?1.3bn dualling plan for A66 delayed – cumbriacrack.com

Dualling the remaining and congested sections of the A66 will provide quicker, safer and more

A decision over whether the £1.3 billion A66 dualling project can go ahead has been delayed by four months.

It comes amid 11th hour environmental issues and potential legal challenges.

A decision by the Government had been expected at the latest by the state opening of parliament on Tuesday, November 7.

Instead, any decision to dual 50 miles of the road from Penrith to Scotch Corner has now been delayed until March 7 2024. It comes after months of consultation, involving stakeholders and the community.

Norfolk-based activist Dr Andrew Boswell, a climate “litigant”, scientist and consultant, has legally challenged other major roads schemes in the High Court.

He provided an eight-page representation about the A66 proposals last month, with a focus on emissions.

Mark Harper, Secretary of State for Transport, was due to decide whether to give the project the nod and award a formal development consent order (DCO). Work would have started in spring 2024 with the project completed in 2029, had the go-ahead been given.

Huw Merriman MP, minister for transport, announced the delay in a statement: “The reason for the extension is to allow for further consideration of matters including those not resolved at the time the Examining Authority’s Report was received by the Secretary of State.

“This will include the consideration of information submitted by the Applicant regarding impacts on the North Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation, to ensure compliance with the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. The decision to set a new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to give development consent for the above application.”

National Highways, the Government-owned company and project lead, responded: “We remain confident in our proposals and we stand ready to deliver these improvements, subject to receiving a positive decision on the DCO and authorisation to proceed to construction.” 

Transport Action Network, a group which campaigns against damaging new roads, said: “Unsurprisingly, the Secretary of State is in no rush to approve this controversial and costly mega-road scheme.”

Around £120 million of upfront funding was committed this year alone with major contractors also expecting a decision before Christmas.

The Northern Trans-Pennine project, involves the dualling of the A66 between M6 (J40) at Penrith and the A1(M) (J53) at Scotch Corner.

The Government has made it a priority that the UK will have one of the most ambitious targets in the G20, cutting emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030 on 1990 levels.

Neil Hudson, Penrith and the Border MP, said: “I know I speak for all the communities along the A66 when I say that we need to progress with this dualling upgrade. I have been in close contact with the Secretary of State and Transport Ministers reinforcing just how important a positive decision is for us.”

A spokesman for Transport for the North said:

Transport for the North said: “We are disappointed to hear of a delay to the decision on upgrading the A66. But the important thing is to get the right answer, which we strongly believe is upgrading this key route to improve connections and experience for the people that use it.

“Removing the bottlenecks along this key east-west corridor will make the road safer and more reliable for travellers and help freight get across the Pennines by linking ports on both coasts and providing onward connectivity to Scotland.

“It’s not only a hugely important route between the Lake District, North Yorkshire and the Tees Valley – and the dozens of communities in between – it also helps connect Scotland to our towns and cities.

“We look forward to what we hope will be the go-ahead for this very important piece of national infrastructure.”