Bypass on hold again in favour of A66 safety review

Date: Saturday 1st August 1998

THE long-awaited Temple Sowerby bypass has been dropped from the Government’s transport program for the time being, although ministers have conceded that it seems to be the only “practical solution” to the traffic problems in the village.

The news, announced yesterday, generated a mixed reaction from those who have been involved with the long fight to build the bypass. David Cole, Cumbria County Council’s director of economy and environment, said: “We are disappointed that it is not going to go ahead at an early date, but pleased that it is not one of the many schemes throughout the country which have been dropped.

“Our campaign has been effective in persuading ministers that they could not drop the bypass scheme. We will do everything we can to help the Highways Agency to bring it forward as quickly as possible and we would reiterate that it is desperately needed.”

Bernard Thornborrow, chairman of Eden Council, said: “We have always pressed hard for anything which will improve safety along the A66 and I met with the minister at Temple Sowerby some 18 months ago and put the case to him about the dangers.

“It seems to have got worse at the present moment and the accident rate has increased. I was hopeful we could have seen some positive action from the Government at present. So I am very disappointed, but at least they are prepared to keep it in the program.

“However, sooner rather than later would have been better. How many more deaths do we have to have? We need to continue to put pressure on as a council and as a community in general. As a council, we will fully support a safety study of the Scotch Corner to Penrith stretch of the A66 as soon as possible,” added Mr. Thornborrow.

The Government announced its trunk road improvement plans yesterday in the House of Commons. More than 100 schemes have been axed and only 37, costing £1.4 billion, will go ahead in the current roads program. MPs were told that work on those still included in the national program will be started within the next seven years.

Dr. John Reid, minister of state at the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, said the Temple Sowerby bypass scheme was “not sufficiently advanced” to be considered as a candidate for the current targeted program of improvements.

“It does, however, address a pressing problem for which there appears to be no other practicable solution. We have therefore decided that the Highways Agency should continue preparatory work on this scheme so that if, following full analysis and consultation with the regional planning conference, it is decided that the scheme should go ahead there will be no unnecessary delay,” he said.

A safety study of the notorious stretch of the A66 between Scotch Corner and Penrith is to be undertaken to investigate the appalling accident record on the route and identify additional options on how best to improve it.

The only scheme that will go ahead within the current roads program along the A66 is the building of a bypass between Stainburn and Great Clifton in the west of the county.

Penrith and the Border MP David Maclean said the Government had “massacred” the roads program.

He said: “Of course, I did not expect that the Government would announce that they would upgrade the whole of the A66 to dual carriageway but we all expected they would have a plan to gradually improve the worst bits, such as Temple Sowerby and Warcop.

“To now say that the Temple Sowerby bypass was not sufficiently advanced to be considered as a candidate for the targeted program of improvements beggars belief. Officials and engineers have been designing that bypass for the past 12 years. The Government have said they are going to target the road improvements on schemes to ‘promote safety and healthier communities’, but these schemes in Cumbria are textbook candidates if you want to improve road safety and make communities healthier.”