A notoriously congested stretch of the A1(M) is to be ‘widened’ as part of a £1.5 billion package of roads improvements in the East of England, the Government announced today.
The work will tackle the bottleneck around Stevenage by upgrading the stretch between Junction 6 (Welwyn north) to Junction 8 (Hitchin) to a smart motorway, including widening the two-lane section to three lanes by allowing hard shoulder running.
In addition as part of the Autumn Statement on 3 December the Department for Transport (DfT) announced it will carry out an A1 East of England Feasibility Study. This will look into how the safety and performance of the A1 between Peterborough and the M25 can be improved, including the possibility of upgrading the old dual carriageway section to motorway standard.
Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which has lobbied hard for improvements as part of the A1 (M) Consortium, an alliance of local businesses and political representatives, welcomed the news.
Andrew Percival, Consortium representative and board member of Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We are delighted the Government recognises that investing in future improvement to relieve severe and long-standing congestion on the A1(M) is key to the future of Hertfordshire and the region’s economy.
“Unlocking the bottleneck will significantly improve life for commuters and encourage future economic growth in the county.
“The LEP, MPs, businesses and local authorities have pressed hard for increased capacity on this key strategic route and we will continue to monitor progress to improve Hertfordshire’s road network.”
The A1(M) is just one of over 84 new schemes to have secured funding as part of the Department for Transport’s £15 billion Road Investment Strategy over the next six years, with £1.5 billion of that total to be invested in the East of England.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said: “I promised when I was in the east of England that we would address this area’s economic needs for the future.
“Our Long term-economic plan means today we can invest £1.5 billion into the region’s infrastructure to improve, repair and expand our roads.”
Hertfordshire MPs, including Sir Oliver Heald who recently secured an Adjournment Debate on roads in Hertfordshire and the widening of the A1(M), have long campaigned for the road to be widened.
Sir Oliver told the House on 21 November that Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership believes that increased capacity on the A1(M) is the “No. 1 priority for the county’s road network for the next six years”.
And in June, in an open letter to Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin MP, Hertfordshire’s business community in a campaign led by the A1(M) Consortium called upon the Government to address congestion on the A1(M). Signatories included GSK, Elstree Studios, the University of Hertfordshire, Rexel UK and Morrison Utility Services.