Monday, July 08, 2013

Blast from the Past - A595 De-Trunking

A Blast from the Past this morning as viewing stats for this blog suggest that in the past 24 hours a significant proportion of the visitors to the blog have been looking at two old posts put up respectvely four months ago and eight years ago. The more recent of these posts related to the impact on Cumbria of the frozen weather which much of the UK experienced in March this year. Some parts of the county had perfectly normal weather while others were covered in snowdrifts which could be well over six feet high.

The other post which seems to have caught attention relates to the plan put forward by the then Labour goverment, only a proposal back in February 2005 but which sadly was later approved, to "De Trunk" the A595 South of Calderbridge and A5092 to Greenodd.

As I quoted in that post, the public inquiry inspector noted at the pre-meeting that it is very unusual for a road to have trunk status removed without a new or upgraded road replacing it. He asked the Highways Agency (the government organisation which was proposing the change) to produce evidence of how this fitted in with national and local policies, and invited protestors to give a view if we thought it didn't.

Subsequently I was one of dozens of people who gave evidence at the public inquiry against the proposed de-trunking. Opposition to the plan united Cumbria County Council, Copeland Borough Council, all the parish and town councils in the affected area, Conservatives, Labour supporters and members of other parties.

The nearest the Highways Agency expert witness could come to suggesting that the proposal was compatible with published national and local transport policies was to argue that traffic betweeen  Barrow and Whitehaven or Workington (a journey which those policies said needed better transport links) should drive East from Barrow to the M6 at Junction 36, up the M6 to Junction 40 at Penrith, and West along the A66 to Whitehaven or Workington.

There were gasps at the public inquiry when he suggested this. Effectively he was arguing that the government could refuse to maintain and improve the direct route from Barrow to West Cumbria to the standard implied by the current road hierarchy because instead of taking the direct route - some 53 miles North by North West - people could drive 33 miles East to the M6 motorway, 34 miles North up the M6, and then 43 miles West - more than doubling the journey between Barrow and Whitehaven to 110 miles.  

I personally thought the arguments put forward by all the bodies and groups which opposed the proposals to be overwhelming, but the Labour government went ahead and downgraded the road anyway.


Anonymous said...

It was an independent Inspector that made the Decision not the Labour Party.

Chris Whiteside said...

An independent inspector chaired the public inquiry, heard evidence, and made a recommendation. But the final decision was the responsibility of the Secretary of State who had the power to approve or reverse that recommendation.