Plans revealed to upgrade A46 would boost economy by £7.1bn

A46/A45 Stivechall Interchange

Upgrading the A46 through Leicestershire should form part of a “corridor approach” to improving the whole A46 through the Midlands, boosting the economy by £7.1bn, says sub-national transport body Midlands Connect.

The pan-Midlands transport agency is calling for “urgent, co-ordinated action” to improve traffic flows on what it calls “one of the country’s most important trade routes”.

Midlands Connect has released the first ever improvement plan for the entire A46 corridor, with a 20-year plan which it says will future-proof the route and boost the national economy.

Stage One of the A46 Corridor Study identified Leicestershire as one of the key congestion hotspots where rush hour average speeds regularly fall below 20mph (at pinch points such as the Hobby Horse Interchange). The study finds that improvements to the A46 could have a clear role in new housing and job creation in Leicestershire, and facilitate better connections to the rest of the Midlands and other parts of the UK.

The Office for 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 says it supports all the current and planned interventions to improve the A46. 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 East Midlands priorities include:

· Leicestershire

o Potential for a Leicester Eastern/Southern Bypass, including a link from M69 J2 and a new M1 J20A

o Upgrading Leicester Western Bypass

o Improving Hobbyhorse Interchange at Syston

· Lincolnshire

o Potential for southern Lincoln bypass, connecting to the under construction eastern bypass

o Targeted improvements on the A15 north of Lincoln.

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 Leicestershire more prosperous, it will improve the quality of life of people living and working along the corridor. Doing nothing will hold back this progress.”

Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester City Mayor, said: “The A46 is locally, regionally and nationally significant. Improvements to the road will serve a vital local purpose, freeing up land to develop badly needed housing. Businesses along the corridor are crying out for us to help them to move freely right along the A46; it’s essential to them and the nation that it becomes a reliable link across the centre of the country. We have at last got ourselves joined up, now the government must help us join up the Midlands, and join us to the rest of the nation.”