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A66 Northern Trans-Pennine Project: Contractors collaborate to deliver transformative scheme


Four contractors have put pen to paper to collectively deliver the £1.3bn A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project, under an enterprise-wide collaborative working agreement.

Balfour Beatty, Costain, Keltbray and Kier have signed up to work together on the scheme which will see the remaining single carriageway sections of the road dualled and key junctions between M6 Junction 40 (Penrith) and the A1 at Scotch Corner improved.

In July 2022, the Planning Inspectorate accepted National Highways’ Development Consent Order (DCO) application. This meant the organisation could move onto the pre-examination stage. The A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project is one of the most critical road upgrades in the north of England. It will reconnect communities and links villages along the route while also improving connections for people living and working nearby, providing better access to services such as healthcare, jobs and education.

In 2020, this project was designated a “Project Speed pathfinder”, which meant the construction time for the project would be halved and the opening of the road brought forward by five years, to 2029. This is also one of over 100 rail and road schemes being targeted for acceleration by the Government as part of the recent Growth Plan, reducing unnecessary burdens on planning processes and speeding up infrastructure to give the economy the freedom to boost growth. National Highways and construction partners will continue to find opportunities to streamline delivery.

Lee Hillyard, National Highways’ A66 Northern Trans-Pennine Project Director, said: “We are delighted to welcome Balfour Beatty, Costain, Keltbray and Kier and we look forward to working with them on the biggest generational investment on the north’s road network.

“We have worked with all four contractors previously and know the quality of their work. The signing of the contracts is a huge step in the delivery of such a big scheme and it is an important milestone for the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project.

“I’d also like to thank Amey Consulting and Arup who played an integral role in designing the plans that were submitted and accepted as part of our DCO application.” Dualling the remaining 18-mile single carriageway sections of the A66 will improve safety, reduce congestion and improve the reliability of people’s journeys. It will enhance strategic regional and national connectivity, particularly for hauliers.

By making the route more reliable, it can also improve access to hotspots such as the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales and support the regional and local economy.

Phil Clifton, Managing Director of Balfour Beatty’s Highways business, said: “Today marks an important milestone in the delivery of the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project. This vital piece of infrastructure for the North will not only improve national connectivity, but will provide faster, and more reliable journeys for road users across the UK.

“Throughout, we will utilise our longstanding expertise in delivering essential road upgrade works, whilst also leaving a lasting positive legacy for local communities; working with local supply chain partners and creating numerous employment opportunities.”

Consistent speeds on an upgraded road will minimise noise levels for people living and working nearby, and National Highways aims to reduce the visual impact of the new A66.

Should the proposals be approved as a result of the Planning Inspectorate’s process, and the Secretary of State’s decision given, work on the project is expected to start in 2024.

Simon Ellison, Highways Director at Costain, said: “The A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project will transform journeys, improve road safety and connections between communities that will deliver significant economic and social value. In a unique ‘Enterprise’ collaboration with our partners, we will utilise the full range of our expertise in complex programme delivery, consultancy and digital to help ensure the A66 is fit for a better future. We are privileged to be able to support the delivery of this flagship scheme for the North of England.”

Vip Gandhi, Managing Director, Highways at Keltbray, said: “Keltbray is delighted to be working as part of an 'Enterprise' model with Balfour Beatty, Costain and Kier together with National Highways on the delivery of this important scheme. “The A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project is vital for the local and regional economy as it will improve the lives of many by providing better access to vital services, improve accessibility and ease congestion.

“The A66 is an essential route for journeys across the North of England, and this upgrade is one of the largest and most important highways investments in the region which will significantly improve journeys and safety for the nearby communities.”

Richard French, Kier Highways Regional Director, said: “This is a significant occasion for all those involved with the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine scheme. Kier Highways, along with the enterprise delivery partners and client are committed to delivering sustainable infrastructure and this major investment will be vital for the economy. We look forward to utilising our combined expertise to deliver a project that harnesses innovation and minimises our impacts on the surrounding natural environment.

“We will aim to deliver this strategic highway improvement work to the highest standards with safety, environment and customers at the heart of everything we do.”

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