport infrastructure has fallen significantly under this Government, and that the Secretary of State’s Conservative predecessor made exactly the same promise about the A303 in December 1996, I hope the Secretary of State will forgive me if I take today’s reannouncements with a tad of scepticism. Given the huge economic damage to the south-west whenever our main rail artery is severed, does he agree that tackling the vulnerability of our rail infrastructure has to be our region’s greatest priority?
The right hon. Gentleman slightly absurdly chastises me for something that was said in 1996. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a different Government between 1997 and 2010, of whom he was a member. There must therefore have been 13 years in which he failed to make any progress whatever for his area, so I will not take too many lessons from him on that. I agree with him on the question of resilience in the south-west, however, and I am keen to ensure that we look at that whole matter. That includes the railways, but it also involves improving the road network, which has been sadly neglected. The planned improvements for the A303 and the A30 that we have announced today will have a substantial effect on the area, and will be of great benefit to the south-west.
May I tell my right hon. Friend of the gratitude in mid-Essex at his announcement that he has listened to representations over the past year or so and will be upgrading to three lanes the A12 from the M25 to Chelmsford and from Chelmsford to Colchester? That is a strategic feeder road into the east of England and the port of Felixstowe, so it is particularly welcome that the Secretary of State is acting to deal with the congestion and the problems that have, for too long, been associated with that road.
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for his welcome. In the east of England we are talking about 17 schemes worth £3 billion, of which 15 are brand new schemes worth £1.5 billion. He has been a strong advocate for the improvements of the roads to Chelmsford.
One of my colleagues should have mentioned our also having to suffer the Deputy Prime Minister on Radio 4 this morning. Today’s statement talks about roads and previous statements have dealt with rail, but what we need for the first time—probably since the Romans—is a proper integrated transport statement. When are we going to have that?
An integrated transport system would address the different components of the transport world, and we have done exactly that by having a rail investment programme and a roads investment strategy. The hon. Gentleman did not point out the amount of schemes in the midlands, so it is perhaps worth pointing that there are 31 schemes in the midlands worth £2.9 billion, with 17 new schemes worth £1.4 billion. This is good news not only for the midlands, but for the construction industry, as it can plan properly to get the right skills and the right people in place.
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the already excellent work done recently on the A23, but ask him to have regard in his future announcements to those of us in constituencies where there is very high demand for new housing and where the infrastructure simply cannot cope with existing requirements?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct on this, which is why when addressing transport in the whole one cannot just rely on the roads and instead one also looks at the railways. That is why I am particularly pleased that we have managed to find so much money, given the economic problems we face at this time, for enhancements on our rail structures as well.
I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State’s comments about the importance of resilience in our rail network in the south-west, and I am sure we are all awaiting the statement on Wednesday with great interest. He talked about reforming transport networks. As part of these much-publicised reforms, does he intend to extend the national strategic transport corridor to Plymouth?
I want to see all parts of the United Kingdom well served. A huge amount of investment is already planned on the roads leading to Plymouth and that is very important.
I welcome the announcement of the first ever roads investment strategy, which I know is the culmination of several years of careful preparation by my right hon. Friend. Does he agree that it is the five-year funding deal that is likely to be transformational and to open up efficiency opportunities in both procurement and the supply chain, which will ensure that these schemes can be delivered?
Yes, and may I say to my hon. Friend how grateful I am to him as although he did not specifically deal with this issue, we did discuss it in general when he was in the Department? He is absolutely right in what he says; we have seen that as far as the railways are concerned—the long-term planning for the rail investment strategy is very important. Likewise, the construction industry will be welcoming this statement as far as its long-term planning is concerned, because it also means that the industry should be able to take on apprentices and plan and train right.
It is the first time that the hon. Gentleman has made that point to me. It is amazing how things change on various issues. He will no doubt write to me on the matter.
Can we get junction 7 sorted out before we move on to junction 7a? I welcome my hon. Friend’s point about improving the road structure, because although this may—something that the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman said—help certain constituencies, it actually helps motorists in general who come from every kind of constituency.
