Progress report on A66 upgrade

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is liaising closely with Highways England around the plans to upgrade the A66 between Penrith and Scotch Corner.

We’re pleased to report that work on the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine Project is due to start early in 2024. It should be complete by 2029-30. That represents significant progress as we had been told previously that construction could take up to 10 years.

Our Business Engagement Manager is attending meetings of a stakeholder group set up by Highways England and we will keep you informed of the plans as we get further information.

CongestionCurrently, two-thirds of the 50 mile route is dual carriageway but there are six sections of single carriageway, which will be upgraded to provide a continuous dual carriageway from M6 Junction 40 to Scotch Corner.

The work also involves various junction improvements and an underpass at Kemplay Bank roundabout, Penrith, to allow traffic on the A66 to avoid the roundabout – a notorious congestion hotspot – altogether.

Creating a continuous dual carriageway should shorten journey times, cut the number of accidents and, when accidents do occur, reduce the likelihood of the road being blocked.

The scheme was announced by the then Chancellor, George Osborne, in 2016 but it is only recently that the Government has confirmed funding and Highways England has shared a provisional timetable.

A consultation on the route was carried out in 2019 and a final consultation will be held this summer ahead of applications for planning consent in 2022. While businesses by and large will welcome the upgrade, many have concerns about the potential for disruption during construction.

We’ve stressed to Highways England the need to keep any disruption to a minimum and they’ve provided the following assurances:

• Access to business premises will be maintained at all times.

• Kemplay Bank roundabout will remain open during the day but there will be some night closures between 8pm and 6am.

• Although lane closures are inevitable, the intention is to keep traffic moving as far as possible. However, there will be up to 10 full road closures, for example where a new bridge is being put in. Some of these could be for a full weekend or even consecutive weekends.

The project is made up of 10 schemes clustered into four packages of work covering: Penrith; the A66 west of Stainmore; around Barnard Castle; and Scotch Corner. Work on up two packages will take place simultaneously with up to nine miles of carriageway affected at any one time.

© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce