Improving A66 and A69 road 'Very tricky and complex' says highways boss
Dualling the A66 and A69 would be “very tricky and complex”, admits the Highways England boss.
Alan Shepherd, the north west regional director at Highways England, made the comments as it was announced that a feasibility study and subsequent work to finance the projects – should they prove feasible – will take at least five years.
He also detailed resurfacing and drainage work on the A66 and A595, which he pledged will be carried out before April 2016.
Mr Shepherd said: “We’re probably looking at at least five years before there would be shovels in the ground, because some of the geography of the routes is pretty challenging.
“In places they go through villages and towns;there would have to be almost certainly a planning enquiry around aspects of that. We’re very sensitive to the requirements and thoughts of our environmental stakeholders, local communities and so on.
“It’s a very tricky and complex piece of work but you’ve got to start somewhere and the intention is we will start now.”
The Department for Transport is commissioning a consulting company, which Highways England will work with, to conduct the feasibility study into dualling the A66 and A69. Mr Shepherd estimated it would take about two years for the study to be completed and then further investment would need to be found.
The feasibility study into dualling the A66 does not include the road between Penrith and Cockermouth, but a spokesman from Highways England said this did not mean improvements would not be made.
“[Dualling] depends on the study,” said Mr Shepherd. “I don’t think we can say at this stage that it will definitely happen. Who’s got a crystal ball? But it would be very unlikely that there aren’t significant upgrades to at least one of the roads that emerged from the work that we’re doing.
“Whether we’re able to get a dual carriageway end to end through the quite tricky terrain, whether that’s practically feasible and economically stacks up, I don’t know. But you could expect to see in time significant improvement in those routes.”
Mr Shepherd made his comments as transport bosses from Highways England, formerly the Highways Agency, met with local authorities and businesses at Rheged on Friday. They met to show how Highways England will spend more than £150m to improve the conditions and capacity of roads in Cumbria over the next five years.
More than £30m has already been earmarked for maintenance projects scheduled to take place before next April. Among these projects are the resurfacing the A66 dual carriageway section outside Appleby; the A66 Stainburn bypass near Workington; the A595 between Blackbeck and Nursery Road; and the A595 between Blackbeck and Calder Bridge, near Sellafield.
Drainage will also be upgraded on the A66 between Lambfoot and Dubwath, east of Cockermouth.