The A417 and PMQs

You wait ages for a bus, then three come along at once. The same is true for Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament it seems. I’ve spent months trying to catch the Speaker’s eye. And now this week is the third Wednesday in a row that I’ve been called to quiz the PM.

Two weeks ago I raised the future of Cheltenham’s A&E. Last week I called on the Government to continue to develop our country’s ability to strike back in cyberspace to deter aggressive cyber threats from abroad.

This week I took the opportunity to seek the Prime Minister’s personal backing for the A417 roads investment scheme.

It’s timely. Earlier this week there was yet another smash on this notorious road, causing traffic chaos for Gloucestershire people. And thousands of my constituents continue to waste hours each year snarled up in traffic heading up Crickley Hill, at the Air Balloon roundabout, or at Nettleton Bottom. The gridlock damages productivity, stifles job creation in Cheltenham, and causes unnecessary air pollution.

But after the hugely welcome Government commitment in 2014 to fund this strategic roads scheme, many of us in Cheltenham have been growing increasingly frustrated at the ponderous pace of the clunky road planning machine. I and my Gloucestershire MP colleagues are demanding progress.

So I was delighted that the Prime Minister confirmed that she understood the concerns of Gloucestershire drivers and reiterated the Government’s financial backing. Crucially too she confirmed that we will shortly be arriving at a crucial milestone: namely a public consultation on two shortlisted schemes, to start early in the New Year.

This is really positive news. Make no mistake: any roads scheme will be controversial. But we have a golden opportunity to get something done to make Gloucestershire fit for the future. Let’s seize it.