£60 million for North Devon Link Road

It is the case that the North Devon link Road needs improving, so it is good to see investment. There are too many slow sections, and the area is an accident hotspot. However, the SW is more than just the link road, so money needs pumping into infrastructure elsewhere, too.

Drivers, businesses and residents in North Devon will hopefully benefit from the multi-million-pound road upgrade set to get underway this month – thanks to £60 million of investment announced today (10 November 2020) by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. Unfortunately, the focus is on cars (and lorries) with nothing much happening on the railway (or alternative transport) options.

The funding will kick-start major works on the A361, also known as the North Devon Link Road:

  • slashing journey times
  • boosting connectivity
  • unlocking housing across the region

The major project, led by Devon County Council, will boost the local economy by supporting plans for 6,700 new homes in the region (not sure how many more we need given the low levels of employment here, but still) making it easier for people to access job opportunities, which are presumably along the M5, and for businesses to get around.

Upgrades will not only benefit regional travel, they’re also expected to increase cross-country connectivity by improving people’s ability to travel into and out of the South West. Only by car though, as the nearest main line railway station is out at Tiverton Parkway some 60 miles from the Devon/Cornwall border.

Works will focus on a 4.8 mile stretch between South Molton and Barnstaple, so be prepared for disruption if travelling. The route will be modernised with a wider carriageway, which will greatly improve overtaking opportunities, safety and resilience. The road’s capacity and 8 key junctions will be upgraded – and, to boost active travel, facilities for pedestrians and cyclists will be introduced along the route; hopefully, well away from vehicular traffic.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

I’m delighted to announce this funding to upgrade a vital gateway between Devon and the rest of the country. These works will boost connections, cut congestion for drivers and improve people’s quality of life.

It’s a clear indication of our commitment to levelling up and investing in transport infrastructure. Through these works, we’ll improve people’s ability to travel across the Southwest while providing thousands with greater access to new homes and new jobs.

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, Development and Waste, said:

This announcement is fantastic news for local residents and for Devon’s economy. The upgrade of this road is the biggest transport investment in north Devon for a generation. It will help unlock the true potential of the local economy in northern Devon, and with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, that’s vital at this time.

We’ve been working tirelessly on this project for a number of years so it’s great to see that effort rewarded with this government funding. We’ll now be looking to get work started as soon as we can.

The route provides the most direct link between North and South Devon and is a key route linking the Southwest to the rest of the UK. It also acts as a crucial link between the key economic centres of Bideford and Barnstaple. DfT’s investment of £60 million makes up the majority of the total costs of the scheme which is £67.6 million.

Improvements to the A361 are the latest boost to transport in Devon, following the opening of the first phase of a new £80 million sea wall at Dawlish by Rail Minister Chris Heaton Harris in September which does nothing at all for north Devon.

Opening of the new Dawlish sea wall

This investment will provide a “resilient” railway for generations to come, forming part of the government’s commitment to deliver reliable, punctual journeys across (some parts of) Devon and Cornwall, supporting the local economy and tourism (again, for some parts of the SW).

Maybe they’ll improve the A39 next for all the extra traffic coming off the link road. Or provide a train or two. No? Thought not.

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