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£150m proposal to improve East Lancashire's transport links and widen M65
WIDENING the M65 to three lanes throughout, from the M61 at Clayton Brook to Blackburn, was promised yesterday as part of an ambitious strategy to improve transport links into East Lancashire.
The proposals, involving spending an initial £150million over ten years, could also see the construction of a new Whinney Hill Link Road, in Hyndburn, by 2021, and upgrading of the M65/A59 gateway between the Ribble Valley and the rest of the county.
A key project, which Lancashire County Council hopes to see completed by 2021, is the long-awaited £40million A56 Colne to Foulridge by-pass, with a new junction off the M65 between Barrowford’s Junction 13 and Junction 14 for Colne.
It would link the motorway from Preston, Blackburn and Darwen to the transpennine A59 to Yorkshire, over Blubberhouses, via the A56 to Skipton.
This would be supported by a motor-way junction, and other highway improvements, in Burnley and Pendle boroughs to improve access to new development sites.
In the longer term, the East Lancashire Transport Master-plan would pave the way for a massive upgrade of the ‘nightmare’ East Lancashire line, from Preston to Colne, including dualling the track from Burnley eastwards, preparing it for future electrification.
The draft plan, which goes out to consultation next week, would also see the Whinney Hill Link Road scheduled for completion in 2021, providing improved links to the Huncoat area of Hyndburn from the M65 at Junction 8.
It also seeks better provision for cycling throughout East Lancashire, and rail and bus improvements from Rossendale into Manchester.
It is the second of five Highways and Transport Masterplans to make the case for multi-million pound investments in road and rail, supporting new businesses and homes, while avoiding car gridlock.
It builds on the confirmation earlier this month of £40million for the Pennine Reach rapid transit system to improve bus links between Hyndburn and Blackburn with Darwen, and the announcement by Transport for Lancashire of three major investments in East Lancashire:
The £20million scheme to introduce half-hourly trains between Clitheroe, Blackburn, Darwen and Manchester by doubling parts of the track between Bolton and Blackburn
- The £3million repair scheme to the Centenary Way viaduct in Burnley
- The £3million scheme to cut congestion on the Haslingden Road corridor in Blackburn.
- The new masterplan will focus on improving the two main motor- way gateways to East Lancashire - the M66 and M65 - and on improving the A671/A6068 route between Whalley and junction 8 of the M65.
County council transport manager Hazel Straw said: “We have already won major transport improvements and our first master- plan for Central Lancashire saw £150million of key schemes brought forward as part of the Preston City Deal.
“This is about getting all the preparatory work done and the evidence in place, so that when we bid for projects in East Lancashire, which is our next priority, we are placed to get the go-ahead and funding.
“A key priority is improving the highways in the Cuerden/ Whitebirk/Samlesbury growth area which involves the potential widening of the length of the M65 between the M61 and Blackburn to three lanes throughout, and major improvements to the roads around the Ribble Valley into the rest of the county to cope with large proposed housing developments, as well as the Lancashire Enterprise Park, at Samlesbury.
“In the longer term, we want to secure money to upgrade the East Lancashire line from Preston to Colne, which is a nightmare with some of the most outdated rolling stock in the country.
“We want to have a plan ready for the next five-year round of network rail funding in 2019, so we can improve the service, get a direct link to Manchester Airport, and be ready for any future electrification plans.
“We are initially looking at £150million of investment by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, local councils, and the Department of Tran-sport but, in the longer term, working with the Highways Agency and Network Rail it could be far larger sums.”
County council cabinet member for transport John Fillis said: “This East Lancashire masterplan outlines the big picture for transport, and is about gathering the robust evidence needed to demonstrate the case for new and improved infrastructure.
“It aims to present the big issues we face to ensure people and goods can move efficiently on East Lancashire’s transport network.”
A six-week consultation on the preliminary strategy will start on October 23 to establish consensus among district councils, transport providers, and local people, on the county’s priorities for the future.
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