An announcement of the decision on the highly controversial Heysham–M6 Link Road road will probably be made in March 2013.
The Public Examination into the proposed road closed on the 20th September and Examiner Mr Peter Robottom now has three months to prepare his report to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin.
The new Transport Secretary then has three months in which to make his decision.
Appointed only recently, Patrick McLoughlin has already had to preside over the debacle of the West Coast Main Line franchise. Opponents of the road hope that his experience of the faulty finances behind that franchise process will set the alarm bells ringing regarding Lancashire County Council’s flawed financial justification of this proposed scheme.
The road’s principal objector has been Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe and it, together with important regional and national allies has presented a strong case against the road. However, it was a statement from the road’s developer, Lancashire County Council, which first caught the headlines, when hte manager for the Link Road project, Steven McCreesh, admitted very early on: “The Link Road is not intended to solve Lancaster’s problems”,
TSLM argues the statement which will come as a surprise and a disappointment to most local people and has again challenged the Council to explain how can the £123 million scheme be justified on what it regards as flimsy and inaccurate grounds.
TSLM points out that traffic figures used the County Council in 2007 have proved to be inaccurate by 20% – 30%, yet these are the figures on which the go-ahead for the scheme was given. The figures for this examination date from 2008 and are almost certainly wrong, too.
The forecast times savings on journeys made on the new road have also dwindled to just five minutes - at peak times only.
"What a vast amount of money to spend for so little obvious improvement," said TSLM spokesperson David Gate. "This is a route for long distance lorry drivers, but they will hardly notice the negligible improvement!
"The County Council has paid scant attention to alternative traffic measures that could provide a viable but much cheaper option," he adds.
And remember those rare Newts that allegedly put paid to the Western Bypass, their presence often cited as being the reason the County Council abandoned that scheme? (And nothing, of course, to do with well-organised opposition to the proposal from those who would have been affected by it). Well, there's some bad news for the Council on that front on the proposed route, which cuts through Torrisholme and Halton.
"There is mounting evidence that Otters, a Protected Species under European Law, are present and active in parts of the environment where engineering work will have to take place." David Gate reveals. "This does not appear to have registered with the County Council, whose surveys have been grossly inadequate and misleading."
"Otters off Bypass plans" -- we can see the Lancaster Guardian headline now... Nothing, of course, to do with well-organised opposition to the proposal from those who would have been affected by it...