Future improvements to relieve severe and long-standing congestion on the A1(M) is key to the future of Hertfordshire’s economy, North East Hertfordshire MP Sir Oliver Heald told the House of Commons.
Oliver Heald MP, speaking on behalf of businesses, residents and commuters, said the “bottleneck” between Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage was “affecting several constituencies and our national infrastructure”.
Sir Oliver, Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps, Hitchin and Harpenden MP Peter Lilley and Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, are also due to press the case for widening the A1(M) with the Minister of State for Transport John Hayes ahead of the Autumn Statement.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Robert Goodwill acknowledged its strategic national and local importance but would not be drawn on future investment priorities ahead of the Chancellor’s announcement on 3 December. He also confirmed that the A1(M) is one of the schemes under consideration for the Highways Agency’s London to Leeds Route Based Strategy – expected to be published in March.
Sir Oliver raised the issue in an Adjournment Debate on roads in Hertfordshire and the widening of the A1(M) on Friday 21 November.
He told the House that Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which has lobbied hard for improvements as part of the A1 (M) Consortium, believes that increased capacity on the A1(M) is the “No. 1 priority for the county’s road network for the next six years”.
He said: “Hertfordshire LEP makes it clear that congestion is a key issue for businesses and residents and addressing the issue will be instrumental in accommodating further growth in the county.”
LEP Infrastructure and Growth Manager Joan Hancox said: “It’s great that Oliver Heald MP brought the plight of thousands of commuters to the Government’s attention in his call for road investment in Hertfordshire, particularly calling for investment in the A1(M) between Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth. The Government will be making key decisions on road funding in the next four months and it’s crucial for MPs, businesses, the LEP and local authorities to continue to press for these improvements.”
The Under-Secretary of State for Transport said Hertfordshire’s LEP’s success in securing a £200m Growth Deal “reflects the importance of the A1(M) for local growth ambitions”.
He also applauded the work of the A1(M) Consortium, which includes representatives from local authorities, the LEP and businesses, as a “good example of a constructive approach to stimulating debate and developing consensus on the way forward for Hertfordshire”.
Robert Goodwill MP added that work was due to start in December to upgrade Junction 6 through the Highways Agency’s Pinch Point Programme. The £2.2 million package of works which has been delayed since the summer, includes providing a lane drop and altering the northbound sliproad layout to reduce queueing.