M54 link to M6 'must be priority' say council bosses
A planned link between the M54 and the M6 must become the Department of Transport’s number one priority, council leaders said today.
The call came after new plans emerged for another relief road that would link the M5 with the M54.
Transport chiefs in the Midlands say the new Western Strategic Route could shift one fifth of traffic travelling north to south through the region away from the motorways. But the call has alarmed Telford & Wrekin Council, which today launched a campaign to make the M54/M6 northbound link a reality, backed by Shropshire Chamber of Commerce. They say nothing should divert attention away from the new road.
While the M54 links to the M6 southbound, there is currently no link for traffic travelling northbound from the M54 to the M6.
Transport cabinet member Councillor Hilda Rhodes said: “Getting the M54/M6 link built is the most urgent scheme. One of the key selling points of our borough to external investors is the fantastic transport links that Telford enjoys and we have very much made the most of that to attract new investment.
“However, the icing on the cake would be a proper motorway link from the M54 to the M6 northbound. While I am delighted that there still appears to be a commitment to this project, I would urge that this should happen as soon as possible.”
Midlands Connect, which represents authorities across the region, has pushed the prospect of the Western Strategic Route. It could run from the M5 near Kidderminster and join the M54 near Junction Two.
Its director Maria Machancoses today insisted it was not in competition with the M54/M6 link, adding: “All our plans assume that this link is already in place. There’s no question – it is a strategic imperative and further delays must be avoided at all costs.”
We are working on link, insist officials
Highways officials are carrying out further assessment work on a new link road northbound between the M54 and M6.
It is hoped that it will ease traffic congestion and boost economic growth in both Telford and Shrewsbury.
Currently, the M54 merges with the M6 southbound at junction 10a at Walsall.
Drivers using the M54 can only travel southbound onto the M6. It means northbound road users have to leave the motorway network and navigate local A-roads in order to connect with the M6 north at junction 11 or 12 or the M6 Toll at junction T8 to continue their journey.
Three options for the M54/M6 link road project were unveiled last year – and today Telford & Wrekin Council expressed its inpatience in the wake of another bypass being pushed to link the M54 with the M5 near Kidderminster.
In September, Highways England launched a month-long consultation over the three routes for the motorway, which links Shropshire to the West Midlands. Today, highway chiefs insisted further work is being carried out and once it is finalised a decision will be made on the preferred route.
Highways England project manager, Andrew Kelly said: “The construction of a new link road connecting the M54 to the M6 was announced in the Road Investment Strategy. Following consultation asking for feedback on three options we are carrying out further assessment work and will make a decision on the preferred route once this is finalised.”
One proposal, Option B West, is for a new road linking junction one of the M54 to the A4601, near the M6 Toll.
The second proposal, Option C West, would widen the existing M54 from junction one towards the M6.
The final proposal, Option C East, would also see the widening of the M54 up to the M6, but would branch off earlier.
Richard Sheehan, of the Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It would be very difficult to dispute the economic growth it could bring. Further investment in our infrastructure would be warmly welcomed.”
Western Strategic Route
It has been described as a revival of the controversial Western Orbital motorway.
A proposed new link connecting the M5 south of the Midlands to the M54 is almost identical in its route to a scrapped plan from years gone by.
Transport bosses at Midlands Connect have recommended the new relief road as the best way to bust congestion on the region’s clogged roads.
They say the Western Strategic Route could shift one fifth of traffic travelling through the region between the M5 in the south and M6 in the north away from the motorways.
While bosses are keen to point out that no exact route has been identified, a map by Midlands Connect in a report to the West Midlands Combined Authority appears to show it passing near to Codsall, Codsall Wood, Perton, Pattingham, Wombourne, Dudley, Stourbridge and Kidderminster.
It appears to be a mirror image of the Western Orbital motorway, which was scrapped in the 1990s and then again in the 2000s over environmental and financial concerns.
That route, agreed by transport bosses at the time, started at the M5 in Bromsgrove and snaked up past Stourbridge and into South Staffordshire, passing Wombourne, Trysull, Codsall, on its way to meet the M54.
The similarity in the two routes has not been lost on critics. Birmingham Friends of the Earth described it as the revival of the Western Orbital Motorway, and urged Midlands Connect to ditch its plans.
A spokesman said the “zombie Western Orbital Motorway will destroy greenbelt land and worsen traffic congestion and air pollution”.
Midlands Connect has made 10 recommendations to ease congestion across the region as part of a 20-year vision. Its report said that improving connections could have a “transformational impact on the economic performance” on the region.
The late 1980s saw transport bosses locked in a constant battle against traffic congestion on the country’s roads, with the M6 considered one of the worst in the country. Gridlocked roads were considered a major problem for Britain’s economy.