A CUMBRIAN MP is urging members of the public to ensure their views on the £1bn upgrade of the A66 are heard.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling launched a public consultation on plans for a “nationally important” upgrade of the trans-Pennine route this week.

Highways England is developing plans to improve connectivity, reliability and safety of the road by dualling six single carriageway sections of the A66 - a total of 18 miles - between junction 40 of the M6 and Scotch Corner.

Three of them, from Penrith to Temple Sowerby, Temple Sowerby to Appleby and Appleby to Brough, are in Cumbria.

The project will also include an upgrade to Kemplay Bank roundabout and improvements to junction 40 of the M6 at Penrith and the A1 junction at Scotch Corner.

Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, who has long campaigned for the dualling of the A66, welcomed the launched of the consultation and hopes local people will have their say.

“The launch of this consultation is great news and I hope that people make full use of this opportunity to get their views heard,” he said.

“I have pushed hard to ensure that the strategic importance of this stretch of road is recognised in Government.

“Now we need to drive the dualling forward - not only to bring economic and transport benefits but also - most importantly - to help improve the safety of motorists on this key route.”

Matt Townsend, senior project manager for Highways England, said the project was nationally important and was “one of the biggest schemes in the true north for a while.”

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said such major transport developments show growing confidence in Cumbria.

“I think Cumbria and Carlisle is now recognised by central government as an important part of the northern economy and therefore the Government is putting money into our region, which is a tremendous boost and I think demonstrates growing confidence by government in Cumbria," he said.

While this project focuses on upgrades to the A66 east of Penrith, Highways England said it is working towards a separate scheme to improve the route to the west, including three new roundabout improvements, which will soon be announced.

Details of the route options for each of the six single carriageway sections will be presented at 20 consultation events.

Penrith Rugby Club, Carleton Hall Gardens, is hosting another event today from 10am to 2pm.

The public information exhibitions will then go on display at Appleby Hub, in Chapel Street, on May 30, 10am - 3pm, May 31, 11am - 7pm, and June 1, 10am - 2pm.

Further consultation events will be held at Penrith Parish Centre, in St Adnrew's Place, on June 4, 5 and 6.