About once every two weeks, I set off from London to West Dorset and travel along the A303. This happens whenever my first meeting happens to be in the north of my constituency.
On other weeks, I set off from London and travel along the A31/A35. This happens when my first meeting is in the south of my constituency.
As I make these journeys very early on a Friday morning, they are both relatively trouble-free in almost all circumstances.
However, on Sundays, my wife and I travel back from the constituency to London – and, as our Dorset home is in Thorncombe, it is completely natural for us on almost all occasions to take the A303 rather than the A35. Especially in the summer months, the results can be horrendous. We find ourselves trapped with large number of other families in those notorious single-lane passages around Stonehenge.
The frustration that we and many others feel on such days is annoyance. But for people engaged in business of one kind or another at busy times during the week, what is for us merely an annoyance becomes a grotesque inconvenience and an occasional business disaster.
As a major trunk road, carrying large amounts of traffic from points east to points south west and vice versa, the single-lane sections of the A303 are simply not fit for purpose.
For my own constituents, this means not only the effect on business that I describe but also displacement of heavy traffic on to the A35 which runs through towns and villages in West Dorset which cannot absorb the amount of through traffic that now comes their way. From every point of view, therefore, the time has come to provide an upgrade for the A303 – that is why I have been campaigning for this result for many years.
Of course I recognise that major decisions on transport capital expenditure, especially at times when money is in short supply, have to be made on the basis of rigorous cost-benefit analyses. But we have now seen very significant investment occur in many other parts of England to overcome blockages and to relieve pinch-points, and the case for the A303, despite the cost and difficulty involved, has consequently become much stronger.
I believe that we now need to see the A303 for what it is – essentially a northern extension of the M3. No-one would think of having a motorway with single-lane sections, and we are now need to eliminate such sections from the A303.