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Road and Rail Capacity: East of England

Volume 490: debated on Thursday 26 March 2009

I am today informing the House of the results of the further work that the Department for Transport has carried out since March 2008 on the long-term capacity of the M11 motorway and the West Anglia main line. This work has considered the likely long-term growth in the regional economy as well as the potential expansion of Stansted airport, and the need to support both with effective and sustainable transport links. It has also taken account of the Government’s latest air passenger demand forecasts, which were published on 15 January 2009.

The regional spatial strategy for the East of England was published on 12 May 2008. This plan provides for a 15 to 20-year vision for the sustainable development of the east of England, a region with particularly strong growth pressures. Despite the current economic downturn, the Government believe that, over the next 15 to 20 years, the East of England region will continue to witness a growth in its economy, the generation of new employment opportunities and continuing demand for the development of new housing.

Further work carried out by the Department has confirmed that, on the rail side, there remains a business case for a significant package of enhancements to the West Anglia main line, to deal with the long-term increase in passenger demand on the route. These enhancements could lead to significant improvements in journey times and frequencies for all users of the route. The Department will now specify the outputs it requires from the work to be undertaken by Network Rail in the forthcoming control period 2009-14. Network Rail will lead the detailed development work to determine the precise scope of improvements needed to deliver these important outputs, and progress the necessary planning consents. This work will inform the assessment of funding for the railway control period 2014-19, subject to affordability, value for money and business case approval.

On the roads side, the Department has, with the Highways Agency, considered a number of options which could deliver capacity enhancements to the M11 motorway between junctions 6 and 8. The options considered included dynamic use of the hard shoulder and widening the motorway to four lanes in each direction. The study work has concluded that no enhancements to this section of the motorway are needed until at least 2021. Thereafter, a number of enhancements may be needed. Decisions on these will be taken in the context of the delivering a sustainable transport system (DaSTS) framework, published in November 2008, which sets out a timetable for future investment decisions.

Copies of the reports underpinning this announcement have been made available in the Libraries of both Houses, as well as on the Department for Transport’s website. The two reports are:

A North East London and West Anglia main line progress report and strategy, explaining the current issues facing the line and the improvements that might be made in future.

An M11 junctions 6 to 8 options identification report prepared on behalf of the Highways Agency, which explains the different options that have been considered and their respective advantages and disadvantages.