As a long-term campaigner for improvements to the congested A303 working with the A303 Improvement Campaign*, Bob was delighted by the clear reference in Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech to the CBI Annual Conference today to far reaching road improvements that will include an A303 upgrade in next month’s Autumn Statement.
Whilst announcing the UK’s first ever long-term Roads Investment Strategy, the Prime Minister said that ‘the green light’ will be given ‘to major projects that have been stalled for years’, adding that action would also be taken ‘to improve some of the most important arteries in our country – like the A303 and the A1 – which for too long have held parts of our country back.’**
The A303, which passes through the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and crosses the northernmost tip of Bob’s North Dorset constituency, is the main artery to the South West, connecting the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset to London and the South East. Although dualled over much of its length, key sections of the A303 corridor remain single carriageway, causing terrible congestion, particularly over the summer holiday period.
The towns of Shaftesbury and Gillingham in North Dorset are located on the Exeter to London strategic transport corridor and Bob believes improvements to the A303 are essential to support local business and future growth in the area. An upgrade will also markedly improve the resilience of the South West as a whole in coping with major traffic incidents and flooding.
In 2012 an independent economic study commissioned by Parsons Brinckerhoff*** stated that an A303/A30/A358 improvement scheme could generate 21,400 jobs, boost the economy by £41.6 billion, reduce fatalities and serious casualties on the route and cut carbon emissions.
Bob Walter MP said:
“Today’s words will be welcomed by long-suffering residents and businesses in North Dorset, and all across the South West dependent on the A303. They represent a huge step forward on a journey filled with stumbling blocks, the most notable of which has been how to solve the problem of Stonehenge.
“Consistent lobbying by the region’s MPs, the creation of the A303 Improvement Campaign - whose sterling work over the last two years has produced a persuasive business case for dualling - and a Government committed to this country’s long term economic stability have got us where we are today. I’d like to thank all those who’ve worked so hard to put the A303 back on top of the agenda.
“The next challenge is to develop an equally persuasive economic case for major improvements to Dorset’s north-south transport corridor – the A350/C13 – which links to the A303, an issue I’ve raised with A303 Improvement Campaign representatives, Wiltshire County Councillors and the Dorset LEP.”
*The A303 Improvement Campaign is led and funded by Devon and Somerset County Councils, Wiltshire Council and Heart of the SW LEP. It's supported by Devon & Cornwall Police, Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, South Western Ambulance Trust, Eden Project, Agusta Westland, RAC Foundation, SW Chambers of Commerce, Fleet Air Arm Museum, Cornwall Council, Plymouth Council, Torbay Council, CBI, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LEP, Devon and Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, Dorset County Council, Dorset LEP and West of England LEP. These stakeholders, supported by local MPs like Bob Walter, have been working together to produce an initial analysis and business case for future improvements to the A303 corridor, to demonstrate the importance of investment to the wider region and the UK as a whole.
** Cited from Government Press release - CBI Annual Conference 2014: Prime Minister’s address: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cbi-annual-conference-2014-prime-ministers-address
*** ‘A303 A358 A30: Corridor Improvement Programme - Economic Impact’. Prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff (October 2012) for Somerset County Council - http://www.southsomerset.gov.uk/media/455618/background_papers_to_motion_economicimpactstudy_draftv1_9i1__1_.pdf