Major motorways to be widened

The government is investing £5.5 billion in Britain’s transport, with upgrades for rail, bus and road systems and a new tunnel bypassing Stonehenge. £1.6 billion will be targeted at railways with the remainder used to expand roads and improve bus networks.

Transport Secretary of State Alistair Darling announced the new plans following surveys of strategic routes across Britain. The M6 will be widened to four lanes between Manchester and Birmingham, while the M1 will also receive a fourth lane and climbing lanes for lorries through the East Midlands.

The A303 through Stonehenge will be converted to a 2 km tunnel running beneath the Heritage site, costing £31 million – a sum justified by its environmental gain, said Darling. George Lambrick, Director of the Council for British Archaeology, said the proposal was significantly better than the government’s original plan of a shorter cut-and-cover tunnel, but warned that the site would still be subject to increased intrusion from the road scheme.

Darling said that in total, local authorities would be able to spend £2.6 billion on road maintenance next year, some of which would be targeted at 12 newly approved major local road schemes. He also announced the approval of three new lines for the Greater Manchester Metrolink, which will enable the service to double the number of passengers carried last year to 36 million.

A new light rail line in Liverpool has also been approved.

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