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Driving improvements across the North

Wednesday 30th November 2016

Newly published reports from Transport for the North and the Department for Transport have outlined how road journeys across the North of England could be transformed to boost economic growth.

Reports from three strategic road studies into improving the Manchester M60 North West Quadrant, upgrading key Northern Trans-Pennine routes and possible routes for a Trans-Pennine Tunnel were made public on Monday 28th November. The reports were published alongside an announcement by the Secretary of State for Transport of development funding for four more Northern transport schemes to unlock economic and housing growth.

The publication of the reports follows confirmation in the Northern Powerhouse Strategy alongside the Autumn Statement last week that the Government plans to dual the A66 across the Pennines, to address pinch points on the A69 and to improve the Manchester M60 North West Quadrant. Also highlighted was the fact that other cross Pennine road routes are still under consideration, including the Trans-Pennine Tunnel.

David Brown, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, said “Research shows improving transport across the North is key to transforming the region’s economy – particularly between east and west. The improvements announced today are a good first step in building the transport links needed to transform the North.”

“These major projects will improve journeys between the North’s economic centres. They will help freight travelling into and across the North, allowing more goods to be brought into the North’s great ports and potentially reducing the amount of freight travelling into the North on already congested roads from ports on the South coast. They will also make it easier to visit the North’s outstanding natural areas, such as the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District.”

The Northern Trans-Pennine, Manchester M60 North West Quadrant and Trans-Pennine Tunnel studies have been carried out by Highways England, looking at three key areas where poor road infrastructure restricts travel and hampers economic growth.

David Brown said: “In the Autumn Statement, and through the Northern Transport Strategy published alongside it, the Government has made it very clear that we need to boost productivity to grow the UK’s economy. We know the North’s economy is hindered by poor transport links, and we know this makes it harder for people and goods to move around our region. These reports highlight three areas where improvements to our road infrastructure can be made to help boost economic growth.”

“Transport for the North is currently developing a multi-modal Strategic Transport Plan, which will identify the many ways in which the economy could be transformed by connecting the North.”

The three strategic road studies form part of Transport for the North’s wider Strategic Roads programme, through which a Major Road Network for the North is being developed. This will allow the identification of the road investments needed over the next thirty years to help build a transport network which will truly connect the Northern Powerhouse, driving economic growth.

Manchester M60 North West Quadrant

The Manchester M60 North West Quadrant study has explored options for improving an area of the road network to the north-west of Greater Manchester, stretching between the M56 in the South round the west of Greater Manchester to the M62 in the North.

The study area often has average speeds of just 15mph at peak times as traffic travelling east-west between Merseyside and Yorkshire via the M62 and north-south between Cheshire and Lancashire onto the M61 and M66 meets local commuter traffic travelling into and around Manchester City Centre.

David Brown, Chief Executive for Transport for the North, said, “This part of the road network is in the top 10% nationally for delays and addressing these is vital for allowing people and goods to move freely around the North. The M60 North West Quadrant is used for east-west journeys between Merseyside, Yorkshire and Humberside, as well as for local journeys into and around Manchester, and too often traffic is at a stand-still. Improvements in this area will also help reduce congestion and improve air quality, as well as providing easier access to public transport for local travellers.”

The study has shortlisted three options for improvement. All three options provide improvements to road infrastructure alongside investment in public transport to encourage an alternative to car use. A fourth package which focused purely on public transport interventions has been discounted as it would not address the problem of long-distance freight and passenger traffic.

The shortlisted options are:

Further work is now underway to provide further information about the three proposed packages, including how these would affect the wider transport network and full benefit cost ratios for each option. The studies have yet to enter the options selection and detailed design and development phase, and as such the following high-level, ‘most likely’ costs detailed in the reports should be treated as indicative figures only, and would be subject to change. The cost of the scheme will depend on which option is chosen but currently seems likely to be between £5.7bn and £7.4bn.

The study will now progress to options selection and detailed design and development, with an accompanying public consultation.

Northern Trans-Pennine Routes

The Northern Trans-Pennine Routes study has explored options for improving east-west connections across the Northern Pennines between Cumbria and North Lancashire and the North East and North Yorkshire. There is currently no continuous dual carriageway road in England above the M62 between Manchester and Leeds.

The two routes considered in the study, the A66 and A69, are both heavily relied on for east-west movements, particularly for freight, but currently suffer from high numbers of collisions and are vulnerable to closure, especially in poor weather.