This morning, when the Chancellor talked about the opening of the A1 north, he mentioned improvements in Northumbria, a kingdom that has not existed for centuries. Perhaps someone should have a word with him about the geography of this country. Last week, the Chief Whip said that the opening of the A1 was all down to the Tory candidate in Berwick. This morning, the Business Secretary said that it was all down to Sir Alan Beith. The truth is that both those people have done sterling work, as have lots of Members on the Opposition Benches, including my right hon. Friend Mr Brown. May I ask the Secretary of State why he has come to the House hours after he spoke on the radio? Does that not show contempt for this House and for the rules that you, Mr Speaker, have made?
It is true that Anne-Marie Trevelyan has made many representations about the road, but so, too, has Sir Alan Beith. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is pointing to himself and Mr Brown. They doubtlessly made representations, but what I say is that we are not making representations, but taking action. There are many more Members making representations than delivering. The hon. Gentleman chastised me for giving an interview, but I gave no interviews until after I had laid a written ministerial statement this morning.
In thanking the Secretary of State for his announcement of substantial dualling and further improvements on the A1 in my constituency, may I also thank my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, without whom these things do not happen? The Liberal Democrats will stay around, making sure that the promise is kept, and continuing to campaign to have dualling the whole way from London to Edinburgh.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that the road investment strategy is an England-only plan and will therefore lead to full Barnett consequentials of around £750 million for Wales over the five years?
As the unemployment rate in my constituency has now fallen below 1%, it is obvious that the many jobs that will be filled in my constituency, not least those at Stansted airport, will be for people coming from outside my immediate constituency. In that context, does my right hon. Friend accept that the M11 junction 7 improvement, to which my hon. Friend Robert Halfon referred, is extremely important, as is the completion of the A11? Will he assure me that he has not completely forgotten the link between the A120 at Braintree to Marks Tey to what will be the much-improved A12?
There are a number of whole-route technology upgrades to the A12, but I will certainly go away and investigate the specific point of my right hon. Friend.
As the MP and former local councillor for Mottram and Hollingworth, where the new trans-Pennine investment will go, I am obviously extremely pleased. Ours is a problem that will be fixed only by new investment in new capacity and that is what I want for my area. I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and also
Andrew Bingham. He and I have campaigned together on this issue since 2010 and we were told that we had no prospect of success, yet here we are with this good result today. The Secretary of State will understand that there is a huge hunger for further details in my area. Can he give us any more information on the time scale of establishing a route and on whether he believes that a public inquiry will be necessary?
The planning procedures will necessarily have to be gone through and the hon. Gentleman will have seen the details set out in the road investment plans and strategies that accompany today’s statement. I pay tribute to him and my hon. Friend Andrew Bingham for working together on this important matter and will check the wider implications for Mottram and Tintwistle.
As my right hon. Friend knows, I, my hon. Friend Stephen McPartland and my right hon. Friends the Members for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) and for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) have been campaigning for a long time to have the A1 widened between Welwyn and Stevenage. I thank the Secretary of State, because this has blighted Hertfordshire for a long time. Widening the road, allowing the extra running and the motorway technology that he is introducing are very welcome, so may I thank him on behalf of Hertfordshire?
Earlier, the Secretary of State mentioned projects that are under construction. In the past, I have raised the question of the Tollbar junction just outside Coventry and the Whitley roundabout. We know that the work has to be done, but there have been delays that have prompted questions about business investment in the Coventry area. There are also delays related to transport problems in the area. This is a serious problem and I have asked the Secretary of State to look into it before. Will he look into it again and see what can be done?
I know that in and around the hon. Gentleman’s constituency there have been a number of pinch point improvements. These sometimes lead to delays and to considerable frustration while the work is being done, but if he has a specific case that he wants me to consider I will of course do so.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the improvements at Dodwells bridge and outside the MIRA enterprise zone on the A5 near Hinckley in my constituency. Will he give serious consideration to further dualling of the A5 in the direction of Tamworth and the M42 because of the importance of the A5 as a relief road when there are problems on the M6 and other surrounding motorways?
I would point out to my hon. Friend that in the midlands we have 31 schemes worth £2.9 billion. I am obviously always interested when there are specific problems and if there are problems with opening up areas for investment I would want to consider them separately.
The Secretary of State’s statement refers to the £250 million upgrade of the port access road in Liverpool. The road goes through a largely residential area and there will undoubtedly be large concerns among people living there about congestion and the impact on their homes. As my right hon. Friend Mr Bradshaw suggested for the south-west, will the Secretary of State also considered the potential for improving rail access for freight from the port? That should be considered very seriously, rather than our just improving the roads. Rail is a key part of the solution, too.
