North of Eng­land roads

Three big schemes planned

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - JU­LIAN RENDELL

The road net­work in the north of Eng­land could be boosted with £25 bil­lion of ex­tra ex­pen­di­ture fol­low­ing the cre­ation last month of Trans­port for the North.

At least three ma­jor road im­prove­ments are top of the list in a new 30-year Strate­gic Roads Plan be­ing cre­ated by TFN. Part of the North­ern Pow­er­house ini­tia­tive, TFN is aimed at boost­ing the north of Eng­land by adding £100bn to the re­gion’s econ­omy and cre­at­ing 850,000 jobs.

“We are looking at the ma­jor road net­work for the north, and we have sev­eral ma­jor roads stud­ies at the op­tion stage,” said TFN roads di­rec­tor Peter Molyneux. “TFN is in its in­fancy, but we are looking to add value.”

There are three ma­jor road schemes un­der de­vel­op­ment: first, to make the A66 between Scotch Cor­ner and Pen­rith a dual car­riage­way and link the M1 to the M6 and sec­ond, to im­prove roads around the M60/M62 ‘Quad­rant’, north-west of Manch­ester. The third, and most am­bi­tious, is a tun­nel un­der the Peak Dis­trict Na­tional Park from Manch­ester to Sh­effield. There are also mul­ti­ple ‘cor­ri­dor schemes’ with junc­tion im­prove­ments to stream­line traf­fic flows.

Sev­eral programmes have been mooted for a while, but the cre­ation of TFN, es­tab­lished as a le­gal body in April, is giv­ing them ex­tra im­pe­tus. For ex­am­ple, the con­tentious Trans-pen­nine tun­nel has been writ­ten off by some, but Molyneux in­sists it re­mains vi­able. “Let’s build the busi­ness case,” he said.

TFN doesn’t cur­rently have a roads bud­get, the coun­try’s road spend­ing be­ing shared between lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and High­ways Eng­land. For the next few years, TFN will there­fore act as an ad­vi­sor to co-or­di­nate road plan­ning across the re­gion, al­though the body’s 100-strong work­force has been granted de­volved com­mis­sion­ing pow­ers.

In the medium term, TFN will bid for money from the £1bna-year road fund set up last year, part of the an­nual £5.8bn raised by ve­hi­cle ex­cise duty. Over 25 years, that will to­tal £25bn – Molyneux’s tar­get to boost north­ern road building.

How Tfn’s am­bi­tions can be ful­filled while High­ways Eng­land re­mains the coun­try’s main roads co-or­di­na­tor, and works on its next five-year in­vest­ment plan, RIS2, will have to be re­solved.

“We have talked with them, of course,” said High­ways Eng­land. “TFN looks af­ter the in­ter­ests of the North. Our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties haven’t changed and we cast our net wide for in­vest­ments in RIS2.”

Road users groups are more wary. “In prin­ci­ple, we would sup­port hav­ing a body to over­see roads in the North,” said AA chair­man Ed­mund King, “but we would also ques­tion how it fits in with High­ways Eng­land pri­or­i­ties.

“And does this fo­cus on the North now mean that schemes like the much-needed A303 to the south-west are in dan­ger?”

Hav­ing a board of 41 mem­bers, mostly with re­gional al­le­giances, TFN must also find a com­mon di­rec­tion. Molyneux cheer­ily de­scribes it as “a coali­tion of the will­ing”, but chair­man John Crid­land, for­merly di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the CBI, will clearly have his work cut out building a con­sen­sus.

Pro­gres­sion now re­lies on TFN, High­ways Eng­land and the Depart­ment for Trans­port find­ing com­mon ground to make it work in prac­tice, for the ben­e­fit of mo­torists.

Im­prove­ments to the M62 and neigh­bour­ing roads are pro­posed

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