M11 Essex upgrade shelved

A MAJOR road widening scheme in Essex, vital to the expansion of Stansted airport and for servicing one of John Prescott's 'sustainable communities', has been shelved by Whitehall.

By Graham Dines

A MAJOR road widening scheme in Essex, vital to the expansion of Stansted airport and for servicing one of John Prescott's 'sustainable communities', has been shelved by Whitehall.

The upgrading of the M11 from dual two to dual three lanes between Stansted and the A11 junction at Great Chesterford was a key recommendation in the Government's own transport study published in 2003, but the Department for Transport now maintains it is not needed and the project will not be reviewed for at least 10 years.

The M11 is used by thousands of motorists a day using the airport as well as the main route to the east end of London for traffic heading for the M25 from the north and the midlands, Cambridgeshire, West Suffolk, and Norfolk.


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The road is the transport backbone of the London-Stansted-Cambridge-Peterborough growth area, earmarked by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott an affordable housing community.

In tandem with the housing, the Department for Transport is considering how best to cater for a projected surge in air traffic and one of the proposals is to increase capacity at Stansted by building up to three extra runways.

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Sir Alan Haselhurst, Conservative MP for Saffron Walden, described it as an “extraordinary” decision.

“It is Government policy to expand Stansted airport, at the very least, to the maximum capacity of its existing runway, so to shelve a road scheme needed to take people to the airport seems very odd. It would make more sense if there was to be more investment in the railway line, but I see no sign of that happening.”

The decision to put the upgrade on ice was dubbed an “outrageous U-turn” by the Chairman of the East of England Regional Assembly Sue Sida-Lockett (crrct). “It is another example of short-term decision-making and lack of joined-up thinking by Whitehall departments that will have serious implications for the future prosperity of the region.”

The decision of the Department of Transport not to progress the improvements between junctions eight and nine was contained in a letter to the Independent Panel conducting the Examination in Public of the draft East of England Plan, which contains a range of public transport proposals.

“The principal requirement of central government in delivering the Plan is that it provides the necessary funding. Unfortunately, here we have another example of how it is failing that simple test and will completely undermine the Assembly's confidence in the Government's promise of no additional housing without the necessary infrastructure funding,” said Mrs Sida-Lockett.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Even under growth assumptions, which include the ODPM housing growth area and the second runway with 67million passengers a year travelling to Stansted, traffic volumes will only be getting up to capacity on this section of the M11 by 2021

“The existing route is therefore capable of catering for projected traffic growth for at least the next 15 years.”

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