We must consider all these issues across the board. We have seen a substantial increase in freight travelling on the railways. My understanding is that there are two possible routes for the scheme to which he refers and we will obviously want to discuss with local communities which should be the way forward.
I thank the Secretary of State, his Ministers and the Chief Secretary of the Treasury for meeting my Somerset colleagues and me to hear the case for the planned improvement works for the A303, which will benefit businesses, tourists and visitors to Somerset and which I warmly welcome. Will the Secretary of State speak to the Chancellor about helping businesses further by considering the case for cutting VAT on tourism so that the west country can compete equally on cost with western European holiday destinations?
I did not hear any announcement about investment in roads in Hull. If the Secretary of State is really serious about investing in transport infrastructure, when will he make the announcement about the privately financed electrification of the line to Hull, which we need desperately?
If memory serves me correctly, I have made some announcements on Castle street, which runs through the centre of Hull, and on meeting the local enterprise partnership to talk abut definite improvements. I think that I also announced at Transport questions a few weeks ago an increase in the GRIP—governance for railway investment projects—funding to look at the whole process for electrification. I think that we have made more progress on delivering infrastructure in Hull than was made in any number of years when it was represented by a number of distinguished other people.
After years of my pestering, the Transport Secretary will know exactly how welcome today’s new announcement of £50 million for the A34 will be for my constituents, who suffer daily misery on that road, but will he ensure that the new feasibility study does indeed find a long-term, deliverable solution to the A34’s unsustainable capacity problems, and will he promise me not in any way to limit his ambition when it comes to the A34?
I hope that the announcements I have made today will go someway towards alleviating the congestion on that particularly busy artery, about which my hon. Friend has made many representations. I am sure that we shall have further such meetings to see what more can be done to improve the whole route and to make it an express route that also serves her constituents.
I, too, welcome today’s announcement, but I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend Robert Flello in his hope that we can work towards an integrated transport strategy. Given that one in 12 deaths are linked to poor air quality in some areas, reducing the average life of Britons by six months, what will the Secretary of State do to ensure that these developments do not reduce air quality?
I have two points for the hon. Lady. First, congested traffic causes more air pollution than traffic that is managing to move along. Secondly, the Government are investing over £500 million in ultra-low emission vehicles and encouraging their roll-out. We are also seeing car companies investing substantial sums of money in new technology.
I welcome the completely new money being put into a new junction 10A on the A14 at Kettering and praise the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Mr Goodwill, for visiting the site. The new junction will unlock millions of pounds of new private sector investment in Kettering. Without that announcement, traffic in Kettering would have been in grave danger of grinding to a complete halt.
It is a matter of public record that Labour spent next to nothing on transport infrastructure in the greater Peterborough area during 13 years in power, yet over the past four years we have had £43 million for a remodelled railway station, new rolling stock, better and faster trains on the east coast main line and road improvements on the A1139 and Paston Parkway, and this morning we heard the announcement of upgrades to the east and west of Peterborough. My constituents will be puzzled by Labour’s response, which is “Where did it all go wrong?” Does my right hon. Friend agree?
I certainly agree that my hon. Friend’s constituency has seen substantial transport infrastructure investment, which is right and necessary. We need to continue doing that, because there is a lot more work to be done. I am pleased that he has welcomed today’s announcement. I very much hope that the Opposition, despite the muddled response from their spokesman, will endorse this plan. If they do not, they need to say which of the schemes they would stop.
When it comes to cancelling road schemes, I am not sure that we need to be lectured by the party of Lord Prescott. Leaving that aside, we are at present borrowing £100 billion a year and we cannot magic money, so will the Secretary of State assure us that every scheme will meet a rigorous business case on wealth creation and eschew all political pressure and vanity projects? If that means, by the way, that we just have to lay another road alongside the A303 at Stonehenge and not wait another 40 years for a tunnel, let us get on with it.
I partly agree with my hon. Friend, but I diverge from him in one area, because if we are to build in the Stonehenge area we must do the right thing both for the environment and for that particular ancient monument, which is so important. I suggest that my hon. Friend looks at other examples relating to environmentally sensitive areas, such as the Hindhead tunnel, which has been very beneficial to the environment.