David Brown, Chief Executive for Transport for the North, said, “The A66 is the only route shown on the original ‘Tea Room’ plan for the creation of British motorways and dual carriageways, drawn up by the post-war government seventy years ago, which has not subsequently been upgraded. The upgrading of this vital east-west link will see the creation of the first new east-west continuous dual carriageway across the Pennines in 45 years, since the M62 was built. Our partners in Tees Valley have also been given the go ahead to explore options for improved east-west links across Teesside, which would help further enhance access to Teesport, one of the North’s busiest ports.”

“I’m pleased that we are also seeing some much needed improvements to the A69 junctions at Hexham and Corbridge, which should be completed by 2020, as well as a commitment to continue considering the case for further improvements to this important strategic route.”

The A66 is the most direct route between the Tees Valley (including Teesport), North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, parts of West Yorkshire , the East Midlands, Eastern England and North Cumbria, much of the central belt of Scotland and Cairnryan (for access to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland). The study found that if this route is not improved its performance will continue to inhibit links between cities and global connectivity.

The study looked at several options for sections of the A66 between the M6 at Penrith and the A1 at Scotch Corner, as well as the A685 between the A66 and the M6 at Tebay. In the Northern Powerhouse Strategy, published on Thursday, the government gave the go-ahead for dualling the A66 between Penrith and Scotch Corner. It also allocated money for exploring options to improve east-west connections in the Teesside area and for a new Tees crossing, which, if given the go ahead, would improve connections from the A66 to Teesport and Middlesbrough.

The A69 is the most direct route between Tyne and Wear, Durham and North Cumbria, Glasgow, much of the central belt of Scotland and Cairnryan (for access to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland). The study found that improving this route would have a positive impact on the economic vitality of local communities and the attractiveness of specific development areas.

The study looked at several options for improving the A69, including junction improvements, dualling the A69 and/or the A689 and building a by-pass around Warwick Bridge. In the Northern Powerhouse Strategy, published on Thursday, the government gave the go-ahead for upgrading two junctions on the A69, creating eighteen miles of dual carriageway between Newcastle and Hexham.

The studies have yet to enter the options selection and detailed design and development phase, and as such the following high-level, ‘most likely’ costs detailed in the reports should be treated as indicative figures only, and would be subject to change. The Northern Trans-Pennine Routes study identified 10 options any number of which could conceivably be taken forward to development, the costs of which currently seem likely to range between £81m and £1.5bn.

The study will now progress to options selection and detailed design and development, with an accompanying public consultation.

Trans-Pennine Tunnel Study

The distance between Manchester and Sheffield, two of the North’s great cities, is under 40 miles but the journey between the two takes 75 minutes in uncongested conditions, and often much longer. Roads between the two city regions are single carriageway and must pass over the Pennines, making them particularly susceptible to bad weather. Poor transport links affect economic development, making it hard for businesses, freight and skills to move between the two city regions.

The Trans-Pennine Tunnel study has explored options for a tunnel under the Peak District National Park, linking Greater Manchester with Sheffield City Region and improving connectivity from Merseyside to Hull and the Humber and from the East Midlands to the North West. Five potential tunnel routes have now been shortlisted, linking the M67 or the M60 in Greater Manchester to the M1 in Sheffield City Region.

David Brown, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, said, “The Trans-Pennine Tunnel Study has found that there are no insurmountable geological barriers to building a tunnel and that a new strategic road link between Manchester and Sheffield would bring economic benefits. However, this would be a very expensive and long-term project. Work is now continuing to fully understand potential user benefits and disadvantages so that an informed decision can be made.”

The studies have yet to enter the options selection and detailed design and development phase, and as such the following high-level, ‘most likely’ costs detailed in the reports should be treated as indicative figures only, and would be subject to change. Costs for a tunnel would depend on the route chosen, but currently seem likely to range between £7.8bn and £11.6bn. Work is now underway to develop a Strategic Outline Business Case, which will include more accurate costs as well as a cost benefit analysis. Transport for the North is also now carrying out a Wider Transport Connectivity Assessment into the impact a tunnel would have on the transport network across the North.

Other Transport Investment in the North

The Secretary of State for Transport today announced six schemes which will get financial backing from the Government to develop a business case, four of which are in the North. These are:

In the Northern Powerhouse Strategy last Wednesday, the Government announced funding to develop a business case for the following Northern schemes: