‘Unacceptable' delay to Sheffield-Manchester road link upgrade
A major upgrade to the trans-Pennine road link between Sheffield and Manchester has been delayed by more than 18 months, with an MP branding the hold-up ‘totally unacceptable’.
Work to create new link roads at the Manchester end of the A628 Woodhead Pass, easing congestion in the area, was scheduled to begin in March next year.
But Highways England says construction of the new roads, which is part of a wider project to ease congestion and speed up journeys between the two cities, will now not commence until winter 2021/22.
Work on safety measures and new technology including electronic message signs along the Woodhead Pass, and on improvements to the Westwood roundabout at Tankersley, is still due to get underway early next year.
Announcing the delay this week, Highways England said: “The gathering and analysis of the air quality monitoring data has had an impact on the timescales for the delivery of the link roads, meaning that our initial start of construction date of March 2020 will be rescheduled to winter 2021-22.
“We're committed to communicating with the local community and other interested parties ahead of submitting our application for permission to build the scheme.”
It added that it was taking into account all comments it receives as it refines the plans and considers how best to minimise any environmental harm.
Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield South East, called the delay ‘totally unacceptable’, adding: “This is the Department for Transport once again treating northern cities as second class citizens. This is down to incompetence, and the people of Sheffield and Manchester are suffering because of it.”
Highways England announced its preferred route in November 2017, following public consultation, but has yet to submit a planning application for the new link roads, west of where the A57 Snake Pass meets the Woodhead Pass.
It plans to create a new dual carriageway from the M67 junction 4 roundabout to a new junction on the A57(T) at Mottram Moor, a new single carriageway connecting to the A6018 Roe Cross Road and a new single carriageway linking the the A57(T) at Mottram Moor to a new junction on the A57 at Woolley Bridge.
Its initial proposals also included creating ‘climbing lanes' on the steepest sections of the Woodhead Pass, enabling other traffic to pass slower moving vehicles, and turning the A61 into a dual carriageway.
Neither of those options made the final cut, but Highways England said it would look at the latter in more detail.
Planned safety measures include the introduction of new speed limits, enforcement cameras, electronic message signs.
Highways England says the changes are needed because the steep and winding route is often closed in bad weather and has higher than average accident rates.
It claims the measures will reduce congestion, make the roads safer and provide drivers with real-time information to help them make decisions about their journey.
There are separate proposals for a trans-Pennine tunnel linking Sheffield and Manchester, which were included in Transport for the North's £70 billion master plan to better connect the region, unveiled earlier this year.