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Thursday 28 March 2019
Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect has published an “ambitious, but wholly reasonable” list of 20 road projects it wants to see prioritised for construction or development during Highways England’s second Road Investment Strategy period (RIS2), from 2020-2025.
Midlands Connect is seeking assurances that the region will see the benefit of a record £25 billion fund for the next five years, a 40% increase on the previous period, and that nationally important projects in the region are not overlooked.
The document asks for clarity that already committed projects are delivered, and new schemes focus on supporting job creation, new homes and providing a resilient alternative to the motorway network. It includes five clear, deliverable objectives from RIS2 to ensure short-term progress as well as long-term commitments that unleash the Midlands’ growth potential:
Midlands Connect has identified 10 regional projects earmarked to start construction during by March 2020 that must be completed by 2025. This includes supporting Telford & Wrekin Council to press for the earliest possible construction of the M54 to M6 Link Road; planned junction upgrades to the A38 near Derby, A52 near Nottingham and A46 near Coventry and the proposed widening of the A500 in Stoke-on-Trent and A5 in Warwickshire.
Midlands Connect is seeking a commitment to deliver four projects in RIS2 that were developed in RIS1, including the A50 Uttoxeter Project B: Eastern Junction, to complement improvements to the west of the town, supporting the rapid growth of major employers including JCB; and A46 Newark Northern Bypass, an essential upgrade to remove a major bottleneck and support housing and employment sites.
Midlands Connect is keen to work closely with Highways England to prioritise five new schemes that could have an immediate positive impact on the regional and national economies, such as: A49 Hereford Bypass, A5 upgrades between M42 and M69 and M6 J15-16 Smart Motorway near Stoke-on-Trent (including J15 improvements).
Midlands Connect is seeking a formal role in the RIS decision making process that shapes a long-term delivery programme of shovel-ready schemes for the following decade, and moves away from constrained five-year planning periods. Midlands Connect is taking a long-term corridor approach for the first time with improvement plans for the A46, A5 and A50/A500 and believe it is fundamental to getting the greatest economic and social benefits from our transport system.
The document also suggests a partnership between HS2 Ltd and Highways England to develop a comprehensive scheme for the A52/M1 Junction 25 in the East Midlands during RIS2, ready for delivery during RIS3 (2025-2030), prior to the transformational arrival of High Speed Two (HS2) rail services to the region.
Building on Midlands Connect’s already close, collaborative relationship with Highways England, there is a proposal to work together to identify possible alternatives to RIS funding to accelerate the overall programme, including engaging resource from the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund and Transforming Cities Fund.
Simon Statham, Director of Technical Programmes at Midlands Connect, said:
“These priorities will allow the Midlands to make the most of record investment in our roads over the next five years, and future-proof the network for the next generation. Midlands Connect already has a close relationship with Highways England and the Department for Transport, but strengthening our collaboration further can ensure investment is targeted in the right place, at the right time and for the right reasons.
“An investment in the Midlands benefits the nation. A third of all road freight travels through, to or from the region, so it’s important that these ambitious yet deliverable schemes for the Midlands are prioritised alongside larger, more complex projects elsewhere, like the Oxford-Cambridge expressway. RIS2 can support our national freight networks, while also promoting increased economic productivity, housing development and jobs growth. It’s essential for all our people and businesses to reach their full potential.”
JCB is supporting investment in the A50. Mark Turner, Chief Operating Officer at JCB, said:
“JCB continues to create jobs and invest in Staffordshire. But like many of the other big employers based along the A50 corridor, to keep investing and growing, we need the A50 to be resilient, accessible and reliable 365 days a year. Without the full promised upgrade, there’s a risk the A50 could constrain economic growth for companies like JCB, rather than support it.”
An announcement on the Road Investment Strategy 2 programme is expected later in 2019. Midlands Connect will continue to work closely with Highways England and the Department for Transport to develop the role of Sub-national Transport Bodies to inform local, regional and national decision making, and improve the future funding process for the strategic road network.
To read the full document, click here
Sophie Zumbe, External Affairs