The Transport Secretary has been urged to go further in investing in northern transport and devolving powers on the issue, as he kicked off a major upgrade of one of the region’s key routes.
Chris Grayling yesterday unveiled a range of options for upgrading the A66, which links Penrith in Cumbria with Scotch Corner in North Yorkshire.
The Cabinet Minister marked the start of an eight-week public consultation into the plans for dualling the remaining single carriageway sections of the 50-mile route.
Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, whose Thirsk and Malton constituency is close to the A66, welcomed the move but called for further upgrades.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “Clearly lots of my constituents make that journey and it’s a dangerous road and at times it’s a slow road, particularly if there are accidents on it or slow moving traffic, so it’s good to be investing in those kinds of projects.”
But he added: “The magic number for me is the A64, which is York to Scarborough.
“We are bidding for our first dualling of that carriageway that would have happened in the last 50 years. So the A66 is great but we shouldn’t stop there.”
Mr Hollinrake said Ministers were listening to local calls for more investment in northern transport priorities.
“There are lots of voices on transport for the North and when there is that kind of pressure you know something is going to happen,” he said.
Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Henri Murrison, also hailed the upgrade but demanded greater devolution on transport.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “I am glad the Government have brought forward this significant scheme to unlock the potential of the Northern Powerhouse, benefiting the businesses who depend on freight including to export, those travelling for work and to access the Lake District.
He added: “Northern Powerhouse Partnership are clear that in the future the decisions for these schemes should rest with northern civic leaders.”
Referring to Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan, which sets out an ambitious blueprint for the region and calls for billions in extra funding to roll out the proposals, he said: “If we are successful in gaining £120bn up to 2050 as Parliamentarians across the North have called for, then that budget must be devolved to Transport for the North and our Metro Mayors so that we have the power to deliver on our priorities, to raise productivity and close the North – South divide.”
Speaking at the launch, in Gilling West near Richmond, Mr Grayling said: “We are investing a record £13bn to improve journeys across the North of England.
“Dualling the A66 will not only mean drivers’ journeys are quicker, safer and more reliable across the Pennines, but is part of our pledge to ensure that the business opportunities of the Northern Powerhouse spread out from the great cities of the North of England to every city, town and rural community from the Midlands to the Scottish Lowlands.”
Highways England chief Jim O’Sullivan said: “The A66 is one of the country’s most important routes, connecting businesses, communities and families across the north of England, and this highly anticipated, vital upgrade is great news for the local, regional and national economy.
“We’re pleased to be going out to the local community to consult on the options for the scheme.”
The initiative will take submissions from today until Thursday July 11.