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Express & Star comment: Scrap this road plan for good

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

For anyone of a certain age, the revival of the Western Orbital Route is like the unexpected reappearance of a long lost black sheep at a family reunion.

Is the Western Orbital Route really the answer to solve congestion?

There’s a faint whiff of nostalgia but also the remembrance of just why this particular relative has not been seen for a good long while.

In the case of the Western Orbital, or Wolverhampton bypass as some may remember it, the problem was the enormous impact it would have on an essentially rural area.

It would carve a 40 mile swathe through leafy countryside in Worcestershire and Staffordshire, from Bromsgrove to the M54 north of Wolverhampton.

Transport body Midlands Connect may have given it a new name – the Western Strategic Route – but make no mistake, this is the same orbital route that was rejected in the 1990s and the 2000s because of its environmental impact.

South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson will speak for many when he says: “ It is of grave concern that Midlands Connect appear to be bringing these failed and rejected plans back to life after being killed off many times before.”

We have been over this time and time again.

The transport network around the West Midlands is in a parlous state, with clogged motorways and gridlocked local networks overwhelmed by the sheer weight of traffic.

Our region’s geographical position makes its a natural centre for distribution, particularly by road.

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And solutions are urgently needed so goods can get to their customers and everyone can get to work on time.

But is it sensible to spend a chunk of a £4 million funding pot rehashing a scheme that has been discarded so many times before?

Of course there are arguments in favour of the Western Orbital Route.

There always were. It bypasses a heavily built-up area and would offer enormous relief to an overcrowded road network.

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But the cost has always been too high. It would mean sacrificing too much countryside. And the cost would be astronomical.

To again quote Mr Williamson: “These plans have repeatedly been turned down because they are unworkable, incredibly damaging and would only provide a sticking plaster to congestion on the West Midlands’ roads.”

That £4m would be far better being spent on coming up with a new, more practical, solution.

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