Ambitious bid to get motorway extension to the Humber Bridge back on agenda

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 8 Nov 2017

Could a motorway from London to the Humber Bridge ever become a reality? Parliamentary Correspondent Patrick Daly finds out.

WAY back when (in political terms), in the by-gone era of the late 1980s, there were mooted plans to have six-lanes of road whizzing traffic from London, all the way up to the Humber Bridge.

Would the proposed M11 extension have made the Cleethorpes seafront a prime destination for east Londoners and their “staycation” getaways if it had been given the green light almost 30 years ago? We’ll never know.

But the value of having a motorway linking the South Bank of the Humber to the Capital city has not been lost on Lincolnshire politicians.

In fact, Martin Vickers, the Conservative MP for Cleethorpes, has started up the drum once again in a bid to get the plans for an extended M11 – which currently comes to a halt in Cambridgeshire – back onto the drawing board.

Mr Vickers raised the possibility during a Parliament debate on transport in the north this week and also discussed it with Humber business leaders at a recent meeting.

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Questioning his constituency neighbour, Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin, during Monday night’s transport debate in the House of Commons, Mr Vickers said: “The M11 was originally proposed to run from the Peterborough-Cambridge area, where it finishes now, up to the Humber Bridge. 

“Does [Mr Dakin] agree that having that as a long-term prospect would boost the North Lincolnshire economy?”

Mr Dakin branded the idea “ambitious” but said local road improvements – such as dualling the A15 from Barton to Lincoln – could help embellish the arguments for a motorway.

The M11 currently goes from the A406 in north east London – serving Stansted Airport along the way – to the A14, north west of Cambridge, in what is a relatively short stretch for a motorway. 

In the past, Lincolnshire County Council has reportedly pushed for the M11 to be extended through the county and up to the Humber Bridge, having worked its way through Spalding, Boston, Skegness and Market Rasen en route.

But the local authority has since gone cold on the idea, with councillors saying the investment required for the M11 would be better spent on smaller road schemes.

Richard Davies, executive member for highways at the county council, said: “If money is available to build a motorway though Lincolnshire, I think we would need to consider very carefully whether that would be the best use of those funds.

“It may be better spent on improving key strategic routes through the county such as the A15 and A17, as well as other roads in the south of Lincolnshire.”

And, as recently as 2014, Edmund King, president of the AA, said the idea of major M11 works to take the motorway through Lincolnshire would “stay in dreamland” – a comment he said was based on his discussions with the Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England.

That has not stopped those in the north of the county from continuing to look to turn dreams into reality, however.

At a recent get-together of North Lincolnshire MPs and the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, discussions focused on “revisiting the prospects of an east coast motorway as a long-term ambition for the region”, said a spokesman for the chamber.

Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers. The resort Conservative MP has started up the drum once again in a bid to get the plans for an extended M11 – which currently comes to a halt in Cambridgeshire – back onto the drawing board.

Mr Vickers, who sits on the Commons Transport Select Committee, even broached the matter with junior transport minister John Hayes – a fellow Lincolnshire MP, representing South Holland and The Deepings – at a dinner in Westminster last week.

“The minister said the M11 extension was nowhere in the system, in relation to new roads projects to be built by Highways England,” said the resort MP.

“But if you don’t start if off, it will never get seriously considered. These things can take 20 years to secure. My plan is to ask ministers for a debate on this.”

The DfT says it is keen to establish a new “major road network” to help communities which are “further away from the strategic road network”.

The “detrunked” A16, linking Grimsby and Peterborough, is one of those in-line for possible investment, confirmed a department spokesman. 

The A16 route – linking Spalding, Boston and Grimsby – closely follows the original M11 extension plans from nearly 30 years ago.

The traffic pressures at – and caused by the Port of Immingham, the largest port by tonnage in the UK – are likely to have an influence on the long-term decision for ministers. 

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MPs at the debate on Monday highlighted how north to south links from Immingham were “poor” – despite recent A160 improvements.

Building a Lincolnshire motorway could take thousands of heavy good vehicles (HGVs) off the congested A15 and the A1 as they head south on a new thoroughfare – possibly along an upgraded A16 which then connects to the A1 – along the east coast of the county.

Melanie Onn, MP for Great Grimsby, has giving the concept of extending the M11 her backing, saying it could drastically cut journey times for many commuters and businesses.

“I would support the extension of the M11,” the Labour MP said. “We have to do more to open-up our connectivity to make our area more accessible for the public, as well as for transport and logistics purposes.

“Cutting 100-mile trips down from 3 hours to 1.5 hours would be great and help our local economy.

“The focus has traditionally been on rail, but more people use the roads across Lincolnshire and they are an important part of our local economy,” said Ms Onn.

When a proposal has cross-party backing and businesses are behind it, that usually makes for firm foundations to mount a campaign. 

The issue will be whether ministers are sold on the concept – and are willing to part with the hefty amount of cash required.

The DfT, in what could boost optimism locally, say the M11 plans are on its radar.

A spokesman for the Whitehall department said: “We continue to consider a large number of proposals for the region from MPs, local authorities and others.

“This includes ideas for extending the M11, as well as proposals from Midlands Connect to upgrade and extend the A46 to reach the Humber Bridge.”

For campaigns like this, a devolved administration in the county – such as the failed Greater Lincolnshire proposal – would have been well-placed to argue its benefits to central government.

But other types of devolution are incoming, with the sub-regional body Transport for the North being finalised in the coming months, which could be an important voice for the Humber.

Could Northern Powerhouse officials back a motorway to the Humber and convince the Government to stump up the money? 

Putting it firmly on the agenda now is the only way to find out – and North Lincolnshire MPs are doing just that.

READ MORE: Today's main headlines from Humberbusiness.com 

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