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Road Infrastructure and Capacity: North-West

Volume 619: debated on Thursday 12 January 2017

14. What assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of road infrastructure and capacity in the north-west. (908131)

The Government recently published three strategic studies into long-standing transport challenges in the north-west and have committed to major investment based on the findings. Highways England’s route strategies —by the way, I set up Highways England on my last visit to the Department—have assessed the performance of the strategic roads network and the pressures it faces. Three strategic studies relate to the north-west. Refreshed versions, drawing on the evidence submitted by local stakeholders last year, will be published, and I think they should be published soon, so let us make it March—we will publish them then.

In 2014, the roads investment strategy proposed nine new projects in the north-west, but, to date, the plans for just one of them have been announced, while the Government spend six times more on transport infrastructure in London than in the north. How does the Minister think the whole northern powerhouse thing is going, because, when it comes to transport, like much of the traffic in St Helens, it seems to be going nowhere and not very fast?

I do not think that is typical of the hon. Gentleman—at least, I hope it is not—because he is being ungenerous and, to some degree, might I say, not admitting all he knows. For surely he will know of the A570 linkway, valued at £3.2 million—that is in St Helens, by the way. He will know of the Windle Island junction improvements, valued at £3.2 million—again in St Helens. He will also know of the Newton-le-Willows interchange, valued at £14.4 million. We are not only acting in the north-west but in his constituency, and he does not want to tell us about it.

Order. This question is about the north-west of England. I am not a geographer, but I say to the hon. Lady that last time I looked, it seemed to me that Taunton Deane was rather a long way from the north-west of England.

It is the surface of the roads in the north-west within the existing infrastructure that worries me; it is a bit like driving on the surface of the moon at times. Where county councils fail to tackle the problem of the plague of potholes that besets motorists in the north-west, will the Minister be imaginative and look at ways whereby district councils could bid for the money that the Government make available so that they can tackle this problem?

My hon. Friend is right that the noise and disturbance from poor road surfaces has a significant effect on the journeys of those who use cars and trucks. As he knows, I have been in the north-west in a vehicle with him—an open-top vehicle, I hasten to add—waving to his constituents. I know how important road surfaces are, so I will certainly look at his suggestion, not only for the north-west but across the whole nation.