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Conservatives fear U-turn over M6 widening


MINISTERS ARE getting cold feet about plans to widen the M6 between Birmingham and Manchester, opposition leaders claimed this week.

The Conservatives claimed that the Department for Transport (DfT) was backing away from widening, claiming that it is now assessing other ways of tackling congestion on the route.

Only four months ago roads minister Stephen Ladyman said the government would widen the motorway by one lane in each direction.

Shadow transport minister Chris Grayling accused the government of preparing to 'quietly shelve' the widening scheme.

As evidence he pointed to the fact that a questionnaire on alternatives was being handed out to train passengers between the West Midlands and North West.

The questionnaire states: 'The government has appointed consultants to undertake a study to assess options and alternatives for the upgrade of the M6 between the West Midlands and the North West.' The questionnaire adds weight to speculation that the Eddington report, to be published next week, will recommend more investment in railways at the expense of new roads.

A DfT spokesman denied that the scheme would be scrapped, saying that the latest studies were part of the Highways Agency's ongoing preparation of the scheme and there was 'no U-turn'.

The secretary of state announced that the M6 would be widened and this is standard Highways Agency work developing the option of widening the M6.' A spokesperson for the CBI said it would be 'extremely disappointing' if the scheme was dropped.

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