Decision on extending M11 motorway to the A180 due next year

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 8 Nov 2018

Ambitions to see the M11 extended to the Humber were described as a “dreamland” idea by the AA as recently as four years ago.

But ministers are now said to be seriously considering the idea of lengthening the truncated motorway, giving motorists a far more direct route to and from London.

Robert Jenrick, the exchequer secretary to the Treasury, has confirmed that the M11 extension – a concept that has been on the drawing board since the 1970s – is one of the major upgrades which will be considered as part of the newly-unveiled £29 billion road infrastructure fund.

At the Budget last week, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced he was green-lighting the “biggest-ever cash injection for England’s largest roads”, with road taxes being ploughed directly into the National Roads Fund in order to pay for improvements.

The Treasury said the additional funding “could pay for motorway improvements and major new roads” – a wide enough scope that puts dreams of having the M11 run all the way up to the region to the realm of possibility.

Speaking to parliamentary correspondent Patrick Daly, Mr Jenrick, a Lincolnshire MP, said the M11 proposals will be reviewed in the coming months as part of the process of allocating money from the National Roads Fund.

Robert Jenrick, exchequer secretary to the Treasury and MP for Newark (Image: Policy Exchange, Twitter)

“The major investments in roads, like the one you are discussing, and which roads fall within that will happen in the first half of next year,” said the junior Tory minister.

“For your campaign in the Humber, the scale of the regional road investment strategy [was] made clear in the Budget.

“We are working very closely with the Department for Transport to consider the options for the roads which will fall into that. These are projects that will be taken forward between 2020 and 2025 and a decision on which roads will fall into that will be made in the middle of next year.”

The M11 currently takes motorists from the A406 in north east London – serving Stansted Airport along the way – to the A14, north-west of Cambridge, in what is a relatively short stretch for a motorway.

Extending the motorway further north has the backing of Grimsby MP Melanie Onn and Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers, as well as the Hull and Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed last year that it was looking at two options for creating better links to the Humber by road.

A department source said one possibility involved extending the M11 by upgrading the A15 to Scunthorpe and A16, a route that would take motorists from Peterborough through to Spalding, Boston, Louth and then into Grimsby.

The other idea involves increasing the capacity on the A46, which would see motorists come off the M1 near Leicester and funnelled through to Newark – Mr Jenrick’s constituency –, Lincoln, Market Rasen and then into Grimsby.

READ MORE: Bid to get M11 motorway extended to the Humber Bridge back on agenda

A DfT source said: “We continue to consider a large number of proposals for the region from MPs, local authorities and others.

“This includes ideas for extending the M11, as well as proposals from Midlands Connect to upgrade and extend the A46 to reach the Humber Bridge.”

The DfT said a decision on whether to carry forth the M11 proposal would be "published in late 2019" as part of its Draft Road Investment Strategy 2.

Grimsby MP Melanie Onn and Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers both back the M11 extension plans

One of the main incentives for a more robust road network in Lincolnshire, as well as making travel quicker to the region, would be to take heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) off the A1 and M1 – two congested arterial roads used by millions of passengers every year to travel up and down the country.

Extending the M11 through the A46 or A16 would mean trucks heading to the Port of Immingham, the largest by tonnage in the country, would be off the main thoroughfare.

Read more: Keeping Britain growing: Port's role in farm support illustrated with huge shipment

Mr Jenrick said the productivity of ports would play a role in deciding which road projects get a share of the £29bn pot.

He said: “We are looking at roads across the country in terms of the benefits they will bring to the regional and national economy, how they could improve productivity and how they can get people between cities and communities – including to ports – as quickly as possible.

“And it would also be about people’s quality of life. We are aware that there are parts of the country, and not just in London and the south east but all parts of the country, where congestion is currently unacceptable and we want to improve that.”

It was Edmund King, president of the AA motoring association, who said in 2014 that the idea of an M11 extension through Lincolnshire would “stay in dreamland” – a comment he said was based on his discussions with the DfT and Highways England.

And, having lobbied for it for years, Lincolnshire County Council had gone off the idea when last approached.

It was first proposed in the 1970s to extend the M11 up to the Humber Bridge and into East Yorkshire

Richard Davies, executive member for highways at the county council, said 12 months ago that, if money was available for major network improvements, the cash should be invested into roads such as the A15 (connecting Peterborough to the M180, near Brigg - which has been mooted as part of an M11 extension) and the A17 (stretching from Kings Lynn to Newark) instead.

But the political will for the M11 to reach the South Bank of the Humber has grown in recent months in Westminster and, at the Labour Party conference, shadow chancellor John McDonnell also confirmed he would look at such a proposal if his party got into power.

Read more: Inside the hi-tech command centre that keeps the Humber moving

Mr McDonnell, the number-two man to leader Jeremy Corbyn, said a Labour government would look to rewrite the green book – the method the Treasury uses for deciding on which projects to spend public money – to ensure national investment was more evenly spread across the regions.

He said, if the Humber region listed the M11 as an improvement it wanted to see as part of a “community prospectus” – a bottom-up process that will feed into Labour’s next manifesto – the leadership would consider allocating funding.

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he would look at the M11 extension if it was in the Humber's 'community prospectus'

“We will look at things that will be genuinely transformative within the local economy and that’s the reason for rewriting the green book,” said Mr McDonnell.

“We’re not just going to base [spending] on existing patterns of behaviour. If you do it on existing patterns of behaviour at the moment then you’ll put all the money into London and the south east because that’s where the greatest number of passengers are, for example.

“What we’re saying is you have to be more creative than that. Actually the investment should be based on the objectives you want to achieve for a region. If you keep on doing it on historical precedent then you’ll never ever break that cycle of decision making in Westminster of putting resources into London and the south east all the time.

“There is a genuine sense of unfairness about the distribution of investment and resources.”

Read more: £6m boost announced to improve roads in North Lincolnshire

Plans to upgrade the M11 seem to have produced the rarest of occurrences – to have the Conservative and Labour front benches singing from the same hymn sheet.

With a decision due next year on whether any M11 extension will be given the go-ahead, the time is approaching for the Humber and Lincolnshire regions to make their case heard.

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