Plan to upgrade road from Devon to London could be derailed
A PLYMOUTH MP has warned upgrading the A303 highway linking the far South West to London could be derailed if plans are not signed-off well before the general election.
Ministers have revealed a feasibility study looking into improving the A303-A30-A358 highway will be finished by spring 2015, much later than many pushing for improvements to single carriageways had hoped.
The timing of the report, which will determine the scale and cost of improvements on an often snarled-up stretch of road, could clash with the May election that year.
Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, questioned whether a Labour government, if it won, would fund such a massive project outside its heartlands.
NEW FROM SYMPLY - a wet dog food in a tray freshly steamed with real meat and veg you can see minimum of 68% meat content up to 72% in the adult trays.
Terms: Come and try tray at introductory price of £1
Contact: 01271 440626
Valid until: Friday, January 31 2014
In a written parliamentary answer, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said he expected six feasibility studies to "tackle some of the most notorious and long-standing road hot spots in the country", including the A303-A30-A358, to have "reached conclusions by spring 2015".
Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, who tabled the question, said: "The Government has for many years said this is very important. But nothing ever seems to get done about it. We need to make sure ministers carry this through.
"We have lost our (Plymouth) airport. And while we have some improved train links, we need to ensure we get better connectivity to the South East. I would want to see this before 2015.
"I think if there is a change of Government I don't think you will get this investment in the peninsula. The coalition Government, led by the Conservatives, has delivered significant investment for the South West."
The South West is dominated by Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs, who point to a state-funded £50 annual cut to South West Water Water bills as evidence of delivering for the region – though Labour argues it instigated the hand-out when in power.
Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, said the prospect of upgrading what is known as the old London road is "further away than ever".
He said last night: "We've had feasibility studies before. What Westcountry business wants is a firm commitment to actual funding and a timetable.
"Given this Government has slashed investment in infrastructure, in spite of repeated calls by Labour and the International Monetary Fund to invest more, this scheme is further away than ever."
The A303 is a bane for tourists and businesses alike, including those travelling to and from Plymouth. Holidaymakers often opt for the M4 and M5 journey, but any closures there put even greater pressure back on the alternative.
A campaign led by Somerset, Devon and Wiltshire county councils claims effectively creating a dual carriageway from the M5 in Devon to the M3 in Hampshire would create more than 21,000 new jobs.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We are committed to tackling some of the most notorious and long-standing road hot spots in the country and that includes the A303 corridor. The Government recognises the importance of the A303 and that is why a detailed study has been agreed to look into the challenges and improvements that can be made.
"The Department will now work closely with local authorities and partners to decide the next steps in helping to improve the A303 for motorists and local businesses, with the scope of the study defined by the end of 2013."