Still a long road ahead

Date: Tuesday 5th December 2017

NEWS that progress is being made on plans to make the A66 all dual carriageway between Penrith and Scotch Corner will be warmly received by those who have long seen the road as a blight on local transport links.

In Eden, the road’s poor safety record is a matter of enduring public concern, with the tremendous human cost of its flawed design and heavy use well documented.

It is a year since it was announced in the Chancellor’s autumn statement that this key east-west route was to be upgraded, and now a £1.7 million contract has been awarded to a London design firm to develop proposals.

A meeting of stakeholders discussed all aspects of the project, from route options to public engagement and a program of works.

It may have come as a surprise to Kirkby Stephen residents to hear that the option of a bypass for the town was among the topics put forward at the meeting — although this appears to have been rejected on grounds of low benefits and the potential for environmental damage.

Over the next several years the A66 improvement project is set to take shape and the chance for Eden voices to be heard may come in a major round of public consultation next year.

An options consultation and planning stage look set to follow, with the new-look road not expected to be completed until 2028.

The latest moves towards improving this vital route are welcome, but there is still a long road ahead before changes are seen on the ground.