Trans-Pennine road study launched

Trans-Pennine road study launched

Highways England has launched a £300,000 study looking at major improvements to road links between the M65 in East Lancashire and parts of Yorkshire.

The study – due to start in April – will consider what enhancements could be made to road connections between the end of the M65 at Colne and communities such as Skipton in North Yorkshire and Keighley and Bradford in West Yorkshire.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are investing more than £13 billion to improve transport across the North so people can get around more easily, quickly and safely.

“This study is part of our ongoing work to ensure the routes between Lancashire and Yorkshire are fit for the future – helping link communities better and boosting the economy to supercharge the Northern Powerhouse.”

Beyond the M65, there is currently no consistent strategic route for trans-Pennine traffic, with the limited alternative routes suffering from congestion and drivers facing poor journey times given the large distances involved. The M65 route between Preston and Leeds is five miles shorter than journeys via the M62 but takes 40 minutes longer.

The corridor is home to many manufacturing industries which could benefit from improved roads. Investment could help boost economic growth not only in East Lancashire, and West and North Yorkshire, but also beyond, across the whole of the North of England. Investment to upgrade this corridor could also help to relieve congestion on the M6 and M60 in the longer term as well as providing greater network resilience.

Highways England Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “This study will look at the issues currently facing road users in the trans-Pennine corridor, the extent to which the lack of strategic connection hinders growth, and options for improving those journeys and boosting economic growth. It will also look at how improvements could be used to support other trans-Pennine routes such as the M62.

“This initial strategic assessment will be followed by analysis of potential options – and will consider the difficult terrain, environmental impacts, economic growth, the role of other modes in the corridor and concerns and aspirations of key road user groups."

Reacting to the announcement, Malcolm Bingham, Head of Policy for the North of England at FTA commented: “As the business group representing the UK’s logistics sector, FTA has long called for improvements to road links between Lancashire and Yorkshire; poor road connectivity has left many businesses unable to access vital markets and has hampered economic growth locally. 

“FTA is pleased the government is launching this £300,000 study into road link improvements, which forms part of wider £13 billion project to improve transport across the North: a desperately-needed investment that will greatly boost the economic prospects of Northern England. 

“The logistics industry is a lifeblood of the UK economy and needs an efficient and effective road network to continue stocking Britain’s factories, retail outlets, schools, hospitals and homes with the raw materials and goods they need to continue operating efficiently. While this study is a great milestone, a nationwide road upgrade is desperately needed to empower businesses to trade without friction.”

Highways England hopes to publish its findings by the end of the autumn, delivering a Strategic Outline Business Case for ministers to consider if there is a case for future investment.