Fresh new look at project to widen M11 motorway in Essex
- Credit: Archant
Plans to widen the M11 between Stansted Airport and Saffron Walden appear to be back on the table – and work could start as early as 2019.
It comes nearly a decade after a £171million package of improvements to widen the stretch of road, from J8-9, to three lanes was shelved.
In 2007, the Highways Agency tabled a separate £698million proposal to expand the M11 from three lanes to four between J6 (M25) and J8 (Stansted Airport).
This was abandoned in 2009 when then Secretary of State for Transport, Geoff Hoon, announced that no changes would be made before 2021.
However, it seems there is a desire to amalgamate the plans after Essex County Council identified upgrades to the M11 corridor between J6-9 as a priority in its transport plan up to 2021.
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In the document, officials state the authority is to work with the Highways Agency to develop solutions for delivery from 2019.
Cabinet members met on Tuesday and agreed both the Essex Transport Plan 2015-21 and the prioritised list of schemes within it, which are designed to support and stimulate economic development.
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These include four-tracking of the West Anglia Main Line, a second rail access tunnel at Stansted Airport and dedicated motorway access to Stansted Airport at J8a/b.
Cllr Rodney Bass, cabinet member for highways, said a lot would depend on the expansion of Stansted within its existing capacity.
He told the Reporter: “Stansted Airport is not going to be the subject of a second runway because that is likely to go to Heathrow first and Gatwick after that.
“But what people need to understand is that the only airport capable of attracting immediate expansion of air traffic around London is Stansted.
“The Davies Commission laid out the need to make maximum use of airport capacity and, therefore, we’re going to have to bring forward infrastructure schemes to support this.”
Cllr Bass said Essex would play a supporting role to the Highways Agency in the discussions, adding: “I don’t think anyone would say there is an immediate need for the M11 to be widened, although it does carry a lot of traffic, but if there was expansion at Stansted this would accelerate it.”
Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst accepted widening the M11 would likely make sense “at some point or other” but that rail improvements should be the priority.
He said: “I’ve had no pressure from constituents about the need to widen the M11 from junction 8 to 9, so it’s not necessarily a dog I want to wake up. I would want to see where the advantage lies first.
“It would be ridiculous to rule out widening the M11 but let’s make the railway top priority, in particular, the four-tracking up to Broxbourne.”
Essex County Council is also looking into the possibility of creating a new M11 junction north of Harlow.
The authority has been forced to restart its public consultation on 7a, which could be completed in 2020-2021, because the questionnaire gave no option for objecting to the scheme.
Cllr Bass has said it is hoped the new junction would promote the “future growth” and “regeneration of Harlow”.