Will A5-M1 link be the road to prosperity?

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MP Andrew Selous says there is light at the end of the tunnel for businesses blighted by traffic congestion, after cash for the A5-M1 link was confirmed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, writes Sally-Anne Stewart.

In his autumn statement George Osborne confirmed that the £189million project was one of four new roads being prioritised for building.

The scheme was formally given the go-ahead by ministers in October following a public inquiry, but the spending review could have thrown a spanner in the works had the government decided to delay funding.

However, in his speech to the House of Commons, Mr Osborne explained that £5 billion of efficiency savings would, in the short term, be re-invested into a number of infrastructure projects around the country.

An extra billion pounds was being committed to road schemes, he said, including the one to “link the A5 with the M1”.

Delivering his speech to fellow MPs last Wednesday (December 5), the Chancellor said: “It is exactly what a government equipping Britain to compete in the modern global economy should be doing.”

Speaking after the announcement, Mr Selous said there was “nothing more important for the Dunstable and Houghton Regis economies than relieving congestion so businesses can perform to the best of their ability”.

He continued: “It’s just so tough for the shopkeepers to have to trade in that environment. Once this road is built there will be no reason for lorries to come into Dunstable, unless they are delivering.”

He said local villages would also be relieved of the heavy traffic. Many of them currently suffered as drivers tried to avoid going through the two towns, and that the Leighton Buzzard economy would be “greatly helped” by fast, direct access to the national motorway network.

“I strongly welcome the Government’s commitment to build this road as soon as possible,” he added.

He also pledged via his Twitter account to do all he could to secure jobs for local workers on the project.

The 2.9–mile dual carriageway will begin with a roundabout on the A5, just north of the Thorn turn. There will be another roundabout at the link road’s junction with the A5120 on Lord’s Hill, and the road will then continue westwards to the M1, where it will join the motorway at a new Junction 11a near the village of Chalton.

A large chunk of the funding for the project will come from the developers set to build 7,000 homes on countryside to the north of Houghton Regis as part of Central Beds Council’s new housing strategy. The first planning application for the area was expected soon, Mr Selous said yesterday.

This week the council also welcomed the Chancellor’s statement confirming funding for the project, which is expected to get underway in 2014 and could be completed by 2016.

Councillor Nigel Young, executive member for strategic planning and economic development for Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted that funding for the link road has been confirmed by government.

“It is fantastic news for our towns of Dunstable, Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzard and surrounding villages bringing much needed traffic relief.

“The A5–M1 Link is the most important infrastructure need for Central Bedfordshire and is pivotal to our plans to regenerate this area.

“It will not only relieve major traffic congestion but the quick links with the motorway network will give businesses a huge incentive to locate here.

“It will provide a massive economic boost, cementing Central Bedfordshire’s position as a great location for innovation and opportunity.”