Severe congestion at Arundel damages both the local economy and the environment because traffic is forced up through the south downs. Storrington in my constituency has some of the worst air pollution in the south-east, so I welcome today’s statement and the announcement of an Arundel bypass and thank my right hon. Friend. Does he share my surprise that Opposition Front Benchers should criticise this Government for delivery when it was the previous Labour Government who cancelled the Arundel bypass?
No, the Opposition’s line does not surprise me. It is a great pity. I have been to see the route supported by my right hon. Friend, which I think will make a huge difference to Arundel. The amount of traffic backing up on that route at present is bad for Arundel, the environment and passengers.
I certainly welcome the improvements to the A417 Air Balloon roundabout; the Secretary of State will know from personal experience just how devastating congestion there can be. Does he agree that the delivery of improved logistics for manufacturers across my constituency is a powerful endorsement of this Government’s long-term economic strategy?
I have visited that roundabout with a number of hon. Friends from that area. There is no doubt that it needs to work. It is a very sensitive area and it will take some time to evaluate exactly what the right scheme for it is. My hon. Friend is right. It is a bottleneck and I think the proposal will have a transformational effect not just on his constituency, but on the rest of the haulage industry.
I am grateful for the investment in the A47, including upgrading the A47-A11 Thickthorn roundabout. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the funding will deliver the scheme required to relieve pressure on one of Norfolk’s busiest roundabouts at a time of rapid planned growth in and around the south of Norwich?
I announced several points that will affect that particular area. They will go a long way to relieving some of the congestion to which my hon. Friend refers, and I think that is welcomed by most Members in East Anglia.
I very much welcome the announcement of a new junction on the M49 to support the enterprise zone in Avonmouth, which was a local enterprise partnership priority. Could the Secretary of State reassure me that the Government are also considering rail for that area so that this extra junction does not create extra traffic chaos, particularly given the enormous planned housing development there, so we can we can have a western hub as well as a northern hub?
My hon. Friend has been to see me about rail infrastructure in her constituency. I said then that we would work with her on her suggestions. I stand by that commitment and we will continue to work with her.
Congestion at the Dartford crossing blights road users in my constituency of Thurrock, particularly those connected with the logistics industry. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for investing in junction 30, which will alleviate that, and, indeed, for the successful introduction of free-flow tolling at the crossing, which commenced this very morning. My right hon. Friend will be aware, however, that constituents in Thurrock are very concerned about the options for a new lower Thames crossing. With that in mind, will he encourage Transport for London to do its bit to introduce new road traffic capacity to cross the Thames?
The free flow started yesterday and I am watching it very carefully. I think it will be a great improvement in the area. We need to do that and to look at the other options. I fully accept my hon. Friend’s point that it is also for other authorities to try to alleviate the pressure as far as that particular crossing is concerned.
With the A428 now included as a named scheme, together with the A14 proposals and now the A1 feasibility study announcement, this Secretary of State and this Government are showing a profound understanding and commitment to developing the infrastructure needed for my constituency and the whole of the east of England. Will he say a little more about the timing of the feasibility study for the A1?
I have already spoken to my hon. Friend, who came to see me a few weeks ago, about the Cambridge to Milton Keynes route, which, for him, is a first move in the right direction. He is absolutely right about what we have to do in the longer term on a road investment strategy. We have done it for the railways and we should be very pleased that we are going to do it for roads in future. These schemes do not happen overnight—they take planning. It is right that we try to take local communities along with us wherever we can and gather support for sensible proposals, so that we are not rushing forward and turning the tap on and off, but ensuring that people can see that this forms part of an overall strategy.
The improvement of the M60 will of course be very warmly welcomed by my constituents, especially those who regularly have to commute around Manchester, but for the next two years things are going to get worse—probably much worse. Can the Secretary of State assure my constituents that, as far as possible, the works will be completed on time, and that while they are ongoing every effort will be made to keep disruption to a minimum?
Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. He is talking about junction 8 of the M60, as well as junctions 20, 10 to 12, 24 to 27 and 1 to 4 of the M62. I appreciate and accept that while these works go on, that does bring disruption. First and foremost, I ask the Highways Agency to try to be as communicative with travelling passengers and motorists as possible so that they know where the troubles are going to be. It is very difficult to undertake upgrade works and not cause some disruption. However, my hon. Friend makes a valid point. I will talk to the chief executive of the Highways Agency to see whether we can do as much as possible on this concern for the travelling public.
