Yeovil MP David Laws: Doing a great service by raising A303 issue
As a Government Minister, I have to be careful about supporting initiatives which are not yet Government policy.
But as a local MP, I warmly welcome the Western Gazette’s campaign to upgrade the A303 and to improve local and regional transport links.
The A303 is a key national route into and out of the South West. It is important for tourism and for the wider economy. But it is also a important route for more local and regional traffic, helping to connect up our constituency with the county town of Taunton, with the M5, and with other parts of our region.
As a local MP, I have long argued for improvements to the A303. The alternating stretches of single and then dual carriageway are a guarantee of congestion and delay. Many people have pointed out that it is astonishing that we tolerate this on a major national trunk route. I cannot, for example, imagine the French or Germans living with such a situation.
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What else is wrong with the A303? Well, safety could be improved on a number of stretches and accident statistics remain too high.
Near to Salisbury, the A303 still unbelievably goes over-ground within a few hundred metres of our great national monument of Stonehenge. Why on the earth has it taken past Governments so long to tackle this patent absurdity?
Finally, just west of Ilminster, the A303 understandably shrinks to a single lane as it goes over the Blackdown Hills, but also connects onto the M5 at Taunton with another road – the A358 – which is also mostly single carriageway and which can suffer from serious delays.
I argued when I first became an MP that the A303 should be dualled to the east of Ilminster, and that the A358 should be dualled from Ilminster on to the M5. I did not argue for dualling the A303 over the Blackdown Hills. I think any Government will choose between either the A358 or A303 route, to the west of Ilminster, and I argued that for both practical and environmental reasons the A358 option is the better option.
For a while, the last Labour Government signed up to this plan. But only for a while – and then it ran out of money.
We need a long-term plan to improve transport connections in our country. This needs not just investment in roads, but extra capacity on the railways, and decent bus services.
Of course, better transport connections can mean more travel, and more carbon emissions. That is why we need good public transport alternatives, but also why we need to “green” our cars, and move away from reliance on oil. When we achieve this, as I believe we will, the big transport issues will be more about congestion rather than pollution/carbon emissions.
We need road and rail connections which allow our area to cope with additional traffic and which help to keep our economy moving too.
That is why the Western Gazette is doing such a service to people in our area by raising this issue.
A303 DUAL IT! PETITION
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