Michael Fabricant initiated a short debate in the Commons on the
‘missing link’ between the M6 Toll road and the M54 Motorway to
Shropshire and Wales.
He first asked the formal question of Stephen Ladyman, Minister for
Roads: "If he will make a statement on the planned future link between
the M6 toll motorway and the M54."
Stephen Ladyman replied: "The Highways Agency is working with the local
highway authority to consider the benefits and disadvantages of
providing an upgraded link road between the M54 and the M6/M6 toll
motorway. The study work is in its early stages and an initial
assessment of the options will be complete by the autumn of 2006."
Michael Fabricant then responded: "The Minister is dead right in saying
that the study is in its early stages because an inquiry under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 has revealed that the Highway Agency
says: ‘The current position regarding the M54 to M6 Toll Link is that
development work has not proceeded as quickly as originally planned.’ He
recognised the importance of that link road to strengthen not only the
economy of mid-Wales, but those of my hon. Friend the Member for
Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) and greater Shropshire- Owen
Paterson (MP for North Shropshire interrupted: "And North Shropshire". –
(Michael Fabricant): "And North Shropshire, as my honorouable Friend
points out. Indeed, the link would benefit everywhere west of the M6
toll, so when will it be ready?
Dr. Ladyman answerd: "We have already recognised that, in principle, we
would be minded to support the scheme, but we must consider the details.
In particular, one of the things that we must decide before we design
such a scheme is where the new capacity between the midlands and the
north-west will be provided-will the M6 be widened, or will there be a
parallel toll road? Until we make that decision, we cannot decide on the
design of the junction."
There then followed a debate with other MPs weighing in.
David Wright (Telford) (Lab): "Does my hon. Friend know that the M54 was
recently voted one of the most popular motorways in Britain? That is, of
course, largely because it goes to and from Telford- "
Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): "And Shropshire."
David Wright: "And wider Shropshire, of course. However, one of the
problems that the business community in particular complains about is
the fact that people cannot go northbound directly off the M54 on to the
M6, and there is no direct link, of course, to the M6 toll road. It
would be particularly advantageous to local business in Telford and
across Shropshire if those links could be made. Will the Minister look
very seriously at the proposal?"
Dr. Ladyman: "I have no doubt that the quality of the drive experience
on the M54 and the destinations that can be reached on it are
responsible for its popularity. On paper, the case for the scheme looks
very strong- I can certainly understand the benefits to the local
economy-but we must consider it very carefully, and we must also
consider the disadvantages and weigh the benefits against those
disadvantages. In particular, we must know what we are going to do with
the M6 before we can finalise the design scheme, so we cannot commit
ourselves at this stage, although I repeat that it looks as though there
is a strong case."
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): "Does the hon.
Gentleman realise that any such road will almost certainly go through my
constituency, that there is great uncertainty in South Staffordshire,
because of the doubtful outcome of the M6 inquiries, and that the sooner
we can know precisely what the Government will propose, the better?"
Dr. Ladyman: "I quite understand the hon. Gentleman’s concerns, and such
things must be disconcerting for his constituents. This matter has been
going on for many years, even before this Government came to power, so I
certainly understand his concerns and realise that he wants as early a
decision as possible. I undertake to provide as early a decision as I
can. I understand that he has already met the Secretary of State for
Transport to discuss the issue, and if I can be in any way helpful to
the hon. Gentleman’s constituents in the meantime, I will certainly try
to do so."
Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): "The non-trunk roads that motorists
are using in the absence of the link road are mostly in the Stafford
constituency, so may I assure the Minister that there is a lot of public
support locally for the link, that it would make rural roads safer and
that it could solve the problem of the present bottleneck where the M6
toll road joins the M6 motorway? May I add my voice to that of those who
are urging him to treat this matter with some urgency?"
Dr. Ladyman: "Once again, I can certainly understand the need for a
degree of urgency in this matter, but my hon. Friend has already been
engaged in detailed discussions with me about the future of the M6,
which is also a matter of great concern to him, so he will understand
that there is also a lot of sensitivity about that. I cannot make
assumptions about the design of the M6 until we have finished our
consultation, so we cannot make assumptions about the design of the
junction until we have made that decision. So I will offer urgency
proportionate to the complexity of the decisions that must be taken."
Daniel Kawczynski: "I should like to echo the comments made by my hon.
Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) and the hon. Member
for Telford (David Wright) about the importance of this road. As I have
mentioned on many occasions, Shrewsbury is the only county town without
a direct rail link to London. Does the Minister agree that the road will
be vital to provide better communication for Shrewsbury, thus
encouraging business investment?"
Dr. Ladyman: "All I can do is repeat again that the case for the scheme
looks strong on paper. It looks strong on economic grounds and on the
basis of its benefits for the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, but we have
to examine it carefully. We must consider the design carefully and weigh
up the disadvantages before we can make a final decision. I heard what
the hon. Gentleman said and I am happy to continue discussing the matter
with him in the future."