Alistair Darling, the UK Secretary of State for Transport, has announced a £5.5 billion package aimed at solving Britain’s transport problems.
According to a statement from the Department of Transport, the money will go toward significant improvements to the M1, M4, M5, and the M6, as well as new project to protect the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge alongside the A303 in Wiltshire.
Nineteen major new local transport schemes – including light rail services, new public transport interchanges, dedicated bus corridors, town centre accessibility improvements, and local road improvements – have also been given the go-ahead, subject to necessary statutory procedures.
‘We are committed to putting right decades of under-investment,’ said Darling. ‘Nationally, by improving the strategic road network – widening parts of the M6 and M1 – and accelerating the work on the West Coast Main Line, we are transforming major transport corridors in the country to bring real benefits for decades to come.’
Alistair Darling’s announcement signals the go-ahead to projects that include widening the M6 between Manchester and Birmingham from three to four lanes, between junctions 19 and 11a, and widening the M1 in the East Midlands generally to 4 lanes between junctions 21 and 30.
Darling also gave confirmation of funding approval for extensions to Metrolink, the tram system in Manchester; and approval in principle, subject to statutory procedures, of plans to develop Merseytram, a major new light rail line in Liverpool.
Commenting on Alistair Darling’s announcement of motorway and trunk-road widening, Friends of the Earth’s Transport Campaigner Tony Bosworth said: ‘The Government has ditched its promise to cut UK traffic levels and run up the white flag to the roads lobby. Attempting to tarmac our way out of our congestion problems has failed in the past and will fail again in the future. When the most congested parts of the M25 were widened a few years ago, many sections filled up again within a few years.
‘These roads will also damage some of the UK’s finest countryside. The A303 will plough through the west Wiltshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and still poses a major threat to the Blackdown Hills.
‘We welcome the support that local authorities have been given to improve public transport, but it’s insignificant in comparison to the scale of road-building,’ concluded Bosworth.