Highways England to assess north-south connectivity between M4 and south coast

Highways England is to assess the current north-south connectivity in the south west between the M4 and the south coast.

The study includes looking at the A338 from Salisbury to Ringwood before it turns into the Wessex Way, as well as the A350, which runs from Wiltshire, around Blandford to Beacon Hill and the A37 from Ilchester to Dorchester.

Transport assessments are also being carried out to review train services from Weymouth to Waterloo and Weymouth to Yeovil, to develop what is called a ‘multi-modal overview of strategic transport’.

Findings from the assessment will be shared with local authorities through the regional transport body when complete, reports the Dorset Echo.

Portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment at Dorset County Council, Cllr Ray Bryan said: “RIS2 funded projects are not set to start until 2030 and, in the meantime, we currently have no plans for any further changes to either the A350 or the C13, save for the well-publicised ongoing stabilisation scheme for Dinah’s Hollow.

“Measures put in place in 2018, including the advisory one-way system, on the whole, work well in managing traffic through the area. It is widely recognised that the transport corridor between The Midlands and the south coast needs improving.

“The study will seek to understand current north-south demands and will get an idea of what future traffic movements may look like. Highways England are scoping their project and we look forward to seeing further information from them in the Autumn.”

The A350 is already recognised by Dorset Council as a primary strategic route, along with the A37, A354 and A35 between Bere Regis and Poole, all of which the council is responsible for maintaining.

The council has acknowledged for some time that the north-south routes within Dorset itself are no longer suitable for the volume and types of vehicles travelling on them. 

As part of a medium-term solution to alleviate some of the issues facing communities along the routes, £2.4m from the Government’s National Productivity Investment Fund was used in 2018 to implement a route management scheme and carry out structural maintenance and improvements along the A350 and the C13.

As part of this, an advisory one-way route was created to help improve the flow of HGVs travelling through the north Dorset area, using the A350 northbound, towards Shaftesbury, and the C13 southbound, towards Blandford.

Highways England is due to start its assessment in September, which will hopefully be the first step towards a long-term solution for the current north-south connectivity issues.

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