As the Secretary of State said, he was kind enough to visit the A417-A419 connection—the so-called missing link—where he saw the congestion for himself. He is aware of the death rate and the terrible accident rate on that road. Will he therefore be clear on whether this roads programme includes an allocation of money to sort that problem out?
As my hon. Friend rightly says, I visited, with him and other Members, the connection of the two dual carriageway sections on the A417 in Gloucestershire. I have announced today that this will be developed for the next road investment strategy, because the scheme is not easy or straightforward and will be very complicated to carry out. However, we will start to look at the options in the next road investment strategy period.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. This work will definitely reduce the impact of traffic on two villages and remove a major bottleneck from the main road to Fleetwood. He has been a strong applicant for investment in his area, and I hope that this will help the investment drive that he has led.
The Chiverton to Carland Cross A30 section is a notorious bottleneck, and the investment announced today is very welcome. What it may do, however, is shift the bottleneck further along the A30 between Rose-an-Grouse and Long Rock, and a scheme for that was scrapped nearly 20 years ago. Would my right hon. Friend recommend that the local authority bring forward that scheme again? Clearly, the investment is needed across the whole stretch of the A30.
I am sure Cornwall council will want to look at the implications of the announcements that I have made today. It has often produced imaginative schemes on which we have been able to work with it. If the council feels that the plans will lead to further problems, of course I would want to work with the council to try to alleviate them.
The statement will be warmly welcomed right across west Sussex, where it will improve east-west traffic flows. What matters most to many of my constituents, though, is getting to work across the A27, the north-south route, particularly from the Manhood peninsula. This will become even more difficult with all the extra housing that the area is expected to absorb. What assurance can the Minister give that this scheme’s implementation will bring sharp and sustained improvements in travel to work times for those constituents who desperately need that?
I hope the improvements that we have set out will bring improvement to the journey times of the people mentioned by my hon. Friend, but if he has specific problems in relation to his constituency or a specific route in his constituency, I would like to look at that, along with the highway authority in his area.
For over 30 years my constituents have been stuck in huge traffic jams on the two lanes between junctions 6 and 8 of the A1(M) at Stevenage. Today the Secretary of State announced a smart motorway scheme to introduce three lanes by using the hard shoulder. I thank my right hon. Friend for listening to the campaign from the local Members of Parliament. Does he realise what a massive boost this will give to Hertfordshire’s economy?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The operation of smart motorways and smart roads is encouraging. We are seeing roll-out. It is not a completely cost-free option. It is quite an expensive option, costing around £8 million a mile, but it leads to significant improvements.
More than 900 new businesses have been created around Basingstoke in the past 12 months, so my constituents will welcome the Secretary of State’s investment in the M3 that will help to tackle some of the problems, which were ignored by the previous Government. Smart motorway technology will make M3 journey times more reliable, and resurfacing will make the M3 safer. Will my right hon. Friend make sure that those sections of the M3 that have not been resurfaced in the past 10 years and are most affected by M3 motorway noise, such as those in Basingstoke, are a priority for his £6 billion plan to put low noise resurfacing on 80% of the strategic road network, as he set out?
I hope that over the next period of the road investment strategy, we will manage to resurface some 80% of the strategic highway. I know that my right hon. Friend has campaigned for resurfacing in part of her constituency, as I admit I have done for part of my constituency, so I will look particularly at the schemes to which she refers.
I am delighted with the announcement of a feasibility study for the dualling of the A69, which is long overdue, and I am pleased that my right hon. Friend had the opportunity to see some of the issues there. Does he agree that connectivity between the east and the west of this country is often poor, and that dualling such roads as the A69 will help enormously, as well as boosting the economies of Cumbria and the north-east?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I visited his constituency and he showed me at first hand some of the pinch points around it. I hope we can work with him on dualling and alleviating pinch points in his constituency so that he can get the opportunities and the traffic easing that he rightly asks for.
The Secretary of State visited my constituency three times in May, and from May to December what a difference he has made for the people of Newark and Nottinghamshire—a new southern link road, more services on the east coast main line, a doubling of services on the castle line from Lincoln to Nottingham, and today a full design for the dualling of the A46 from Farndon up to the A1. That is a huge change for the people of Newark and across the east midlands. Will my right hon. Friend promise me that he will keep up the pace and see that redualling delivered in Nottinghamshire?
I am not quite sure that I can keep up that pace. My hon. Friend may well have had his fair share of investment. He failed to say that the castle line he mentioned actually starts in Matlock.
