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20-year A46 improvement plan unveiled to deliver potential £7.1bn boost to economy

An urgent, co-ordinated and first time “corridor approach” to improve traffic flows to one of the country’s most important trade routes could deliver a potential £7.1bn boost to the UK economy, a new report has claimed.

The calls which are being led by Midlands Connect are part of the first ever improvement plan for the entire A46 corridor, with a 20-year vision to future-proof the route.

Work is needed to improve the 155-mile stretch from Gloucestershire to Lincolnshire, according to the sub-national transport body, and vital improvements could drastically cut journey times for drivers, the report says.

Rush hour average speeds which are said to regularly fall below 20mph are stifling workers and companies which consistently use the A46 with Midlands Connect targeting coordinated investment at key congestion hotspots - including Evesham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Coventry, Leicester, Newark and Lincoln.

Research undertaken identifies that 97% of businesses surveyed along the route say a more reliable A46 would boost productivity, while two thirds (65%) say new create new jobs will be created if the road is improved and one in five (19%) have considered relocating due to current conditions on the A46.

The need for change is strong with the A46 corridor home to 5.5 million people and 2.9 million jobs, with an economic output of £115 billion a year, equivalent to 9% of the English economy. Furthermore, 22% of goods produced along the corridor are exported, well above the UK average of 15%, with the route responsible for more than half of the Midlands’ exports.

Improvement priorities published include:

Gloucestershire & Worcestershire

  • Possible interventions and options for new bypasses in Ashchurch, Beckford and Evesham to provide a high-quality dual carriageway standard between the M5 and M40

Coventry & Warwickshire

  • Alcester to Warwick Expressway
  • Possible interventions around Stratford-upon-Avon

Leicestershire

  • Potential for a Leicester Eastern/Southern Bypass, including a link from M69 J2 and a new M1 J20A
  • Upgrading Leicester Western Bypass
  • Improving Hobbyhorse Interchange at Syston

Newark

  • Support acceleration of Newark Bypass proposal
  • Overcome congestion hotspots to lock in benefits of previous upgrades

Lincolnshire

  • Potential for southern Lincoln bypass, connecting to the under construction eastern bypass
  • Targeted improvements on the A15 north of Lincoln.

Forecasts suggest that corridor-wide improvement of the A46 could bring economic benefits of £7.1bn over the next 60 years through quicker journeys and improved productivity.

The Office of National Statistics forecasts an increase of 600,000 new residents and 250,000 new homes within the corridor by 2041. With 150,000 new jobs on the line too, Midlands Connect says only a comprehensive, holistic solution to improving the A46 can support this growth.

Maria Machancoses, director of Midlands Connect, said: “Using today’s approach to funding, it could be 40 years before the A46 receives the investment it needs to match the growth in jobs and housing expected along the corridor. We must do things differently and accelerate a long-term investment plan to make sure economic growth isn’t held back. Delivering our vision will not only make our businesses more prosperous, it will improve the quality of life of millions of people living and working along the corridor. Doing nothing will hold back this progress.”

The second stage of Midlands Connect’s A46 corridor study will further develop proposed improvements and is due for release in 2019.