At a meeting with stakeholders and suppliers in Yeovil, Highways England set out plans for a series of major south west regional road improvements.
The cost will be around £2bn – making it easily the biggest investment in the region’s road network in decades.
Its part of the government’s new roads strategy, announced last year, intended to triple the amount spent on English roads by 2020.
Highways England confirmed development of a key scheme on the London to Honiton A303 route where it passes Stonehenge between Amesbury and Berwick Down.
A long-mooted tunnel is to be built here, to improve the setting of the World Heritage Site, reduce environmental impact, and also provide better journey time reliability for users of this frequently congested section of road.
Somerset residents and long distance drivers alike are to benefit from another much delayed project – dualling of the busy A358 road, linking the M5 at Taunton with the A303 near Ilminster.
The relatively short but often congested 3 mile single carriageway A303 Sparkford to Ilchester section is also to be dualled, bringing it to the same standard as the long established dual carriageways either side of this section.
Further north, improvements to Junction 23 of the M5 at Bridgwater are promised, to support proposals for development of up to 5,000 new houses nearby, and the creation of over 4,000 new jobs in the area.
Changes here will also improve access for construction vehicles for the planned new power station at Hinckley Point. Meanwhile, a new junction on the M49 – one of England’s shortest motorways – is designed to unlock potential for an estimated 8,000 future jobs in the Severnside and Avonmouth area.
Elsewhere in the region, the long anticipated A30 high speed route from Exeter through Devon and Cornwall to Penzance will move towards completion after many years of delay. Plans were announced for dual carriageway from Carland Cross, north of Truro, to the existing Redruth bypass 8 miles south west. Major house building and new business developments are planned in this region in coming years.
In Gloucestershire, studies are to begin into what Roads Minister Andrew Jones described as “the benefits of connecting the two existing dual carriageway sections of the A417, between Gloucester and Cirencester near Birdlip.
” This ‘missing link’ includes an area notorious for serious congestion, named locally after the Air Balloon pub at the A417/A436 junction. A range of possible options are expected during 2020.
Andrew Jones described the moves announced for the region this week as the biggest investment in its roads in a generation, which will significantly improve journeys, and help create jobs.
He said the tunnel and improvements near Stonehenge, with dualling of the A303 between Sparkford and Ilchester and the A358 between M5 at Taunton and the A303 near Ilminster were the first steps in government aspirations to provide an expressway between the M3 and the South West.
A further £90 million will be invested by Highways England in the south west region by the end of 2016. The bulk of this will be spent on maintenance schemes, road resurfacing, environmental improvements and the repair and renewal of safety barriers, as well as structures such as bridges and viaducts.
Dave Moss has a lifetime connection with the world of motoring. His father was a time-served skilled engineer from an age when car repairs really meant repairs: he ran his own garage from the 1930’s to the 60’s, while Mum was the boss’s secretary at a big Austin distributor. Both worked their entire lives in the motor trade, so if motor oil’s not in Dave’s blood, its surely a very close thing.
Though qualified in Electronics, for Dave it seemed a natural step into restoring a succession of classic cars, culminating in a variety of Minis. Writing and broadcasting about these, and a widening range of motoring matters ancient and modern, gathered pace in the 1970’s and has taken over since. Topics nowadays range across the modern motoring mainstream to the offbeat and more arcane aspects of motoring history, and outlets embrace books, websites national and international magazines, newspapers, radio programmes, phone-ins and guest appearances. Spare time: hard graft on the garage floor attending to vehicles old and new. Latest projects: that 1968 Mini Cooper S has finally moved again after 30 years, and when the paint is finished, the 1960 Morris Mini 850 will also soon be ready for the road again…