Kirkby Stephen bypass wouldsave lives and reduce congestion

Date: Friday 20th April 2018

Sir, Only a few weeks ago it was stated in the Herald that the Government had allocated £250,000 for a feasibility study into an eastern bypass for Penrith.

Your front page story (14th April) states this has already been ruled out on grounds of cost. Did that finding really need a £250,000 study? And it seems the other option of a flyover at Kemplay is not popular either.

At the south west corner of Penrith, the following six roads converge: M6, A66, A6, A686, A592 and B5320. It should have been blindingly obvious to highways authorities that having all this traffic meet was bound to cause problems sooner or later and plan accordingly.

Cumbria County Council has made the situation much worse by closing the road past QEGS to through traffic; putting so many speed humps in Clifford Road and Wetheriggs that drivers avoid the area; blocking off the underpass at Frenchfield so drivers from Brougham have to use Kemplay; and putting a lorry restriction on Kirkby Stephen instead of a bypass, forcing lorries to detour via the overcrowded A66 and Penrith instead.

On Page 3 of the same issue, our county councillor, Phil Dew, raises once again the well documented problem of vehicles hitting the Midland railway bridge at Kirkby Stephen, a problem that would be completely solved by the provision of a bypass.

In order to help alleviate the problems at Kemplay, the underpass at Frenchfield should be reopened immediately. It was very useful for local traffic to use as a detour when there was congestion at Kemplay.

Secondly, a third lane should be added to the eastbound dual carriageway and be built so it can be accessed by local Penrith traffic only.

The Kirkby Stephen bypass should be progressed immediately. It is already designed, has the backing of a public inquiry and, in road construction terms, is, at a cost of about £15 million to £20 million, very cost effective.

Had the Labour-controlled county council not ignored the public inquiry result and constructed the bypass, as suggested by the Kirkby Stephen pro-bypass group, there would now be a lot less pollution, lower costs to business and hauliers, less congestion, a number of lives saved and a useful source of income from tolls.

According to government information, the A66 between Brough and Penrith is rated as low to medium risk, whereas the A685 which passes through Kirkby Stephen is rated medium risk, i.e. more dangerous than the A66.

Many suggest dualling the A66, but is that always the answer? At the public inquiry into the Temple Sowerby bypass (about 2003) I handed in a letter suggesting that instead of bypassing Temple Sowerby, a new road from Crackenthorpe to Hackthorpe be constructed.

Before anyone discounts this out of hand, take a look at a map. This option would remove a very large amount of traffic from the Penrith roundabouts, avoid nearly all of the traffic management issues associated with upgrading an existing road, and provide an alternative route if an incident blocked either.

It would also have the advantage of taking Shap quarry and other HGV traffic out of Clifton and Eamont Bridge.

The question road planners should be asking is where does the traffic want to travel between and what is the best way to accommodate this, not how can we upgrade this or that road. Yours etc,

ERIC METCALFE

Kirkby Stephen.