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Revealed: £63m bid to dual Worcester's notorious Carrington Bridge
A £63 million pound bid to finally dual Worcester's notorious Carrington Bridge has been made to the Government, it has emerged.
If successful the cash could resolve south Worcester's traffic problems by 2020, ending years of fury from drivers.
Your Worcester News can reveal how Worcestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has gone cap-in-hand in an attempt to extract the money from a national £2 billion fund for economic growth.
It follows intense talks behind the scenes with leading businesses and councils in recent weeks to create a major investment blueprint for the whole county.
The county council will add £7 million into the pot to create a £70 million kitty, enough to do the job.
Last year Worcestershire County Council revealed a £38 million plan to part-dual the rest of the A4440 Southern Link Road, but not actual the bridge.
Under an existing schedule, depending on getting Government and private sector contributions the part-dualling will finish by 2018.
Since then the council has continuously argued the costs of "finishing the job" by dualling Carrington Bridge are too high to commit to it with county taxpayers money.
But the Government has since dangled a carrot in front of LEPs by asking them to develop their own growth blueprints, known as Strategic Economic Plans, saying they will hand out £2 billion towards the best ideas.
Worcestershire's plan, which was sent to the Government this week, now includes a complete dualling of the entire bridge.
The bridge was built in 1984 and since the 1990s it has caused drivers misery, with many critics saying it is not fit-for-purpose.
A helping hand from the Government would transform the situation, with two lanes running in both directions.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, county council deputy leader and cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure, said: "The Carrington Bridge is the last piece in the jigsaw.
"We've had a long-term ambition to get it done, it's a dualling of the whole bridge we are asking for.
"We know it's a competitive process but it's clear the serious money will go to those areas which can use the funds to unlock barriers to growth."
As part of the A4440 overhaul on Sunday, April 27 the county council is starting a year-long £8 million scheme on the Ketch roundabout off the A38.
It will lead to the island doubling in size and see a new slip road created for drivers turning left at the roundabout coming from Bath Road.
The entire link is used by around 30,000 cars a day.
The Government is expected to start allocating LEPs some early money from its £2 billion fund by December, at the time of the 2014 autumn statement.
Worcester MP Robin Walker said: "It's exactly what I've been calling for and now its in the plan, it's very useful for me in terms of putting the case to transport ministers, we want that bridge dualled.
"Getting this down as an objective for the whole county is great news."
SO WHAT DOES THE REST OF THE PLAN INCLUDE?
THE full blueprint for how Worcestershire could create 25,000 new jobs has been revealed - in the hope it could result in £250 million of Government funding.
A 180-page dossier for how the county aims to grow over the next 10 years has been published by Worcestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership.
The long-awaited report reveals if successful, another £2.9 billion of economic activity would be generated by the investment.
The Strategic Economic Plan calls for:
- A new pedestrian river crossing in Worcester, running from Gheluvelt Park to Kepax Country Park
- Funds to finally build Worcestershire Parkway, at Norton, including a dedicated Worcester shuttle bus to take city residents to the site
- Improvements to the Cotswold Line so train journeys from Worcester to London take less than two hours by 2016
- An extra £4 million to develop Pershore College, making it a national centre of excellence for rural innovation
- 1,000 more apprenticeships and money to promote Worcester Technology Park, off Junction 6 of the M5
- Another £4 million towards better flood protection, broadband coverage and water supplies
- £14 million towards improving careers services for young people, employment hubs which promote work opportunities, and projects to better link businesses with colleges
- A contribution to the £6 million needed to reconfigure the Junction 6 exit of the M5 in Worcester so it gets less congested at peak times
- 10 per cent of all Government further education spending in Worcestershire to be ring-fenced to specifically improve skills on maths, science, technology and engineering
The plan was submitted to the Government this week just in time for the national deadline.
Peter Pawsey, chairman of the LEP, is also meeting Prime Minister David Cameron in Manchester today (Thursday) to lobby him on it.
Although it is unlikely the county will get everything it is asking for, hopes are high it will get a substantial sum.
He said: "When we came in three years ago we knew we had to raise the profile of Worcester and Worcestershire, and people have now got that message.
"There's a real drive, the place has been woken up and this plan is what Worcestershire needs."
It was put together after input from more than 150 organisations as well as all of Worcestershire's councils and MPs.
The £2 billion fund faces competitive bids from 39 LEPS around the country.
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