Proposals to dual the final stretch of the A66, once dubbed the forgotten ‘Cinderella’ of the region’s routes, are hailed as the “biggest investment in the North’s road network in a generation”.
As Roads Minister Baroness Vere visited the site on Sep 24, she spoke of improving coastal connectivity from eastern to western ports, the route’s safety, and a boost to tourism drives.
“This is one of the biggest schemes we are investing in, and is key to levelling up the North,” she said. “It’s essential that we get the local community to respond so that we hear their voices.”
First announced under Theresa May in 2016, the upgrade would see the dualling of the A66 between the M6 at Penrith and the A1 at Scotch Corner, as well as junction improvement.
While most of the works will be outside of Yorkshire’s boundaries, local leaders have long called for investment, linking Yorkshire and the Lakes and also Scotland to the region’s coastlines.
“It’s a truism to say it’s a two-way street,” the leader of North Yorkshire County Council Carl Les had said last year as the preferred route was outlined. “Those benefits come back.”
Options were set out two years ago in an initial consultation, with 93 per cent of respondents backing the dualling plan.
A second consultation has now opened on designs, which will feed into applications for a Development Consent Order in allowing the scheme to go ahead.
“We know east to west connectivity is not brilliant, we know this road has a poor safety record,” said Baroness Vere. “We really are keen to progress with this scheme, but we need to get it right.
“There are many people who use the A66 because they are taking goods much further than the immediate area, and it’s really important for tourism to ensure we make it as accessible as possible.
“There are also huge opportunities for local firms to get involved, bringing a boost to the local economy. We can make this better together, so we are keen to take the plans forward together.”
An extended six-week consultation on plans will now run until November 6, with a series of events and open days to be held along the route to seek public opinion. Plans are also in local libraries.
Peter Molyneux, major roads director at Transport for the North, said the route was “crucial” in building a “new North”, yet too often faced congestion and delays. Dualling, he said, would benefit many thousands of users.