In The House with South West Beds MP Andrew Selous...
Ever since I was first elected in 2001 I have been very aware of the need to relieve traffic congestion to enable our area to prosper.
The petition I presented in Parliament shortly after I was selected calling for a bypass from the M1 to the A505, Leyton Buzzard’s southern relief road, was signed by more people than elected me.
Last week I went to see diggers on the ground making this request a reality rather than a policy issue to talk about. What has happened in all those intervening years and indeed for decades and decades beforehand?
The answer is shambolically and inexcusably little. South Bedfordshire has been the land which time forgot as far as infrastructure investment is concerned.
The cost of delay is not just the transport misery for tens of thousands of local people and huge aggravation to local businesses.
That delay has also cost you and I as taxpayers a very great deal too.
The first estimate I was given of the cost of this 4.5k dual carriageway was £48 million. Over the time I have been an MP alone that cost has quadrupled to c.£200 million. I wish the taxpayer could have been saved that extra £150m by getting on with it earlier.
Anyway, diggers mean that things are finally happening and I know that businesses in Leighton Buzzard, Houghton Regis and Dunstable are already waking up to the exciting new possibilities that this road brings.
For example one specialised logistics business in Leighton Buzzard was considering an alternative location, and the decision to proceed, giving Leighton Buzzard for the first time fast direct access to the whole of the national motorway network, changed their minds and they have decided to stay and expand the business in Leighton Buzzard.
The A5 M1 link will also be accompanied by the Woodside connection which means that the heart of Dunstable’s industrial area will also have direct access to the M1 without having to go through residential areas. Residents in Poynters Road Dunstable and along Luton Road Dunstable will be hugely grateful for the relief they are going to receive
Dunstable will get back the control of its own High Street when these two roads are built and I look forward to the increase in commercial activity and street life generally that this relief from traffic will bring.
Specifically it means that we will be able to ban heavy goods vehicles which thunder up and down Dunstable High Street unless they are delivering to or collecting from Dunstable.
None of this would be possible without the superb work of Central Bedfordshire Council in attracting £50 million of investment towards the cost of this road. Because of the calamitous state of the nation’s finances in 2010, it would not be possible to build this road without this private sector contribution.
I remain angry at how long all this has taken. I think of the jobs which were not created and the opportunities missed locally because this vital connecting piece of the local infrastructure was not in place decades ago. Once the road is actually opened, and if I have the time, I will try to ensure that lessons are learnt about our failure to provide this road sooner. Anyway, the good news is, after decades of inaction, diggers are finally on the ground.