M6 link road case ‘strengthened’ by ports vibrancy report, MP says

The Port of Heysham.
The Port of Heysham.

Problems faced by hauliers travelling to Heysham Port have been raised in a national report as work begins on the controversial M6 link road.

A group of cross-party MPs have been taking evidence on what more can be done to boost the performance of the country’s sea terminals and concluded “road bottlenecks” were hindering access to them - stifling economic growth.

Heysham, Hull, Liverpool and Felixstowe were named as ports which face such issues in a report by the House of Commons Transport Committee, which said it was the Government’s responsibility to “contribute to significant improvements to strategic networks”.

“Transport links - especially roads and rail - are crucial to the economic prosperity of our major ports,” said committee chairman Louise Ellman.

“Local bottlenecks remain a key concern to many ports.

“Ministers must challenge decisions by local bodies where they fail to prioritise improvements in port access over other, less strategically important, schemes.”

The findings are likely to bolster the case for the already-under-construction M6 link road, which, despite a legal challenge from opponents, is set to connect Heysham to Junction 34 of the motorway by September 2015.

In Heysham’s case, the Government has contributed, with the Department of Transport stumping up £111m and Lancashire County Council funding the rest of the £124m programme.

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw said: “This report explains precisely why we need the M6-Heysham link road.

“We need to make it easier to access the port and, if we do, we will see more jobs come to our area. The road will also have the added benefit of diverting a little of the traffic away from Lancaster itself.”

The scheme will include new slip roads, a new bridge over the River Lune and a 600-space park-and-ride site.

Lancashire County Council said the route would reduce congestion in Lancaster, improve access and open up areas for regeneration.

But Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe (TSLM) has fought a long-running campaign against the 4.8km dual carriageway with a string of unsuccessful legal challenges in the courts.

Opponents claim the road will not ease congestion, saddle taxpayers with a £12m debt and destroy green belt land.

However, a judge rejected their appeal, ruling there is “no arguable case that the decision to grant development consent was unlawful.”

Their final appeal is due to be heard at the Appeal Court today, Thursday.

Mr Ollerenshaw added: “There is a final hearing due and I hope that will find firmly and decisively in favour of the road.

“If the right decision is made we should then see work commence in earnest on the construction of the project in January.”