I am not sure about the hon. Gentleman’s first point about the tolling on the Dartford crossing, because if people pre-register and sign up to the system, the figure they actually pay comes down. On the other roads he mentioned, the schemes are very clearly set out in the road investment strategy, as I have said, but if a part is missing I am sure that he will let me know.
The announcements for the midlands, which is a very important part of the country as far as infrastructure is concerned, involve 31 schemes worth £2.9 billion. As I have said, in bringing forward the road investment strategy, we have looked at the whole of England and tried to be as fair as possible in announcing road investment across the whole country.
May I tell my right hon. Friend that there will be dancing in the streets of Lancing, Sompting and Worthing this evening, not least amid the static traffic on the A27 itself? For the avoidance of doubt, will he confirm that the option of full dualling through Worthing, the largest town in Sussex, is very much on the table as part of his announcement?
I do not encourage anybody to dance on the roads. On the point about dualling the area mentioned by my hon. Friend, that is certainly on the table. It is for local people to show their enthusiasm for such a scheme, so that we can move it forward.
May I thank the Secretary of State for and congratulate him on the very welcome and desperately needed investment in capacity at junction 6 of the M5, which will unlock growth in local businesses in Worcester? However, after a decade of lost investment in local roads, we desperately need more investment in the southern link, particularly at the Carrington bridge on the A440.
I am sure that the Secretary of State had a very happy birthday yesterday, but my constituents in Glossop will have a very happy day today following the announcement about the trunk road on the A57, the Glossop spur. They will also be delighted to hear that there will be a consultation on extending it beyond Tintwistle. Will he listen on that point, as he has listened to Jonathan Reynolds and me, about bringing much-needed relief to my constituents who live and work in and around Glossop?
I know that my hon. Friend has worked very closely with Jonathan Reynolds on this matter. We have deliberately said that we want to put the route around Tintwistle and Mottram out for consultation, because that is something which I am more than prepared to listen on and evaluate properly.
Anyone who has driven across the Pennines will know what a horrible journey it can be, with bottlenecks right across the M62, and that inevitably affects economic activity. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the measures on that route and on the M621 at Leeds will help us to make the northern economic powerhouse a reality?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In this whole programme, we have tried to be fair to the whole country. However, I have been very mindful of connections between the east and the west of our country, particularly in the areas referred to by my hon. Friend—up and around Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield—and I hope that, in the document, we have addressed some of the most contentious hot spots.
I heartily welcome the investment in the M42, which will be good for commuters in my constituency and make Tamworth an even better place to live, work and bring up a family. Will my right hon. Friend have it in mind that after years of failure to invest in the centre of the town, there is still a need for road improvements, so that we can continue to build all the houses that we need on brownfield sites and not greenfield ones?
I hear what my hon. Friend says. No doubt he has made representations to Philip Atkins, the leader of Staffordshire county council, because those are local highway authority roads. I will join him in making those strong representations. I agree with him that Tamworth is an excellent place to invest.
I warmly thank my right hon. Friend for visiting the missing link on the A417. He therefore knows what an important economic link it is from the M4 to the M5. Will he put a bit more flesh on the bones than he did in his answers to my hon. Friends the Members for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) and for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson)? Is it his intention to solve this problem? We have had feasibility studies for years. When does he expect work to start?
I am not sure that I can add much to the last two answers I gave on that point. There is a desire to find a solution, but it is not the easiest area to deal with. I have made a commitment to start work on it during the RIS programme so that a solution can be found in the longer term to this serious bottleneck.
I warmly welcome the statement and, in particular, the planned works on the M62 and the first increase in trans-Pennine capacity since 1971. Does my right hon. Friend agree that improving the connectivity between our great northern cities will provide a significant boost to the economy of the north?
I agree with my hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken a keen interest in doing that. That is why we have money not only for the road investment strategy, but for rail improvement over the coming years. Our work on the northern hub will go a substantial way to addressing that area of concern. I also announced extra services last week under the new franchise on the east coast main line.
My constituents in Winchester will feel very listened to today. I have badgered my right hon. Friend about junction 9 of the M3 for many years, so he knows the importance of today’s comprehensive package of improvements for my area. It is a huge issue for us locally, because whenever there is a problem on the motorway, it backs up right into Winchester and especially into Winnall. It is a huge issue for the country as well, because it is a major freight route from the midlands to the south, including to the ports in the south.
