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A417-A419 (Gloucestershire)

Volume 584: debated on Thursday 10 July 2014

10. What recent progress he has made on improving the A417-A419 at Nettleton Bottom and Crickley Hill in Gloucestershire; and if he will make a statement. (904762)

The Highways Agency is preparing a route strategy for the midlands to Wales and Gloucester. It covers the section of the A417 that includes Nettleton Bottom and Crickley Hill, known as the “missing link”, which has been identified as a key issue on the route. The next stage will be to assess options, and to produce indicative business cases as a basis on which to prioritise investment from 2015 onwards.

The Minister will be aware that the death toll on the road continues to rise, as do the delays experienced by travellers as a result of congestion. He will also be aware of how long my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) and I, in particular, have continued our campaign to secure improvements to the road. It would be good if he and/or the Secretary of State visited us in the near future to observe the problems for themselves.

This is a particularly challenging operation from both an environmental and an engineering perspective. The cost of the work has been estimated at about £255 million. It would include two junctions which would be grade separated, and the road is, of course, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. However, I have some good news for my hon. Friend: the Secretary of State plans to visit that part of the road next week.

While we look forward eagerly to the Secretary of State’s visit, we look forward even more eagerly to what my hon. Friend the Minister can do to upgrade the priority of this particular scheme. This is one of the busiest arterial roads in the country: it links the M4 to the M5. Tragically, we have had five deaths since last November. This is a really important priority. What can my hon. Friend do to help?

It was made clear to us when we met my hon. Friend and our hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) during the winter that dealing with the problem has been in the “too difficult to do” box for too long. The phrase “missing link” is a very good way of describing this piece of road, given the congestion that it causes and, of course, its accident record, which is not good at all.

May I briefly convey the support of constituents on my side of the river for the campaign that has been run by my hon. Friend the Members for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson) and for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) over a long period? The improvement is important to us, so let me add our support for anything that the Minister can do to speed it up.

I know that all Members in that part of the world understand the importance of the route, and also understand the need to carry out the work in an environmentally sympathetic way because the road is in an area of outstanding natural beauty.