5. What progress he has made on improvements to the A417 and A419 at Nettleton Bottom and Crickley Hill; and if he will make a statement. (905603)
The Highways Agency is preparing a route strategy for the midlands to Wales and Gloucestershire. This includes the A417 at Nettleton Bottom and Crickley Hill, which is part of the section of the road identified as a key challenge on the route. Current options are being assessed, including major improvements, to produce an indicative business case as the basis on which to prioritise investment from 2015. I will press the Highways Agency to provide its assessments so that I can make decisions on this as soon as possible.
I thank the Minister for that response. He will be aware that the Secretary of State recently visited the area called “the missing link” and saw for himself the difficulties and dangers of that road. I know that my right hon. Friend is a very caring and a very competent Minister, and he will be very saddened indeed by the news of yet another death on that road less than two weeks ago. Will he therefore do everything in his power to bring about a solution for this congested and very dangerous stretch of road?
Yes, I had indeed heard about that fatality, and I obviously offer my commiserations and condolences to all concerned. My hon. Friend has been consistent in this campaign. In July, he asked the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), a very similar question. I know that he has prioritised improvements to the road. I will look closely at the matter again, and we will do our very best for him.
No. I am not going to call the right hon. Gentleman because Nettleton Bottom and Crickley Hill are a very long way from Newcastle. We will hear from him later, I feel sure.
Nettleton Bottom happens to be in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson) and in mine. May I therefore reinforce what my hon. Friend has so adroitly put to the Minister? The recent fatality—I send my sympathy to the family—is the eighth since this time last year. This road is in desperate need of refurbishment.
I do understand that the death toll on this road is continuing to rise, and I also understand the delays that travellers are enduring as a result of congestion. I know that my hon. Friend has previously made this case, as has my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson). The Department is conscious of that and of the need to do more across a whole range of roads, but he can be assured that the powerful case they have both made will not fall on deaf ears.