I agree with my hon. Friend entirely. He showed me some of the transport problems in his constituency. He has been a leading advocate of the case for better road infrastructure. I hope that we have gone some way towards showing how that will be achieved.
Pursuant to the question from my hon. Friend David Tredinnick and my recent Adjournment debate about the A5 between the M42 and the M69, will my right hon. Friend consider the request for an in-depth feasibility study to search for a long-term solution to what is one of the most congested sections on the strategic road network?
My hon. Friend raised that issue in an Adjournment debate a few weeks ago. It was framed as a debate about congestion problems in the midlands, but I know that they affect his constituency specifically. He has often made the case for improvements to road infrastructure. I hope that some of the announcements that I have made today will lead to some improvements, but we will no doubt have to go further.
I, too, welcome the £41 million for the improvement of the bottlenecks on the A585 into and out of Fleetwood. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that builds on his announcement last year of £5 million for Lancashire county council to fill in potholes and the £111 million that was announced in 2011 to complete the M6-Heysham link road around Lancaster? Does he agree that in my part of Lancashire, we are finally beginning to make up for the 13 years of neglect by the previous Government?
My hon. Friend is right about levels of investment, not only in his constituency but elsewhere in that area. That is a marked change in the way transport infrastructure is addressed by the Government, and I hope that that continues whichever Government are in office—it certainly will under this Government.
The managed motorway scheme from Huddersfield to Leeds was completed on time and under budget, and I hope that the scheme announced from Huddersfield to Manchester will be completed with as little disruption to my commuting constituents as possible. Will my right hon. Friend’s Department and the Highways Agency continue to work with me on a possible new west bound exit off the M62 at Outlane in Huddersfield, which would ease pressure further up the motorway at Ainley Top?
Of course I will work with my hon. Friend. He referred to one part of the managed motorway scheme that was delivered on time and on budget. Another part is about to start, which I hope is delivered on time and on budget, with as little disruption as possible. As a member of the Transport Committee, the way my hon. Friend has addressed the importance of transport infrastructure shows that he understands what is needed in his area for the economy to prosper.
I join right hon. and hon. Friends from West Sussex in welcoming today’s announcement about £350 million to upgrade the A27. That will enhance the whole county economy and reverse the cancellation of some of the plans by the previous Labour Government. I thank the Secretary of State for upgrades that have already been delivered to the A23. Will he consider resurfacing parts of the M23 to reduce the impact of noise on constituents in neighbourhoods in Crawley that border that part of the motorway?
A sizeable amount of money has been made available in the next road investment programme for resurfacing roads—it has been estimated that we will be able to resurface something like 80%—and I will obviously look at my hon. Friend’s representations.
I feel as if I have been at the back of a long traffic jam to comment on this issue. After decades of promises and work authorised by this Government, the dualling of the A453 will soon be completed, linking my constituency with Nottingham and the east. Since a third of jobs in my constituency are distribution related, my constituents will welcome all today’s announcements about road infrastructure investment. Is my right hon. Friend as incredulous as I am that the shadow Transport Secretary should claim that the motorist has been let down, when Labour represents the party of the fuel duty escalator and the self-confessed failed transport policies of Lord Prescott?
On the A453 I congratulate Councillor Kay Cutts, who was leader of Nottinghamshire county council and did a fantastic job in making the case for that road. The improvements that will be made to junction 24 on the M1 will be important, and that will serve my hon. Friend’s constituency directly. He is right to say that the Government are putting the motorist centre stage. These road improvements are necessary, and I hope that they receive cross-party consensus. This plan will be delivered under a Conservative Government; I do not think the same can be said for a Labour Government.
I may be at the end of the road when being called at questions, but the triumphant campaign to dual the A69, led by my hon. Friend John Stevenson, and the feasibility study announced by the Secretary of State, are most welcome. Is the Secretary of State interested to note that although Conservative Members welcome the announcement about dualling the A1, the Leader of the Opposition was in Newcastle on Friday and made it clear that Labour does not intend to do that?
I was not aware of what the Leader of the Opposition has said, but if my hon. Friend continues to make his case, more people will get to know about it. I think the road investment programme is essential. It is a balanced programme between road, rail, and the importance of public transport, as well as ensuring that motorists get their opportunity. That is right and I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s comments.