The future of a major motorway upgrade from Manchester to Yorkshire has been thrown into doubt again.
Last month Highways England chiefs insisted the £283m M62 ‘smart motorway’ project was still on the cards after Rochdale council leader Richard Farnell raised concerns it could scrapped.
But it has been announced 16 major upgrades to some of England’s busiest roads have been put on hold because they are not value for money.
The National Audit Office said the schemes, which were part of an £11.4bn investment announced in 2014, are being ‘reconsidered’ to make sure they are ‘deliverable and affordable’.
Neither the NAO or Highways England have confirmed which projects are at risk.
But Coun Farnell urged highways chiefs to end the uncertainty over the M62 plans.
He said: “The government, Highways England and the bean counters at the Audit Office need to get their act together so this scheme can go ahead.
“It is absolutely vital to the economy that we free up the M62 between Rochdale and Leeds.
“Traffic jams on that stretch of the motorway cost businesses across the north west thousands of pounds every day.
“We cannot wait any longer. Stop all this uncertainty and get on with it now.”
Cash was due to be invested for improvements between junction 20 at Rochdale and junction 25 at Brighouse.
It is part of a wider project to connect Manchester all the way to Leeds via a smart motorway.
Work is already underway on a 17-mile stretch of the M62 and M60 between Sale and Rochdale as part of a £202m project.
Transport bosses announced plans for the further extension, beginning in March 2020, to modernise the remaining sections of the M62, linking Greater Manchester’s M62 upgrade into the already completed Brighouse to Leeds Smart section.
The NAO report stated that by August last year the Department for Transport’s five year road strategy from 2015 to 2020 was forecast to be £841m over budget.
But Jim O’Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, said he was ‘confident’ the work could be completed without overspending.
He added: “We will be publishing our delivery plan update in June, laying out the programme for the current year and again we expect to deliver all of the required work.”
A Highways Agency spokesperson added: “The smart motorway scheme over the Pennines, to tackle congestion and improve journey times, is currently in the early stages of development, and subject to statutory processes, work is planned to start in 2019/20.”