Nick Herbert: Fight for better infrastructure continues

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

Last week’s National Infrastructure Plan contained a significant update about upgrades to the A27. In June the Government published plans for a £69 million upgrade to the Chichester by-pass and a feasibility study to look at problems on the A27 on the south coast, including Arundel and Worthing, identified as one of six of “the most notorious and long standing hotspots in the country”.

The latest Plan says that the start date of the Chichester bypass upgrade has still to be confirmed, but the feasibility study for Arundel and Worthing is on track. The new Roads Minister, Robert Goodwill MP, has confirmed that the work will ‘reach its conclusions by March 2015 at the latest’.

This means that we have a vital year to make the strongest case for an Arundel by-pass and Worthing upgrades. I’ve urged West Sussex County Council to work with other local councils, businesses, the Local Enterprise Partnership and MPs to make this case, and they’ve agreed to do so. I’ll be meeting County Council leaders in the New Year to review progress.

New figures from the RAC Foundation show that 70 per cent of residents in the Arundel & South Downs constituency travel to work in a car or van. So investment in roads and the freeze on fuel duty announced in Autumn Statement are important for local people.

But for the 6.4 per cent of my constituents who take the train to work, the rail service matters, too. I had an update meeting with Network Rail this week. They’ve confirmed that signal upgrading on the Arun Valley line, which should bring improvements in reliability, will go ahead next year.

The Brighton line, which is very overstretched, is also seeing major improvements, which I am afraid will mean big disruptions to services between Christmas and New Year.

I once again raised the prospect of a new ‘Arundel Chord’, and Network Rail confirmed that this is being considered as part of a major Route Study, to be published in draft next year.

This small extra piece of line would enable trains to turn eastwards below Arundel, allowing direct services from Worthing to Horsham and providing an alternative route when the Brighton line is out of action.

I’ll continue to press for better local infrastructure for my constituents. You can read more, and comment, on my new blog, www.nickherbert.net.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or e-mail me at nick@nickherbert.com