A46 – One of the country’s most important trade routes

A46 – One of the country’s most important trade routes

A46 improvements in Lincolnshire a priority as Midlands Connect reveals 20-year development plan for the road corridor– “one of the country’s most important trade routes”




Upgrading the A46 through Lincolnshire should form part of a “corridor approach” to improving the whole A46 through the Midlands, boosting the economy by £7.1 billion, says Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect. The pan-Midlands transport agency is calling for urgent, co-ordinated action to improve traffic flows on one of the country’s most important trade routes.

Midlands Connect has released the first ever improvement plan for the entire A46 corridor, with a 20-year vision to future-proof the route and boost the national economy.

Stage One of the A46 Corridor Study identified Lincoln as one of the key congestion hotspots where rush hour average speeds regularly fall below 20mph. The study finds that improvements to the A46 could have a clear role in improving access to and from Lincolnshire’s Humber ports.

The A46 corridor stretches for 155 miles from Lincolnshire to Gloucestershire, is home to 5.5 million people and 2.9 million jobs, with an economic output of £115 billion a year, equivalent to 9% of the English economy.

As well as acting as a ring road for cities like Lincoln, the A46 corridor is a vital trade and export route, providing access to Birmingham and East Midlands airports and major ports on the Bristol Channel and the Humber at either end. Its economy is dominated by advanced manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, agriculture, distribution and textiles industries which depend on a reliable road network to succeed. 22% of goods produced along the corridor are exported, well above the UK average of 15%, with the A46 corridor responsible for more than half of the Midlands’ exports.

The Office of National Statistics forecasts an increase of 600,000 new residents and 250,000 new homes within the corridor by 2041. With 150,000 new jobs on the line too, Midlands Connect says only a comprehensive, holistic solution to improving the A46 can support this growth.

Suggested improvements

Midlands Connect supports all the current and planned interventions to improve the A46. In addition, Midlands Connect has identified a number of potential improvement schemes across the Midlands, with input from Highways England and local authorities. These options will be evaluated in more detail in Stage Two of the corridor study. The current priorities include:

The next stage of work will develop the best combination of options to deliver the local, regional and national objectives of the A46 corridor and Lincolnshire area.

Midlands Connect’s improvement plan builds on the work already being done by Highways England and local authorities to improve pinch points along the A46, and on the success of the A46 Partnership – a coalition of LEPs and councils between Gloucestershire and Leicestershire – in promoting the route as one of local, regional, national and international significance.

Investing in a corridor-wide package of improvements could transform the performance of the route by:

The Economic Prize

Forecasts suggest that corridor-wide improvement of the A46 could bring economic benefits of £7.1 billion over the next 60 years through quicker journeys and improved productivity. These figures don’t include the potential growth from new jobs and housing, meaning the overall benefits could be significantly higher.

Lincolnshire businesses back A46 improvements  

As part of the study, Midlands Connect worked with chambers of commerce to survey more than 250 businesses based within a few miles of the A46.  98% of Lincolnshire businesses surveyed said an improved A46 would boost their productivity, while 71% said it would enable them to create new jobs. 71% said current traffic conditions negatively impact their business performance, and 62% said traffic has got worse in the last 5 years. Significantly, one in five (19%) have considered relocating due to conditions on the A46.

Maria Machancoses, Director, Midlands Connect, said:

“Using today’s approach to funding, it could be 40 years before the A46 receives the investment it needs to match the growth in jobs and housing expected along the corridor. We must do things differently and accelerate a long-term investment plan to make sure economic growth isn’t held back. Delivering our vision will not only make our businesses in Lincolnshire more prosperous, it will improve the quality of life of people living and working along the corridor. Doing nothing will hold back this progress.”

Simon Beardsley, Chief executive of Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce said:

“Businesses operating close to the A46 in Lincolnshire clearly see it as a critical enabler to support their aspirations of growth and future prosperity.  The A46 is a highly used route and an important channel for commuting, as well as the distribution of goods.  A significant proportion affirm though that road conditions and traffic flow are getting worse, which affects certainty and reliability of road journeys.

“This can be particularly acute when you reflect that many journeys facilitate the movement of time sensitive perishable food, which are of course a key element of the largest sector within the counties economy. Equally, easy and reliable access to the Humber Ports is critical.  This is not only for our manufacturing business, but for many businesses within the Midlands Engine area as they are the closest sea port gateways at the very end of the A46 in Lincolnshire.”

Nigel Huddleston, MP for Mid Worcestershire and Midlands Connect’s A46 Champion, said:

“Upgrading the A46 isn’t just a Midlands priority, it’s a national priority and this initial report will help get it higher up on the national agenda. We will only be successful in promoting the case for this corridor by working together – cross-Midlands, cross-sector, and cross-party. As Midlands Connect’s A46 Champion, it’s my job to support that collaboration in any way I can. We must find a way to stop thinking about major transport improvements as either or – either Northern Powerhouse Rail or HS2; either Cambridge-Oxford connections or upgrading East-West Midlands connections – in order to support a sustainable 21st Century economy, we need them all.

“This report clearly states why the A46 is so important and deserves national attention. We need to unleash housing development sites, solve road safety black spots and take heavy traffic out of places it doesn’t belong. The next stage of the report being released next year will go into more detail about exactly where work should be focused, what it will entail and how it should be phased. That’s when we’ll need assurances that some of the roads funding which the Chancellor announced in the Budget will be allocated to this nationally-important project”.

Network planning director for Highways England, Jeremy Bloom, said:

“We recognise the importance of the A46 corridor to the Strategic Road Network and the contribution it makes to the Midlands economy and beyond. We also support a more strategic approach to long-term investment and will continue to work closely with Midlands Connect to develop potential solutions for the route and to make the case for investment within the context of our national remit.”

The second stage of Midlands Connect’s A46 corridor study will further develop the proposed improvements and their respective business cases, and is due for release in 2019.

About Midlands Connect

Midlands Connect explores, develops and recommends transport projects which will provide the biggest possible economic and social benefits for the Midlands and the rest of the UK.

We examine every option for improving major transport infrastructure in our region. The fundamental aim of these improvements is to transform regional and UK gateways, bringing the Midlands closer together and accelerating cost-effective improvements to unlock east-west connectivity that will enable the Midlands’ economies to work more effectively together.

Midlands Connect is the transport arm of the Midlands Engine. Our 25 year transport strategy for the region has the potential to add £5 billion a year to the UK economy, contributing to the Midlands Engine vision of creating 300,000 additional jobs by 2030 and growing the economy by £54 billion.

Our partnership is made up of 22 local authorities, nine Local Enterprise Partnerships, East Midlands and Birmingham airports, and chambers of commerce stretching from the Welsh border to the Lincolnshire coast. The partnership also includes the Department for Transport, Network Rail, Highways England and HS2 Ltd, who we work alongside to drive an unprecedented level of collaboration for the good of the Midlands and the UK.

The Midlands Connect Strategy, as well as its latest report, Our Routes to Growth, can be downloaded here: https://www.midlandsconnect.uk/publications/

The Midlands Engine Vision for Growth can be downloaded here: https://www.midlandsengine.org/wp-content/uploads/Midlands-Engine-Vision-for-Growth.pdf

Chambers of commerce business survey results 


West Midlands region-wide (Herefordshire & Worcestershire, Coventry & Warwickshire chambers of commerce)

East Midlands region-wide (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire)

Herefordshire & Worcestershire

Coventry & Warwickshire 




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