CONSERVATIVES in Somerset have called for the A303 to be fully dualled, and road/rail infrastructure in general to be improved across the region, for years. I lobbied the County Council in 2011 and got them to spearhead the effort to put this firmly back on central government's agenda and push on towards making it a reality.
The long stretches of single carriageway cause tail to tail traffic, the blind bends and rises are dangerous and the fact that the main routes to London, Taunton and Exeter from our area contain large parts which are single carriageway is frankly unacceptable.
Businesses and local residents would benefit hugely from the reduced travel times of better road links - which in turn would get our local economy going and boost jobs and job security, and cause less misery to motorists in the summer.
Whilst others have flip flopped, local and national Conservative policy for over 20 years has consistently sought to improve this vital link to the South West. The original plans were cancelled by John Prescott in 1998, and then further plans were cancelled in 2007. The last Lib Dem run County Council in 2009 considered dualling “inappropriate” and did not make it a regional priority for funding in the South West.
Somerset County Council since being Conservative led in 2010 has put together political support for the principle of improvement, of councils and politicians from the Scilly Isles to Stonehenge, and in Oct 2012 a major report from its consultant Parsons Brinkerhoff Report reconfirmed the outline business case.
Conservatives have fully supported local newspaper campaigns calling for dualling, throughout.
The Coalition Government has been encouraging in its response. Successive Ministers, starting with Transport Minister Mike Penning MP in July, 2012, have given their support in principle to the dualling of the A303.
I have been active in continuing to push the case at the highest level, including with regard to specific further ways, I think the economic benefit to the South West can be enhanced. I am pleased to say this has the full in principle support of the Prime Minister.
We recently had the great news that we in the County Council have succeeded in putting the A358 between Taunton and Ilminster, a notorious bottleneck and hazard, into the formal picture for consideration for the first tranche of dualling works and national funding within the Department for Transport's Plan for the wider scheme that is now under way.
That is very important, as with the new energy developments and innovation centre associated with Hinkley Point new nuclear coming on stream over the next years, it will be particularly important for people and businesses in our area to have efficient and reliable road access to Taunton and beyond, so they can participate fully and keep our economy healthy.