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Stonehenge tunnel and Olympic road face axe in funding row


TWO MAJOR road schemes this week faced the axe as a funding row erupted between the Department for Transport (DfT) and the South West Regional Assembly.

The assembly is expected to drop the Stonehenge tunnel and the Weymouth relief road from its 10 year plan, saying that the DfT should pay for them.

It wants the DfT to fund both schemes because it considers them to have national strategic importance.

But transport secretary Alistair Darling reclassified the projects as regional schemes last year, ruling out national funding (NCE 24 February 2005).

'The region has two areas of concern, where schemes which have regional priority are contributing to national priorities, ' said a South West Regional Assembly spokesman.

'The first is at Stonehenge, where a signifi ant element of the potential cost of any scheme is likely to be incurred to meet national and international heritage considerations, rather than transportation considerations.

'The second is at Weymouth where the relief road will be an essential part of enabling the delivery of the 2012 Olympics.' The relief road would provide a vital link to the Olympic sailing centre on the edge of the town.

Each English region is due to produce spending plans for Darling by the end of this month, drawing on advice from newly established regional transport boards.

These will include plans of how the region will spend transport funds allocated for major local schemes and Highways Agency schemes considered of regional rather than national importance.

The intention is to force regions to make the tough decisions by deciding which schemes it cannot afford.

The South East Regional Transport Board has already indicated that it will put on hold schemes across the region to fund the £145M Hindhead tunnel (News last week).

Similarly, the East Midlands has been forced to delay schemes like the A46 Newark to Widmerpool widening.

This scheme was originally programmed for a start of work this year, but will now not happen until 2011 at the earliest.

The North West has included plans for a second Mersey crossing in Runcorn in its plans. But it has warned that if a forthcoming judicial review of government's decision to axe funding for its Merseytram scheme is successful other schemes will have to make way.

The West Midlands has also put a tram scheme top of its list. It wants to extend the Midland Metro.

The East of England has put integrated transport schemes top of its list, setting aside £230M for the Luton to Dunstable Translink, the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway and the Croxley Rail link.

Dualling the A47 in Blofield has made way, going back from a start this year to 2011 at the earliest.

The North East and Yorkshire & Humberside were still assessing priorities as NCE went to press.

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