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Road and Rail Capacity (East of England)

Volume 472: debated on Monday 3 March 2008

I am today announcing plans for my Department to take forward work to consider the long-term capacity of the M11 motorway and the West Anglia main line. This is in recognition of the proposed growth in the draft East of England plan and the need to support this with effective and sustainable transport links. This work would also need to take account of potential expansion of Stansted airport.

Last year my predecessor announced publication of the Highways Agency’s consultation on plans to widen the M11 between junction 6 and junction 8, and to improve the junction access from the M11 and the A120 to Stansted airport.

I consider that the form of capacity improvements to the M11 in the period before 2030 requires further assessment and as a result I have asked the Highways Agency to carry out further work to look into this. This work will take account of the forecast growth in the region and ensure that, in seeking to exploit the region’s economic opportunities, we do so in a socially and environmentally sustainable way, considering a range of ways to provide the additional capacity that is needed.

If this work determines that widening the M11 is needed, it has been agreed that BAA would contribute to the overall costs, subject to the necessary referral to the economic regulator. My Department will announce shortly the results of the consultation on the schemes required to provide access from the M11 and A120 to an expanded Stansted airport, which BAA has agreed to fund in full.

I also recognise that growth in the region and the associated number of new houses will place additional pressures on the West Anglia main line between Liverpool Street station and Cambridge.

Therefore, to complement the Highways Agency’s further work on the M11, I am also asking Network Rail to develop and bring forward proposals for enhancing the West Anglia main line. This work should examine the case for further enhancements, to provide for longer term capacity and service improvements, in the context of Network Rail’s recent Greater Anglia route utilisation strategy (RUS).

Following recent feasibility work led by my Department, I confirm that this assessment should incorporate consideration of line and route improvements including a potential four-tracking option from Tottenham Hale to south of Cheshunt, and an assessment of what commitments would be needed to deliver this solution.

The anticipated timescales for this assessment are for necessary development work and powers to be completed within railway control period 4 (2009-14), with a view to targeting delivery in control period 5 (2014-19).

This would be in addition to the more immediate capacity enhancements I announced in my White Paper “Delivering a Sustainable Railway”, and the High Level Output Specification (HLOS), which were published last year.

As with the M11, this work will draw on forecast demand from wider regional growth, as well as from the potential increase in passengers resulting from any expansion of Stansted airport.

Both the work on the M11 and the West Anglia main line will be led by my Department, engaging industry, developers and other key stakeholders as necessary.

I aim to report progress on both of these projects later this year.