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Road Capacity (North-West)

Volume 554: debated on Thursday 29 November 2012

The Department has not undertaken any recent assessment of road capacity in north-west England. Since 2010, however, the Highways Agency has completed two annual assessments of the operation of all its strategic routes in the north of England in terms of delay, journey reliability, capacity, accidents and some environmental measures. The next assessment is due in spring next year.

The Minister’s colleagues are aware that the roads in the Longdendale area of my constituency suffer from severe congestion—one Minister courteously took the time to visit, and the Secretary of State represents a seat not too far away. Since that last ministerial visit, the hon. Member for High Peak (Andrew Bingham) and I have worked with local authorities in Tameside, High Peak, Derbyshire and Barnsley to try to work out a solution that will cover the whole corridor between Greater Manchester and south Yorkshire. There has been a lot of interest in the study and we have published an interim report. Will the Minister grant us a meeting to take that work further?

As the hon. Gentleman rightly recognises, the scheme in the national programme was withdrawn in 2009 by the Labour Government. A considerable amount of work has been done since at a local level. Because I have considerable sympathy for areas where there is significant road congestion, and although there must now be a local approach to finding a solution, I or one of my ministerial colleagues would be more than happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Andrew Bingham) if they would like to discuss the matter further.

Not only do the residents of Tintwistle in my constituency feel the ground shaking beneath their feet as wagons thunder by inches from their front doors, but the economic growth of the whole of Glossopdale is, in my view, being hampered by traffic congestion. Given that economic growth is a vital part of the future of the country, does the Minister agree that problems such as the Mottram, Tintwistle and Longdendale bypass assume even greater importance for local communities in towns such as Glossop?

My hon. Friend raises a valid point, as did the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) in his question. The fact is that the scheme came out of the national programme in 2009. Therefore, the approach must be to find a viable local alternative to reduce congestion for the hon. Gentleman’s and my hon. Friend’s constituents, and to help to increase economic growth. I am sure my hon. Friend, the hon. Gentleman and local communities and stakeholders will contribute to that. However, as I said in answer to the hon. Gentleman, if he and my hon. Friend would like to come and see me or one or my ministerial colleagues to discuss the matter further, we will be more than happy to meet them.

The motorway network forms the backbone of the north-west’s road network. Has the Minister considered improvements to the M6 and M56 in Cheshire to improve capacity on them?

As my hon. Friend will appreciate, that is the responsibility of the Highways Agency. However, I can give him an assurance from the national Government that we are determined to investigate all parts of the road network and rail network to identify pinch points, and problems that stifle economic development and create congestion, to ensure that Britain moves faster, swifter and more effectively.