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Farron Urges Government To Pursue Temporary A591 Solution

February 23, 2016 12:08 PM

A591The government's decision to stop engaging with a local business taskforce looking into temporary solutions to the A591 closure shows it is not taking seriously the hardship faced by local residents and businesses, according to

South Lakeland MP Tim Farron. Tim has urged the government to re-engage with the group through Highways England, to get the road reopened by Easter.

The A591 was severely damaged by Storm Desmond on 5th December, and was forced to close to all traffic. On the 14th January, the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced the government's plan to reopen the road by the end of May.

A group of local business leaders - the Lake District National Park Business Task Force - were extremely concerned about the impact this would have on the local economy, and decided to commission an engineering report into alternative temporary solutions which would allow the reinstatement of meaningful public traffic access along the route. Although detailed plans were in the process of being drawn up by the group, in collaboration with other parties, Highways England has decided to stop engaging with the group.

A report by the Business Task Force into the economic impact of the road's closure shows that the local economy is set to lose £100 million, if the road reopens at the end of May, which is the government's current target. Of this total, £60 million would fall in April and May, due to the impact of the public holidays on the tourist industry.

Tim has today tabled an Early Day Motion in parliament calling on the government to engage with the group through Highways England and share information about the project, so that a solution can be found to get the road reopened by Easter. Tim has also written to Patrick McLoughlin, to request this. Although a temporary road and shuttle bus service has been put in place, the road is not open to private vehicles.

Tim said: "When I speak to local businesses, it is clear that the closure of the A591 is having a devastating impact on the local tourist industry. In April and May, and local economy is set to lose almost £1million per day. This is not just a statistic - these are people's jobs, businesses and livelihoods that are at stake.

"I am calling on the government to re-engage with the Business Taskforce via Highways England. The Business Taskforce has worked tirelessly to research alternative temporary solutions, and have come up with well-researched suggestions. There is no justification for the government pulling out now. A solution to reinstate traffic access along this route by Easter would provide a lifeline to local businesses.

"Ever since the road was first damaged, the government has shown a shocking lack of urgency. When the train line was damaged at Dawlish a couple of years back, the government had a team of 300 working around the clock with a budget of £35m, and got it fixed in just over 50 days. Up here, 80 days have already passed yet we're still three months off the planned reopening. The least the government could do is work with the business taskforce to look into speeding this up. The government must do all it can to get the road reopened as soon as possible."

The full text of the EDM Tim has submitted is as follows:

That this House acknowledges the huge cost to the South Lakes economy as a result of the continued closure of the A591;

further notes with concern that the local economy will lose around £100m if the road remains closed until the end of May; notes that £60m of this would be lost in the months of April and May and that consequently, the cost to the local economy during this two month period could rise to £1m a day;

therefore strongly calls on the government to ensure that Highways England engage and share information with the Lake District National Park Business Taskforce (LDNPBT), particularly the project critical path, and liaise with the LDNPBT regarding the possibilities for alternative temporary solutions;

and urges the government to commit greater resources to the repair work being undertaken on the A591, including extra staff resource as well as funding, so that the road can be reopened by Easter.