A DECISION on ‘lifesaving’ upgrades to a major Cumbrian road has been delayed until 2024, as transport leaders in the north express disappointment at the delay.

The A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project would dual 50 miles (80km) from Penrith to Scotch Corner, an while the application is still being considered, news broke that a planning decision has been pushed back as to whether work could start in earnest.

The Transport Secretary Mark Harper was due to rule on the £1.3 billion scheme on Tuesday, October 7, however government have announced that the decision will now be delayed until March 2024.

Government says the decision to extend the deadline has been a ‘necessary’ one to allow consideration for certain matters related to the scheme, including it’s impacts on the North Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation

Responding to the decision a spokesperson for Transport for the North said: “We are disappointed to hear of a delay to the decision on upgrading the A66. But the important thing is to get the right answer, which we strongly believe is upgrading this key route to improve connections and experience for the people that use it.

“Removing the bottlenecks along this key east-west corridor will make the road safer and more reliable for travellers and help freight get across the Pennines by linking ports on both coasts and providing onward connectivity to Scotland. It’s not only a hugely important route between the Lake District, North Yorkshire and the Tees Valley – and the dozens of communities in between – it also helps connect Scotland to our towns and cities.

“We look forward to what we hope will be the go-ahead for this very important piece of national infrastructure.”

The delay has been criticised by local people with Penrith and the Borders MP urged the government to take action on the scheme.

Dr Neil Hudson MP said: “I know I speak for all the communities along the A66 when I say that we need to progress with this dualling upgrade.

"For those of us who know all too well how many collisions and even fatalities take place along our stretch of the A66, we need this upgrade to make the route safer, ultimately help save lives, in addition to the economic benefits this infrastructure will bring to the region.

"I have been in close contact with the Secretary of State and Transport Ministers reinforcing just how important a positive decision is for us and will continue pushing hard for resolute action on the issue. I know a great deal of constituents have already written to me with their concerns and I will keep going on this."

The deadline for the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine DCO decision has been extended until 7 March 2024.