Much trumpeted calls by the Conservative candidate in the 2015 General Election for the whole of the North Devon Link Road to be a Dual Carriageway have effectively been binned: by the Conservative controlled County Council!
The County Council is charged with conducting a feasibility study into ways to improve the road and have launched a public consultation on the two options left standing. Three other options - for the complete dualling of the road, and public transport alternatives have been dismissed as “poor value for money”. Their estimate for the full dual carriageway option is £500 million - and the total budget the Government have allocated for the entire country for such road projects is only £475 million. Go to new.devon.gov.uk/haveyoursay for full details and the on-line consultation form. Sorry, postal letters will not be accepted!
Instead, they offer two options: the first involving upgrading all the junctions and roundabouts between Bolham (Tiverton) and the Abbotsham junction (north of Bideford), adding slip lanes on junctions and extra lanes on roundabouts to increase capacity and safety. Cost: £35 million estimated. The second option includes the above, plus the creation of move overtaking opportunities by widening the existing road to provide three lanes, particularly between Aller Cross (South Molton) and Bideford. This could cost £150 million, but risks repeating the tragic design flaws of the existing road. With opposing traffic closing at 120 mph aggressive or even just distracted drivers risk head on collisions when their overtaking lane suddenly runs out as we have seen for years on hill tops along the Link Road, and on similar roads like the infamous A303 Ilminster By-pass.
A previous Tory MP for North Devon fought against the Government’s plan for a dual carriageway before the Link Road was built, and for all the Boris style bluster and bombast, it looks like the current Tory MP will fail to keep his key election promise to the people of North Devon.
Is there a better option?
Well, of course there is! Dualling the whole road was never realistic, particularly in the extended “Age of Austerity.” Dualling the section from the Landkey junction to Roundswell would make a huge difference to traffic flows and be far less disruptive to drivers during the construction phase. Even adding a single lane from Barum Gate to the Bishops Tawton Roundabout will entail long-term diversions of traffic through Newport or the town centre, potentially meaning months of misery for people along Landkey Road, Hollowtree Road, South Street and Bishops Tawton Road. Building a second carriageway parallel to an existing road is usually far less obstructive as the site machinery is largely operating off the existing road.
But … will the Government deliver for us?
In the past, this is just the kind of infrastructure work that would have attracted a major EU grant. Even if it is a couple of years before the UK finally leaves the EU it is unlikely that the plans will have been worked up sufficiently for any funding to have been secured from that source.
We will need to rely on a bid to our own Government for all the funds, and with the Chancellor now warning that after the Brexit vote that the “Age of Austerity” will continue into the mid 2020’s and taxes will have to rise as the economy falters and borrowing costs rise. Not a pretty picture - but we have to be in there pitching for North Devon!