Midlands Connect has released the first ever improvement plan for the entire A46 corridor, with a 20-year vision to future-proof the route and boost the national economy.
Stage One of the A46 Corridor Study identified Coventry as one of the key congestion hotspots where rush hour average speeds regularly fall below 20mph. The study finds that improvements could support the growth of the advanced manufacturing and automotive industries around Coventry, and improve access to nearby cities like Leicester.
The A46 corridor stretches for 155 miles from Gloucestershire to Lincolnshire, is home to 5.5 million people and 2.9 million jobs, with an economic output of £115 billion a year, equivalent to 9% of the English economy.
As well as acting as a ring road for locations like Warwick and Coventry, the A46 corridor is a vital trade and export route, providing access to Birmingham and East Midlands airports and major ports on the Bristol Channel and the Humber at either end. Its economy is dominated by advanced manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, agriculture, distribution and textiles industries which depend on a reliable road network to succeed. 22% of goods produced along the corridor are exported, well above the UK average of 15%, with the A46 corridor responsible for more than half of the Midlands’ exports.
The Office of National Statistics forecasts an increase of 600,000 new residents and 250,000 new homes within the corridor by 2041. With 150,000 new jobs on the line too, Midlands Connect says only a comprehensive, holistic solution to improving the A46 can support this growth.
Midlands Connect supports all the current and planned interventions to improve the A46, including delivery of improvements to junctions at Walsgrave and Binley in Coventry. In addition, Midlands Connect has identified a number of potential improvement schemes across the Midlands, with input from Highways England and local authorities. These options will be evaluated in more detail in Stage Two of the corridor study. The current priorities include:
- Coventry & Warwickshire
- Alcester to Warwick Expressway
- Junction improvements at Thickthorn, Stivichall and M6 J2
- Possible interventions around Stratford-upon-Avon
- Gloucestershire & Worcestershire
- Possible interventions and options for new bypasses in Ashchurch, Beckford and Evesham to provide a high quality dual carriageway standard between the M5 and M40
- Potential for a Leicester Eastern/Southern Bypass, including a link from M69 J2 and a new M1 J20
- Upgrading Leicester Western Bypass
- Improving Hobbyhorse Interchange at Syston
- Support acceleration of Newark Bypass proposal
- Overcome congestion hotspots to lock in benefits of previous upgrades
- Potential for southern Lincoln bypass, connecting to the under construction eastern bypass
- Targeted improvements on the A15 north of Lincoln.
Midlands Connect’s improvement plan builds on the work already being done by Highways England and local authorities to improve pinch points along the A46, and on the success of the A46 Partnership – a coalition of LEPs and councils between Gloucestershire and Leicestershire – in promoting the route as one of local, regional, national and international significance.
Investing in a corridor-wide package of improvements could transform the performance of the route by:
- Cutting journey times and offering more reliable connections for businesses and residents;
- Helping to accelerate numerous housing and employment sites along the route (including Tournament Fields, Ansty Park, Friargate, Whitley Business Park and the National Battery Centre); and
- Providing a viable alternative to the congested motorway network, especially the M1, M5, M6 and M42.
The Economic Prize
Forecasts suggest that corridor-wide improvement of the A46 could bring economic benefits of £7.1 billion over the next 60 years through quicker journeys and improved productivity. By 2041, improvements are expected to bring significant annual economic benefits to Coventry (£17.3 million). These figures don’t include the potential growth from new jobs and housing, meaning the overall benefits could be significantly higher.
Coventry & Warwickshire businesses back A46 improvements
As part of the study, Midlands Connect worked with chambers of commerce to survey more than 250 businesses based within a few miles of the A46. 98% of businesses surveyed in Coventry and Warwickshire said an improved A46 would boost their productivity, while 62% said it would enable them to create new jobs. 82% said current traffic conditions negatively impact their business performance, and 74% said traffic has got worse in the last 5 years. Significantly, one in five (20%) have considered relocating due to conditions on the A46.
Maria Machancoses, Director, Midlands Connect, said:
“Using today’s approach to funding, it could be 40 years before the A46 receives the investment it needs to match the growth in jobs and housing expected along the corridor. We must do things differently and accelerate a long-term investment plan to make sure economic growth isn’t held back. Delivering our vision will not only make our businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire more prosperous, it will improve the quality of life of people living and working along the corridor. Doing nothing will hold back this progress.”
Pantos Logistics distributes LG products across the UK, Ireland and Europe from its depot in Ryton, Coventry, close to the A46. Robert Arnold, Transport Team Leader, said:
“We typically run up to 90 HGVs in and out of our depot every day, and the A46 is absolutely vital to our operation. Around 70% of our deliveries will use the road, but it can be stationary at peak times. Congestion can mean a high value load is turned away and returned to the depot, which impacts our hauliers, our own team, and obviously LG’s sales. If the A46 was improved I can see us being able to move more deliveries more efficiently, with greater accuracy.”
Louise Bennett, Chief Executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said:
“The A46 is a key, strategic route right through Coventry and Warwickshire and beyond and is utilised daily by businesses right across our patch, for local and long distance journeys. The vast majority of the businesses are telling us loud and clear that improvements to the A46 will help them to grow and create jobs, but that current conditions on the road are holding them back.”
Nigel Huddleston, MP for Mid Worcestershire and Midlands Connect’s A46 Champion, said:
“Upgrading the A46 isn’t just a Midlands priority, it’s a national priority and this initial report will help get it higher up on the national agenda. We will only be successful in promoting the case for this corridor by working together – cross-Midlands, cross-sector, and cross-party. As Midlands Connect’s A46 Champion, it’s my job to support that collaboration in any way I can. We must find a way to stop thinking about major transport improvements as either or – either Northern Powerhouse Rail or HS2; either Cambridge-Oxford connections or upgrading East-West Midlands connections – in order to support a sustainable 21st Century economy, we need them all.
“This report clearly states why the A46 is so important and deserves national attention. We need to unleash housing development sites, solve road safety black spots and take heavy traffic out of places it doesn’t belong. The next stage of the report being released next year will go into more detail about exactly where work should be focused, what it will entail and how it should be phased. That’s when we’ll need assurances that some of the roads funding which the Chancellor announced in the Budget will be allocated to this nationally-important project”.
Network planning director for Highways England, Jeremy Bloom, said:
“We recognise the importance of the A46 corridor to the Strategic Road Network and the contribution it makes to the Midlands economy and beyond. We also support a more strategic approach to long-term investment and will continue to work closely with Midlands Connect to develop potential solutions for the route and to make the case for investment within the context of our national remit.”
The second stage of Midlands Connect’s A46 corridor study will further develop the proposed improvements and their respective business cases, and is due for release in 2019.