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House of Commons Hansard
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Strategic Road Network
24 May 2018
Volume 641
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6. What recent steps he has taken to improve the strategic road network. [905551]

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Projects up and down the country are being delivered through the Government’s £15 billion investment in our strategic roads, our motorways and main A roads. I salute my ministerial colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), who had a fanfare a few minutes ago, and I think the reason for that was that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State officially opened the £400 million A1 upgrade from Leeming to Barton last week, so there is now a continuous motorway link between Newcastle and London for the first time in this country’s history.

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The A5 through Warwickshire and Leicestershire is an important strategic route throughout the midlands and is a valuable relief road in the event of hold-ups on the M6, which can happen from time to time. It is however mostly single carriageway, and with significant amounts of development proposed along the route, will the Minister ensure that detailed work can start urgently to improve both safety and capacity?

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As my hon. Friend will know, we discussed this in a Westminster Hall debate in February and I have seen him and colleagues recently. It is a very important matter; we are aware of the strategic importance of the A5. We already have work in prospect between Dodwells and the Longshoot junction and we will continue to look closely at the matter.

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Substantial congestion exists on the M60, M62 and M56 around Greater Manchester, but Highways England’s investment plans start north-east of this area. Given the very significant economic regeneration plans for south-west Manchester including at the airport, the new HS2 station and New Carrington in my constituency, which the Minister has visited, does he agree that Highways England must now attend to the investment that that will require in the south-west quarter of this motorway network?

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I take on board the hon. Lady’s point, but the point I would make in response is that, over the next three years, Highways England will be investing and, by the end of that period, at a rate roughly three times more than the rate the Government inherited in 2010. Therefore, unprecedented levels of investment are going in. The hon. Lady is welcome to write to me or meet me if she wants to discuss this issue further.

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I welcome the improvements to the A1 to Newcastle, but there is great demand for improvements to the part of the A1 north of Newcastle to the border and my constituency. Can the Minister update the House on improvements to that part of the road to Berwick-upon-Tweed and the border with Scotland?

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A series of potential schemes are in place and they are moving forward to different forms of announcement or development, but I would be happy to send my hon. Friend a more detailed update.

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Can the Minister explain to me why Highways England refused to take any interest in the provision of an alternative for the Orwell bridge on the A14, which is a vital strategic link that is often closed?

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The hon. Gentleman and I have met and we have met Highways England to discuss this, and I think it is overstating the matter to say there is no interest at all, but we continue to look at the issue.

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Drivers who hog the middle lane of motorways has always been a problem, but as traffic volumes increase the impact will be even greater. This problem makes the roads dangerous for other drivers and slows down traffic. What can be done about this?

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There is guidance on this already, as my hon. Friend will know. I am not sure whether it is reflected in the road safety statistics, but I am happy to look at that.

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Owing to the sheer scale of the damage the proposed A27 project will do to ancient woodland and the South Downs national park, let alone the eventual impact on air pollution caused by induced capacity, 10 of Britain’s leading environmental groups have written to the Secretary of State to highlight how his proposals contravene his own national policy statement for national networks. So has he changed his definition of “irreversible damage” or will he urgently review this scheme?

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As the hon. Lady will know, many of those ancient woodlands were planted only in the past couple of decades, so I am not sure that she has quite made her point.