Three months ago the Shropshire Star launched its ‘Dual It’ campaign, calling on the government to dual the 18-mile-length of the A5, from the northern end of the Shrewsbury bypass, through the county to the Welsh border.
Now it has been revealed that, thanks to lobbying and behind the scenes work by politicians and highways experts, an official bid is about to be put forward to have improvements made as part of a UK wide roads investment strategy.
It could see work to dual at least part of the road start within the next seven years.
North Shropshire MP and long-time A5 improvements campaigner Owen Paterson has stressed that it is early days in the efforts but the signs are encouraging.
The MP recently held talks with transport secretary Chris Grayling and, earlier this year, invited minister John Hayes to Shropshire to see the problems on the A5 for himself.
“We don’t have a plan drawn up yet and we do not have a route. But what we do have is a sea change in the way that the A5 is viewed,” he said.
“In the past it has seemed that the Highways Agency has simply paid lip service to calls for a dual carriageway. Now there is a real will to make improvements and to get this moving.
“We also have, for the first time, a real will from the Welsh Government to get involved. Improvements to the A5 are vital for transport links in and out of north Wales. I will be holding more talks with the Welsh highways minister, Ken Skates in the new year. He is backing the move to get the road included in the Roads Improvement Strategy.
“It is critical that we get a bid in for the A5 to feature in the Roads Investment Strategy 2. Once we get our bid accepted we can go for a phased building. We have to have this road.”
Shropshire Council is heavily involved in putting together a bid for funding.
The council’s deputy leader Councillor Steve Charmley said the council was putting a business case together to present to the transport minister.
And he said that the council’s decision to appoint Keir as its highways engineer from April would also have benefits.
He said: “Keir is also the engineer for the Highways Agency and the link could help join up the dots in the project.
“If we can get a phased approach to the work we can look at dualling the A5 as a long term strategy.
“It desperately needs to be done. The road is choc-a-bloc most of the time and slows to a crawl once you get to the single carriageway section.”
“This is not good for the businesses that use the road as a vital transport link. If we want to get Oswestry’s innovation park up and running and attract business we need a good infrastructure that includes good road links.
“The Shropshire Star’s petition will highlight the mood of the community and the need for the work to go ahead.”
More on the campaign:
Highways England says the second Road Investment Strategy, RIS2, will be delivered between 2020 and 25.
The detail of how funding will be allocated will be in the RIS2 document due to be published in 2019.
Among the points expected to be made in a bid to the government will be road safety.
Since 1991, there have been more than 1,785 casualties on the A5 north of Shrewsbury up to the Welsh border at Chirk.
At the last count, 1,407 of these were slight, 320 were serious and 58 were fatal.
The emergency services in the county have also backed the Shropshire Star’s campaign, pointing to the human tragedy of accidents on the single carriageway road.
There will also be calls for improvements to help the economy, not only of Shropshire but the Midlands and Wales. The A5 is seen as a vital artery connecting what has become known as the Midlands Engine with Wales and even as an alternative road to the Northern Powerhouse of Liverpool and Manchester.
In the next few weeks the Shropshire Star’s petition will be presented to the government’s roads ministers.