12-lane M25 plan leaked

The controversy over plans to widen the M25 reopened yesterday when a leaked Department of Transport press release revealed part of the motorway will become 12 lanes, writes Christian Wolmar.

The scheme, due to be announced by the the Transport minister, John Watts, in a press release dated 11 April, involves almost pounds 100m being spent on widening the M25 between junction 12 (M3) and 14 (A3113 to Heathrow Terminal 4). Most controversially, between junction 14 and 15 (M4), there will be six lanes on each side of the motorway. This is the section nearest the planned Terminal Five, currently subject of a public inquiry. It would become the only part of Britain's motorway network wider than eight lanes.

A year ago, Brian Mawhinney, the then transport secretary, shelved plans to widen the motorway to 14 lanes because of local opposition.

The Government says it does not need a public inquiry for the scheme because it can be carried out within existing highway boundaries. Comments have to be submitted by 3 July.

Chris Fisher of Flame, which co-ordinates opposition to the plan, said: "This is a completely futile plan. The road would not be built until around 2000 at the earliest, and would be fully occupied by 2010, which suggests they would then try to widen it again." Labour's spokesman on roads, Graham Allen, said: "They are wasting pounds 100m on a plan to widen a road that will become obsolete."

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