As my hon. Friend will know, the Department has provided up to £4 million of funding to Essex County Council to support the development of proposals for improvements to the A120 between Braintree and Colchester. The council consulted on options last year and announced its favoured route in June 2018. My Department is now considering whether or not to include the scheme in the next road investment strategy, which will be published next year.
The Minister will be aware that the A120 around Braintree is a road so heavily and regularly congested that my constituents regularly cut through Braintree to bypass the bypass. We welcome the money for the preferred route option, but will the Minister ensure that he will also consider any interim measure to relieve congestion?
Aware, Mr Speaker? How could I not be aware? My hon. Friend has been indefatigable; in fact, few parliamentarians in any Parliament could have matched his energy and zeal in pressing the case for the A120. He has been terrier-like in his lobbying, and he can take it from me that the Minister has been duly terrierised.
Mr Speaker, to get to the A120 in Braintree, which a lot of my constituents want to do, they have to go down the A509, which is even more congested. The Minister has kindly given £25 million for a bypass, but the wretched South East Midlands local enterprise partnership quango is blocking it. Will he get together with me to knock some heads together and get the bypass sorted out so that we can get to Braintree on the A120?
I am frightened and worried to think that that may be the only use for the new road; if that is in fact the case, perhaps we should reconsider the investment case. My hon. Friend can take it from me that the Department for Transport has been following the issue very closely. It is entirely a matter for SEMLEP and Northamptonshire County Council, but I am happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the matter further.