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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Fresh legal challenge to £1.5bn Trans-Pennine road scheme




Planning permission granted to the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine road scheme is being subject to a legal challenge.


Campaign group Transport Action Network (TAN) has launched a legal challenge to the granting of a development consent order (DCO) for the £1.5bn scheme.


Transport secretary Mark Harper signed the DCO for the A66 project on 7th March 2024. TAN’s case is that the decision-making was flawed.


Chris Todd, TAN’s founder and director, said: “The £1.5bn A66 Northern Trans-Pennine represents very poor value for money and will cause great harm to important landscapes and wildlife. At a time when we are experiencing more flooding due to climate change, it will drive up carbon emissions by 2.7 million tonnes. By encouraging more HGVs it will also make the existing parts of the A66 that are already dualled more dangerous.


“We believe the secretary of state has not considered these issues properly, gambling away £1.5bn of taxpayers’ money in the process. National Highways should instead be implementing cheaper and quicker safety measures on this road, for a fraction of the cost and without harming the environment or taking us backwards on climate.”


The scheme in question involves dualling the remaining single carriageway sections of the A66 between M6 Junction 40 (Penrith) and the A1 at Scotch Corner – 18 miles of carriageway are to be dualled in total. There are eight separate sections to be delivered, a mix of new junction schemes, road widening and some new road alignments.


Contractors Balfour Beatty, Keltbray, Kier and Costain were signed up by National Highways in October 2022 to collaborate on the scheme. Costain withdrew from the project last year.

National Highways is pushing on with the scheme despite acknowledging it is poor value for money.


The 2022 cost estimate of £1.3bn, rising to £1.490bn including allowances for risk and inflation, shows a benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 0.90 – BCR needs to be above 1.0 representing a positive return and hence value for money. Despite being poor value, the government considers the project to be “essential for levelling-up and economic growth in the northern regions”.

National Highways said: “We are disappointed about the legal challenge as we believe our proposals will provide much needed improved safety and reliability for drivers and businesses that use this vitally important route every day, while also delivering a boost to the regional economy. 


“At this stage it is too early to say how much of an impact the legal challenge will have on our programme and start of works. 


“We will continue to carry out archaeological investigations and preparatory works including utilities diversions during 2024.”

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