Planning for the long-awaited upgrade of the A303 and A358 in Somerset is already underway, the Roads Minister told the County Council today.
Andrew Jones was in the Somerset as part of a tour of the South West, looking at existing and potential projects involving the Department for Transport.
This included the planned upgrading of the A303 and A358 to dual carriageway, the Muchelney road-raising and Beer Wall flood-prevention works, and important works in and around Taunton.
Having travelled along the A303 and A358, the Minister met County Council representatives and local MPs at the Taunton Gateway Park and Ride where he confirmed that the wheels are already in motion for the upgrading of the key roads.
“It’s a really important part of the next phase of the roads investment strategy and a project that is critical to the economy of the area,” he said. “Just because there aren’t diggers on the ground doesn’t mean that things aren’t moving. Lots of planning work and preparation for this is taking place. This is my first major trip as roads Minister and that I have come to see this area shows how important the scheme is.”
Somerset County Council led a partnership of local authorities lobbying for several years for ‘whole route improvement’ of the A303 corridor. The improvements are seen as key to tackling congestion and promoting economic growth in the county and the entire South West.
“The Minister’s comments about the A303 and A358 were very welcome,” said Cllr David Fothergill, Cabinet Member for Highways. “This is a key issue not only for Somerset, but the entire South West, which is why we campaigned so hard for it and why we had so much support from partners like the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.
“Having the chance to discuss this and other projects face-to-face with a minister is a valuable opportunity to make sure Somerset’s needs and priorities are not overlooked.”
After the A358, the Minister visited the railway station and the Firepool Lock development in Taunton, before driving along the recently completed Beer Wall works on the A372 and out to the raised-road at Muchelney.
Cllr David Hall, Cabinet Member for Cabinet Member for Business, Inward Investment and Policy, said: “I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to discuss with the Minster the importance of improving local infrastructure to support the economy of Somerset and the South West. It was great to hear his firm commitment that the promised road improvements remain a key priority for government.”