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Government reports threaten Heysham Link road funding?

John Freeman
Plans to build the controversial Heysham M6 Link Road face yet another major hurdle following the publication of Government reports.

Research for the Highways Agency casts major doubt on the value for money of road building, and the findings coincide with warnings from the Department for Transport that regional authorities should expect substantial cuts in their transport funding.

Local transport campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe have studied the findings and they say that the reports are directly relevant to the Link and that the findings undermine the case for building the multi million pound road.

They have written to Lord Andrew Adonis, Secretary of State for Transport, the Government and other interested parties to tell them that the road is no longer a value for money scheme.

The reports, unearthed by the Campaign for Better Transport (PDF link), found that overall traffic levels rose significantly as a direct result of opening each new road. Economic forecasts did not reflect the actual impact on local business, and any benefits were generally lower than predicted.

In addition, CO2 emissions were higher than predicted, as were noise levels and air quality was worse than forecast. Two thirds of the roads studied simply moved the traffic congestion elsewhere.

"Lancashire County Council have a lot of explaining to do about their damaging and destructive Link road plans if they are to get the £140 million of public money needed for the Northern route," said David Gate, chair of TSLM. "Times have moved on, but it’s not just their dated idea of building an HGV route through our Green Belt, it’s the fact that they are not tackling the in-town congestion that makes the road plan such poor value for money."

Despite spending cutbacks across the board, the multi-million pound lorry generating Link remains the number one transport priority at County Hall in Preston. The Heysham M6 Link road would destroy 173 acres of the North Lancashire Green Belt, cut across residential districts, and generate an estimated extra 23,500 tonnes of CO2 per year. Alternative, less expensive plans for an integrated transport strategy for Lancaster and Morecambe have been prepared by transport consultants, but they are not being progressed or funded.

"In these difficult times, how can the Government justify spending £140 million of taxpayers’ money, when the Government’s own research shows that road projects like the Link do not solve people’s transport problems. We would like to see less money more effectively spent on an integrated transport plan for the district instead, and we have written to the Government to tell them so," said Mr Gate.

• For more about the Bypass and the alternatives visit: