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£1 billion ‘trans-Pennine’ A66 road upgrade confirmed

Trans-Pennine A66 upgrade

Plans for a £1 billion upgrade to the A66 road have been unveiled by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. The road connects the east and the west of the North of England.

Highways England plans to broaden the remaining 18 miles of the A66 that are, at present, single-lane, in line with the rest of the route which is a dual carriageway. An eight-week consultation into options for the completion of the project has now been launched. It will explore how the upgrade should be carried out on varying sections of the road.

Trans-Pennine A66 upgrade

Some sections of the route will benefit from a straightforward ‘dualling’, while others could be freed up by a bypass. Examples of the latter include the five-mile Appleby to Brough section, and the more residential areas of Kirkby Thore and Crackenthorpe.

Overall, the goal is to ease congestion at peak times and improve journey times across the country. Once operational, speed limits across the A66 are likely to be increased.

The road is an industrial lifeline between for the region. It stretches 50 miles between Penrith in Cumbria and Scotch Corner in North Yorkshire. The upgrade, while benefitting local residents, will benefit freight and port routes across the country, better linking the likes of Stanraer to Hull, Felixstowe and beyond.

“Dualling the A66 will not only mean drivers’ journeys are quicker, safer and more reliable across the Pennines, but is part of our pledge to ensure that the business opportunities of the Northern Powerhouse spread out from the great cities of the North of England to every city, town and rural community from the Midlands to the Scottish Lowlands,” said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Upgrading the trans-Pennine route is a part of a much larger plan to upgrade highways in the North of England.

Trans-Pennine A66 upgrade

“We are investing a record £13 billion to improve journeys across the North of England,” the Transport Secretary said.

“The A66 connects businesses, communities and families across the north of England, and this highly anticipated upgrade is great news for the local, and regional economies and will improve the national road network,” commented Highways England chief executive, Jim O’Sullivan.

Military bomb-protection lorries to be used on UK motorways

Highways England crash barriers

Highways England is rolling out massive crash-barrier lorries to protect road workers. The 16-tonne trucks are among a range of innovations being trialled, including solar-powered CCTV cameras and self-driving dump trucks.

The barriers were originally used by the army to shield against roadside bombs. The enormous metal framework absorbs side impacts, while cushions at the rear protect approaching cars. 

The barriers have been brought over from the United States and put to use in the West Midlands.

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Highways England crash barriers

The protection the lorries provide is only one side of the coin. In most roadworks, large areas are coned off around where work is being carried out. The 70-ft-long barriers mean less of the road has to be disrupted to keep workers safe.

In addition, they take fewer man-hours to deploy than cones, signs and lighting: a win-win.

“The mobile barriers, which are being used for the first time in Europe, are an innovative way of looking at how we can increase protection for road workers,” said Martin Bolt, head of innovation projects for Highways England.

“And they’re helping customers, because the faster we can get the work safely done, the better people’s journeys will be.”

Solar-powered CCTV and self-driving trucks

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The big barriers aren’t the only upgrades happening. Four new mobile solar CCTV cameras have also been introduced.

They will be used in multiple locations throughout the West Midlands, including temporary spots like roadworks.

A fleet of autonomous dump trucks is also being trialled on the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon. These earth-movers will be able to operate 24/7, increasing the speed at which work can be completed.

Fewer humans on site means less risk, too. Well worth the £150,000 investment, hopes Highways England.

Free-flowing motorway traffic

Highways England to lift roadworks for Bank Holiday

Free-flowing motorway trafficAs many roadworks on motorways and major roads in England will be lifted this Friday to help Bank Holiday travellers.

By 6am on Friday 22 May, around 400 miles of roadworks will be removed or suspended.

Furthermore, because of planned industrial action on the rail network, they will not be reinstated until 6am, Thursday 28 May.

By lifting 155 sets of roadworks currently operating, 96.9% of the 9.534 miles of major road across England will be free from roadworks.

Director of customer operations at Highways England, Simon Sheldon-Wilson, said: “We will be doing everything possible to manage traffic.

“We’ll have extra traffic offer patrols and recovery vehicles on standby, and we’ll keep customers informed with real-time travel information online and via variable message signs.

“Motorways and major routes are likely to be even busier than usual if the planned industrial action goes ahead,” he added.

“We anticipate that customers may start noticing a difference in traffic during Friday afternoon and evening.”

To help travellers plan ahead, Highways England has also created a list of potential traffic hotspots, and vows to broadcast the latest travel information on its main website.

The government agency did add that, for safety purposes, roadworks will remain at 63 locations – and it’s created a map showing where they’ll be left in place.

Highways Agency

Highways England to replace Highways Agency on 1 April

Highways AgencyThe government has confirmed a new company, Highways England, will take over responsibility for England’s motorways and major A-roads on 1 April. Read more