Despite massive cuts to its overall budget, Lancashire County Council's proposed Heysham M6 Link Road is on course to be the costliest of all Britain 's local authority road schemes, according to figures released by the Department for Transport this week.
At £41 million per mile, it beats its nearest rival, Kingskerswell in Devon, hands down, with an estimated cost of £25,677 per metre (or £648 per inch, if you prefer) copmpared with £19,582 per metre.
Despite this - and the unpopularity of the scheme with many local residents - the County Council is ploughing on, full steam ahead, to fund this top-priced scheme.
"In the same universe as the one where councils such as Lancashire are cutting services, everything from youth services to residential care homes and many jobs, cuts that damage people’s lives," notes David Gate from Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe, a campaign group arguing for alternative, cheaper changes to the local transport system instead of the new road.
"What’s more, Lancashire County Council has earned the promise of some government funding by increasing its own contribution to £12.3 million, and accepting all cost overruns.
"As the transport mandarins coldly put it: cost risk sits with the promoter.
"Road schemes always go over budget," he continues. "We have been making the case ever since Lancashire County Council’s 'Best and Final Funding Bid' in January 2011, that the real cost estimate for the Heysham-Morecambe M6 link is at least £17 million more than currently admitted, all of which will end up being paid by the Council.
"The Council’s response so far has been a deafening silence.
"And even that is not the end of the story. Of nineteen recently completed bypasses, Better Transport motes the average increase in costs during the construction period is 13% (PDF link). That would be another £16-18 million for Lancashire’s taxpayers to find.
"For cutting essential services and for spending on the country’s most costly road scheme, Lancashire leads the way."