The Secretary of State for Transport has approved the Development Consent Order (DCO) application to upgrade the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine route spanning 50 miles across the North of England.

A Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the plans form a key part of the government’s proposed £24 billion road investment fund setting a new benchmark in UK highways projects.

Developed by National Highways, with support from global sustainable development consultancy Arup and infrastructure specialists Amey Consulting, the plans are anticipated to transform journeys in the North of England between Penrith and Scotch Corner. The A66 provides the most direct route between the eastern side of England and western Scotland. It is a critical route for freight, providing links to a number of international ports like Stranraer, Hull, Teesport and Felixstowe and connects holiday makers to the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District.

Both a local and national route, planned improvements will shorten journey times and increase network resilience whilst reducing congestion and accidents through a renewed focus on safety for all road users and those nearby, including cyclists and pedestrians. The current A66 sees approximately 50% more casualties than the strategic road network average. Prioritising and promoting safe active travel, the creation of more than 18 miles of cycleway provision is a core project element.

The interventions proposed reflect National Highways and Arup’s ambitions to bring sustainability to the fore of road infrastructure initiatives, delivering outcomes related to decarbonisation, biodiversity restoration and social value. The project has taken a novel approach to environmental consenting and will deliver a 30% reduction of embodied carbon emissions in the specimen design. Greater than 10% biodiversity net gain (BNG) will be achieved for grassland, hedgerows and woodland, going beyond UK legislation that came into effect in February 2024. This approach contributes to the recovery of nature while developing a site and enhances its biodiversity. Expected construction duration has been reduced from ten to five years.

Understood to be the largest single investment in the North of England’s road network in a generation, social value and community engagement will continue to be a pivotal part of the upgrade, with £6.4 million already invested in local communities. Plans include engagement with schools and universities as the project comes to fruition, offering education on the positive impact infrastructure can have on society and to encourage the next generation of engineers.

What they say

Arup is delighted to have helped National Highways secure planning consent for the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine upgrade. The project is so much more than a road upgrade. In addition to reduced journey times, improved safety and better connectivity, the A66 brings employment opportunities to the region, enhances active travel movements and delivers infrastructure sympathetic to this stunning landscape. The A66 will leave a positive legacy for generations of network users in the North of England.

Andy Johnson

Project Director, Arup

We are delighted to have received approval and to be able to give the people of Cumbria, County Durham and North Yorkshire some positive news. We will be part of community life for the next few years, so we want to make sure we are giving back. We will be using local companies and employment during our construction work, which will help support the local economy. We want to work with local schools, colleges, academies, universities and community groups, encouraging the engineers of the future to consider a career in construction and provide training opportunities.

Stewart Jones

Project Director for the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine, National Highways