Studies for Trans-Pennine tunnel and Oxford-Cambridge link lead road vision.

Five year investment strategy includes cash for “bold thinking” to solve some of the nation’s major transport problems. 

Proposals for a multi-billion pound tunnelled link beneath the Pennines to link Manchester with Sheffield are to be assessed by a new strategic study funded over the next five year road spending period.

The work is part of a package of forward thinking strategic studies proposed by the Department for Transport in its first ever Roads Investment Strategy which it says will create a pipeline to deliver vital projects across the nation. 

“This is undeniably a long term process; the transformation we are striving for cannot be achieved overnight, but will require time foresight and forward planning”.

In its first ever five year plan for developing the nation’s highways network, the DfT has set out what it describes as a “deliberately ambitious” and demanding vision for the evolving Highways Agency to deliver in its first five year ”Road Period”.

“This is undeniably a long term process; the transformation we are striving for cannot be achieved overnight, but will require time foresight and forward planning,” says the Strategy.

“In that vein consideration of the second Road Period and beyond has begun and will ramp up over the coming years so that the next RIS will continue this transformation.”

Strategic studies for potential projects across the nation are included in the plan, 

These range from a new Expressway to link Cambridge to Oxford via Milton Keynes, an orbital route for Manchester, M25 South West Quadrant improvement, upgrade of the A1 south of Peterborough and decision on whether upgrade the A69 or A66 in the Pennines. 

“This can only be answered by bold thinking”. DfT referring to the missing link between Manchester and Sheffield.

However, investigations into at potential Trans-Pennine tunnel are clearly the most ambitious and eye-catching.

The DfT points out that its previous studies had already identified that filling the missing Manchester to Sheffield link was vital part of creating the much needed connectivity that will be at the heart of the so-called Northern economic powerhouse.

While just 35 miles separate the two cities, the DfT points out that the most direct M62 route is 65 miles – over twice as far.

“This can only be answered by bold thinking,” says the DfT plan. “We are commissioning experts to assess whether there is a tunnelling option which can bring these two cities together while still enhancing the tranquillity of the Peak District.”

Other funded strategic studies into future schemes include:

Upgrade of A69 and A66

Road capacity in Cumbria remains good but strategic connection are heavily biased to North-South movements. We intend to start a strategic study to examine the case for dualling the A69 and A66 to further Trans-Pennine capacity and improve connection between the East and West in the North of England.”

Manchester Orbital

“Development in Manchester will put more pressure on the surrounding roads. Planning is needed now to make sure the Manchester Orbital is ready to support the national and local economies. This work needs to consider the full range of modal options and the new combined Manchester authorities need to play a key part.”

Oxford to Cambridge Expressway

“A study will investigate the case for linking up existing roads and creating an Oxford to Cambridge Expressway which would create a high-quality link between ‘’’’oxford and Cambridge via Bedford and Milton Keynes.”

M25 South West Quadrant improvement 

“The M25 South-West quadrant is the busiest part of the network. We are commissioning a study to plan for its future, supporting local people, strategic travellers and those using Heathrow. It will need to look at all the options including different modes and extra capacity to make sure the route is resilient for the generation to come.”

Upgrade of the A1 south of Peterborough

The A1 is one of the most famous and least consistent roads in England. In addition to upgrading the stretch in Yorkshire to motorway a new study on the A1 in the East of England will investigate upgrading the raod south of Peterborough possibly to full motorway standard.

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