Transport for the North and the Department for Transport have published three reports, partly trailed in last week’s Autumn Statement, seeking to address the issue of how best to unlock economic and housing growth in the region.
David Brown, chief executive of Transport for the North, said: “Improving transport across the North is key to transforming the region’s economy, particularly between east and west. These improvements are a good first step in building the transport links needed to transform the North.”
Manchester M60 North West Quadrant
There are three options on the table for improving journey times in a hideously choked part of the motorway network, stretching from the M56 to the south of Manchester round the M60 to the M62, where average speeds can average just 15 mph at peak hours.
The first, the Northern Corridor Package, involves a new road link between the M58/M6 junction to the west of Wigan and junction 5 of the M61 – traffic would then travel south on the M61 south to junction 2, onto another new link road between the M61 and M62, joining the latter east of M60 junction 18.
The Outer Orbital Corridor Package involves a new outer ring road, linking the M62 west of junction 12, the M61 and M62 east of junction 18. It could be extended to the south, meeting the M56 at its junction with the A556, providing the left half of a new outer orbital motorway for Manchester and providing a new link to Yorkshire from the M6 in Cheshire.
The In-Corridor Package is a series of improvements to the existing M60, including widening roads, junction improvements and through-lanes to separate local and longer-distance traffic.
Work is underway to see how each package stacks up, with the likely cost – obviously dependent on which option is selected – estimated to be between £5.7bn and £7.4bn.
The Northern Trans-Pennine Routes
This report explores options for improving east-west connections between Cumbria and North Lancashire and the North East and North Yorkshire, there currently being no constantly dualled carriageway running east-west north of the M62.
The government has now approved the dualling of the A66 between the M6 at Penrith and Scotch Corner, as well as the A685 between the A6 and the M6 at Tebay
There are several other proposals in contention and this report is yet to reach the options stage, let alone detailed design and development. There are 10 projects on the table, any or all of which could be approved, with total cost being anywhere between £81m and £1.5bn.
The Trans-Pennine Tunnel Study
How to address the notoriously rickety road connections between Manchester and Sheffield, less than 40 miles but often a 75-minute plus journey?
Five potential tunnel routes under the Peak District have now been shortlisted, linking the M67 or M60 to the west of the Pennines to the M1 in Sheffield’s hinterland.
Again, the studies have yet to enter the options selection and detailed design and development stage, but the cost even at this stage is estimated at £7.8bn to £11.6bn. Work is now underway to develop a strategic outline business case.
Brown said: “There are no insurmountable geological barriers to building a tunnel and a new strategic road link would bring economic benefits. However, this would be a very expensive and long-term project.”
Six further schemes were confirmed as being allocated government funding to develop a business case, including dualling the A500 in Cheshire, the Manchester Metrolink Airport Link. The Warrington Waterfront Western Link had its funding confirmed in the Autumn Statement.
TfN is due to become a statutory body in 2017, tasked with devising a strategy for the North.
The reports can be viewed on the DfT website as follows: