A66 upgrade “long overdue”admits Transport Secretary

Date: Friday 17th May 2019

THE beauty of the Eden Valley will be “protected and carefully looked after” as part of an upgrade of the A66 costing £1 billion, Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling has vowed.

Mr Grayling launched an eight-week consultation on making the entire route from Penrith to Scotch Corner dual carriageway. Speaking alongside Highways England’s Matt Townsend and Peter Mumford at the Fox Hall Inn, near Richmond, on Thursday he said: “This is long overdue. With this investment, more money is now being spent per head of population in the North than the South.

“It is a primary route between the M62 and Scotland so things have got to change, and this investment will hopefully see a reduction in the number of accidents and breakdowns affecting transport in the area, making it quicker, safer and more reliable. As a priority we need to do this and then the A69 to upgrade the trans-Pennine routes and improve connectivity to West Yorkshire and East Lancashire.

“We have got to do a better job than we have been doing on east to west transport links. We have been focused on north to south but we need to make those sort of improvements across the country.”

The investment means the remaining 18 miles of single carriageway along the 50-mile route will be dualled, either on the same route or by building bypasses.

The A66 in Eden is used by at least 16,500 vehicles a day, with the figure rising to 30,200 around Kemplay roundabout at Penrith, and at least 19 per cent are HGVs.

A total of 20 consultation events are to take place across the affected communities, including at Penrith and Appleby. This is the first of two consultations, with the second outlining preferred options before infrastructure work begins towards the tail end of 2022. Work is due to end in 2025.

Mr Grayling added: “We have to be sensitive as this is a beautiful part of the country and we don’t want to detract from the beauty of the Eden Valley. The last thing we want to do is spoil the area. That’s why we won’t build a massive motorway. I’m keen for work to start as soon as possible but the process has to be thorough.

“We have been wanting to do this for years and years. We should have done it years ago but are getting on with it now. The Northern Powerhouse isn’t just Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Hull. It is the whole of the region and I hope areas like Penrith will really benefit, with it allowing more industry and investment.”

Mr Townsend, Highways England senior project manager, said: “It is not just about motorists but also local communities, walkers and cycling groups in making the road network safer. We need local people to engage in the consultation and get involved as we can’t create the best network on our own without communities being involved.”

Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart said: “The launch of this consultation is great news — and I hope that people make full use of this opportunity to get their views heard.

“I have long championed the dualling of the A66 from Scotch Corner through to Cumbria and I have pushed hard to ensure that the strategic importance of this stretch of road is recognised in government. Now we need to drive the dualling forward, not only to bring economic and transport benefits but also — most importantly — to help improve the safety of motorists on this key route.”

Ideas for each of the remaining sections of single carriageway include:

l Allowing through traffic from the M6 or the North East to bypass the congested Kemplay roundabout.

l Dualling the existing three-mile section between Penrith and Temple Sowerby, including a new junction arrangement for Center Parcs at the western end and an optional short bypass to avoid High Barn at the eastern end.

l A new bypass north or south of Kirkby Thore and north of Crackenthorpe, following the route of the old railway line or the old Roman road.

l Providing an upgrade of the five-mile single carriageway between Appleby and Brough, freeing up the existing A66 for local access-only traffic as well as walkers, cyclists and horse riders.