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Volume 598: debated on Thursday 16 July 2015

2. When he last met the chief executive of Highways England to discuss its programme of repairing and upgrading the motorway network. (901042)

The Government have an ambitious £15.2 billion plan to triple annual spending on England’s motorways and major A roads by the end of the decade, to improve capacity and condition as set out in the road investment strategy. I recently met Jim O’Sullivan, who was appointed chief executive of Highways England at the beginning of July, and there will of course be further meetings between us and with the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones).

I congratulate the Government on that long-term investment strategy, which will inevitably entail roadworks. Will the Secretary of State ask Highways England to review its increasing and annoying tendency to cone off vast stretches of motorway and install average speed cameras, sometimes for years at a time, when work is happening only in a very small area?

Of course, road improvements cannot take place without some disruption to the motorist, but I well understand the frustration that many people who use the M1 feel about the length of roadway that is currently under repair. I have already taken that up with the chief executive.

May I say that this is a superb question. One way to upgrade a motorway such as the M62 would be to improve existing road links between the north-west and Yorkshire. The Minister recently wrote to me and other affected MPs to inform us of the new strategic road study into a possible tunnel under the Peak district. Can the Secretary of State confirm that that would be in addition to the bypass scheme that has been announced for the Mottram in Longdendale area of my constituency, not a replacement for it, and that the Government’s vision is that the two schemes can be complementary?

I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman’s thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart), who used to be my Parliamentary Private Secretary, for his superb question, which rightly exposes the huge road investment that the Government are taking forward.

The study that the hon. Gentleman refers to is being done by Colin Matthews. I await his report, and it is in addition to the scheme that has already been announced.

The Chancellor’s Budget last week confirmed the road investment strategy. How many extra miles of motorway and trunk road will it mean?

I am reliably informed by the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) that it entails 1,300 more miles.

The A1 north of Newcastle has significant importance for freight and other strategic traffic travelling between Newcastle and Edinburgh. In May 2010, in recognition of the importance of connectivity with Edinburgh, the Government announced that it would be designated a route of strategic national importance. With that in mind, will the Secretary of State advise us of what investment has been made in the A1, and will he provide details of any planned future improvements?

Much to the credit of the campaign by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan), we have announced a number of road improvements to the A1. If the hon. Gentleman were to drive around Newcastle at the moment, he would see the extensive work around the Lobley Hill junction, which is a huge investment that will improve flow around Newcastle. Further works on the A1 are planned.

Yes, as far as I am aware, they are on track. We are delivering the first increase in trans-Pennine motorway capacity since 1971 by upgrading the M62 to a smart motorway. I realise that there is inconvenience for motorists while upgrades take place, but the work is part of the Government’s investment not just in the north but right across this country’s road infrastructure, which was so badly neglected for 13 years.