Dualling the A303 will boost the economy nationally as well as locally, according to the deputy leader of Somerset County Council.
Councillor David Hall, who oversees economic development, infrastructure and innovation at County Hall, said improvements to the road could be worth billions to Somerset.
It is estimated that upgrading the road could create more than 20,000 jobs and be worth between £11 billion and £13 billion to the economy by unlocking a 3.2 per cent uplift in the South West’s economic output.
Mr Hall is leading a partnership of county councils including Somerset, Devon and Wiltshire, calling for the A303 to be dualled.
He said: “We sense there is an appetite from the Government at the moment to invest in large public infrastructure projects that will deliver economic growth.
“The A303 is a hugely important part of accessing the South West. It is the artery to and from the region.
“As we know, parts of it are already dualled but we can all cite the bad areas that are not – Stonehenge, Sparkford and Ilminster.
“What is so important about the Western Gazette’s campaign is that it raises significant awareness of this vital issue and is stimulating debate in our communities.
“The project is bigger than Somerset. The A303 is a nationally important strategic road.”
Earlier this year, the group of councils met with the Department for Transport to discuss dualling the road.
The ministry has committed Highways Agency staff to work with the councils on a business case aimed at proving to the Government an upgrade will boost economic activity. The business plan is due to be presented to Roads Minister Stephen Hammond MP in the new year.
Mr Hall said: “The minister was enthusiastic about our ambitions. If they are realised, it will be of economic and social benefit.
“The A303 is absolutely key for so many businesses, such as AgustaWestland in Yeovil, Numatic in Chard, Haynes Publishing in Sparkford, and important for the new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point, if it is approved.
“Somerset is on the move. We have secured £32 million for superfast broadband to be rolled out and we already have the M5 serving the north of the county. But as we saw last November after the motorway disaster, if there is a major incident on the M5 and the road is cut off, the A303 becomes even more important. At the moment it just couldn’t cope with extra demand. There is no contingency if the M5 is out of action.
“If the disaster had hit on a week day the whole of the South West would have been paralysed.”
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