Funding for ‘long awaited’ road improvement finally confirmed

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IMPROVEMENTS at a notorious crossroads which has been the scene of multiple accidents, including a drink-drive crash which claimed six lives, are to go ahead after ministers finally approved a £14m scheme.

The Department of Transport yesterday gave Rotherham Council final confirmation that it would supply £11.8m towards the major project, which will see the A57 turned into a dual carriageway near Dinnington.

Plans drawn up by Rotherham Council show the new road running eastwards towards Worksop from junction 31 of the M1 with the new dual carriageway being built to the north of the existing road towards Todwick.

A new roundabout will replace the traffic-light controlled crossroads with the B6463, which is a bottleneck for motorway traffic and those bound for a new industrial area at Dinnington’s former colliery.

Rotherham councillors have been battling for Government funding for improvements since 2000, when drink-driver Peter Noble ploughed into traffic at the junction killing six people, three from one family.

Noble, from Thorpe Salvin, Rotherham, served six years of a 15-year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving, but crashes have continued at the site.

Coun Gerald Smith, Rotherham Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and development, yesterday said he “warmly welcomed” the news describing it as “long-awaited”.

Coun Smith added: “We have been working for years to improve this stretch of road. And now the funding jigsaw is in place so we can finally get started.

“It’s been a long and frustrating process at times but we have now cleared the final hurdle and work should be able to start in the late summer.

“The result will be a two-kilometre stretch of dual carriageway that will improve both safety and congestion on a major route to and from the motorway.

“It will be so much better for motorists because the road already carries high levels of traffic so needs to be as safe as possible and it is also vital for continued local regeneration in that area of the borough.

“By early 2014, a significant piece of new highway infrastructure, costing a total of £14.7 million, should have been added to the local highway network.”

The project’s funding confirmation was announced by Local Transport Minister Norman Baker yesterday who said the road would “unlock significant economic growth potential.”

Mr Baker added: This is a useful scheme that will provide a boost for the local area by improving journeys for motorists, pedestrians and bus passengers.

“As well as reducing congestion on the road, this work will improve road safety so it’s a win-win for the Dinnington area.

“The £11.8m we are putting into this scheme shows that this government is serious about investing in the infrastructure the country needs to drive economic growth.”

Rotherham Council had drawn up several plans to improve the road, but the authority has encountered a series of obstacles, including problems with adjoining landowners.

Compulsory purchase orders were required in order for the scheme to progress and a public inquiry was also held, adjourned and then reconvened after uncertainty over the scheme funding following the Government’s comprehensive spending review.

The A57 scheme is one of only 10 major local authority schemes to have its “programme entry” reconfirmed by ministers.

Highways experts believe the new road layout, will make the area more attractive to business investors.

It is also hoped that the new road will have environmental benefits for people living nearby because it will cut the rush-hour queues of standing traffic, leading to reduced emissions from vehicle engines.