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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what discussions his Department has had with the (a) Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, (b) the Treasury and (c) Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the wider economic benefits to the South West of the his Department’s proposed improvements to the A303/A358/A30 corridor.
The first Road Investment Strategy (RIS1), published in December 2014, recognised the importance of the A303/A358/A30 corridor and announced the Government’s intention to upgrade all remaining sections of the A303 between the M3 and the A358 to dual carriageway standard, together with creating a dual carriageway link from the M5 at Taunton to the A303, as part of a long-term commitment to creating a new high quality dual carriageway road to the South West.
Work on this long-term commitment is already underway, with Highways England in the process of developing three major improvements during RIS1: the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down (Stonehenge Tunnel), A303 Sparkford to Ilchester dualling, and A358 Taunton to Southfields dualling.
The Government intends that subsequent Road Investment Strategies will fund the remaining improvements. The Department is using the evidence it has gathered through three years of research and public engagement to determine an affordable and deliverable investment plan for the second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) that will be published in late 2019. Many proposals have been received for enhancement schemes to be included in RIS2 – competition for the available funding is therefore very strong.
The research phase has involved engagement with other Government departments such as the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Treasury and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department. We are taking the findings of the local authority partners’ Economic impact study into account in the decision-making and the Government’s objectives for RIS2 include spreading economic growth across the country.
Each individual scheme to improve the A303/A358/A30 corridor is being considered on its own merits, including an assessment of wider economic impacts where appropriate. Although the importance of the corridor for economic growth in the South West is already understood and being acted upon, no recent estimate has been made by the Department of the potential effect on economic growth in the South West of the planned improvements.