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14 January 2016

Transport Secretary announces plans to reopen A591 in Cumbria following Storm Desmond and Eva

2 A591

Department for Transport press release

  • Safe reopening of A591 planned for May 2016

  • Kier Highways appointed to carry out repairs to A591 at Dunmail Raise

  • Survey work underway on whole of the affected area of the A591 to the north of Dunmail Raise

The storm-damaged A591 is set to reopen by the end of May, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced today (Thursday 14 January).

The vital Lake District tourist route, which stretches between Grasmere and Keswick, has been closed between St Johns in the Vale and Dunmail Raise since December following significant damage caused by storms Desmond and Eva.

The Transport Secretary made the announcement on his second visit to the A591 in as many weeks.

Highways England has been brought in to deliver a full and permanent reinstatement of the road, to enable it to be reopened as soon as possible. They are currently overseeing the complex survey work required to fully identify any further measures required, over and above the repair needed at Dunmail Raise, to allow the road to be fully reinstated. Once identified, this work will be managed and delivered by Highways England and their contractors.

He also announced that Highways England had appointed Kier Highways to repair the section of the road which has collapsed at Dunmail Raise. The preferred contractor to deliver repairs to the A591 north of Dunmail Raise alongside Thirlmere will be announced following the completion of these urgent assessments.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

"Restoring the A591 is a vital part of our plan to get Cumbria back on its feet after the devastating floods caused by the recent storms. Tourism is an essential part of the local economy and I am pleased that work is underway to repair this major route between Grasmere and Keswick."

Leader of Cumbria County Council Stewart Young said:

"This is extremely welcome news and we are grateful to the Minister and Highways England for taking on the full and complete restoration of the A591. Getting this road reopened and fully repaired is critical to Cumbria’s economy and we already know the extent of the impact closure is having on residents, and particularly on businesses. Now we have a date for repairs being completed our businesses and our residents will able to plan properly for the future."

"In the interim we are working on plans to have a public transport link in place to connect Keswick and Grasmere by the start of February which will utilise the temporary road we are constructing up the east side of Dunmail Raise. This will be in place until the full road reopening."

Highways England Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan said:

"We know that businesses and communities are anxious to see Cumbria’s A591 re-opened as quickly as possible and we’ve been working with the government, Kier and the County Council to draw up the plans to achieve this."

"Kier staff know the county well and as they currently operate, maintain and repair the strategic road network in Cumbria on our behalf we think they’re very well placed to lead the project to rebuild this vital section of the A591."

"All partners are committed to doing the work which supports the safe opening of the road in May."

The Transport Secretary also visited other flood-hit sites in the area which have received government funding following storms Desmond and Eva. In Middleton he viewed a temporary Bailey bridge, funded by a £19,000 investment from the government, which has helped residents avoid a 25-mile diversion. He also visited a temporary Bailey bridge between Old Hutton and Kendal which is receiving £35,000 of government funding, and saw completed restoration works at Stainton Village, where 800 metres of road were seriously damaged. This has now been repaired and resurfaced thanks to £130,000 of government funding.

The work to rebuild the Dunmail Raise section will include improvements to the road to reduce the risk of collapse in the future. The closed three mile section north of Dunmail Raise is currently being surveyed to ascertain what work will be required to safely open that part of the road. The surveys include assessing the stability of the mountain-side, retaining structures, drainage, road carriageway condition, and boundary walls.

In addition to the work on the A591 other repair work continues. At Pooley Bridge, Cumbria County Council announced this week that it will put in place a temporary road bridge by Easter. Costing nearly £300,000, it will be funded from the £40 million, pledged by the government for rebuilding local transport infrastructure for flood-affected areas in Cumbria and Lancashire following Storm Desmond and Storm Eva. The Council confirmed that installation of the new bridge would start by the end of January with the aim of having it open to traffic by Easter, sooner if possible.

The Department of Transport and Highways England will continue to offer support to Cumbria County Council as it works on plans for a permanent Pooley Bridge, and also on the reinstatement of Eamont Bridge.

The government has invested nearly £200 million in recovery from Storm Eva and Storm Desmond, with more than £50 million to repair and improve flood defences following Storm Eva. Money pledged to Cumbria, Lancashire and Northumberland after Storm Desmond earlier in the month included £60 million for communities and local authorities; and £1 million in matched funding for charities. £1 million has already been paid to the Cumbria Community Foundation in its joint appeal with the Community Foundation for Lancashire.

Pledges so far in response to Storm Eva are at least £50 million for communities and local authorities; £50 million for flood defences; and £2 million in matched funding for charity flood appeals for affected areas.

The government is now working closely with other affected authorities as they determine the level of damage caused following Eva and Storm Frank.

Safe reopening of A591 planned for May 2016, Kier Highways appointed to carry out repairs to A591 at Dunmail Raise, Survey work underway on whole of the affected area of the A591 to the north of Dunmail Raise