HEREFORD MP Jesse Norman has criticised how a consultation has been handled about a planned eastern river crossing. 

Two months ago, Herefordshire Council published the strategic outline case report for the route that would link the A438 to Rotherwas. 

It was produced by consultants AECOM, who initially looked for 18 “road and non-road options” which they narrowed down to the best two.

The schemes, the report said, would cost between £145million to £200million to build, with the bridge alone costing up to £51million - meaning that it was no longer the cheap option for relieving traffic in the city.


However, while a summary document was available to view, the full appendices were not published - with the council saying "they would be made available at a later date." 

"The appendices were not published as promised, and as far as I am aware there was no press notice or other public announcement of the publication of the study," said Mr Norman.

"There has also been no public consultation, and no discussion of this report with local businesses, and in particular with those on the Enterprise Zone. 

"The main finding of the study is that it expects this road to cost in the region of £150 million. That is more than three times the previous cost estimate, and is in my view - as a former Roads Minister - absurdly high for a road of 1.75 miles.

Hereford Times: The two most viable routes for the eastern crossingThe two most viable routes for the eastern crossing (Image: AECOM / Herefordshire Council)

"It also sits very oddly with the council's view that the much longer and higher specification Western Bypass would cost some £200 million. 

"Given the pressures on traffic in the city, the lack of resilience in having only one substantial bridge at present -- a bridge which is due for maintenance in 2025 - surely what is needed is a Three Bridges Strategy, which combines a bypass and re-trunking of the A49 to the west, with a separate local link road from Rotherwas allowing access to the eastern side of the city. 

"This would remove through traffic and reduce emissions in the centre of Hereford, allow the two sides of the city to be joined more closely together, increase resilience and open up access, including in particular for the emergency services." 

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John Harrington, the former cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, is a long-standing supporting of the eastern river crossing and link road. 

"If the estimated cost for an eastern crossing  has increased, then as sure as night follows day the cost for a western bypass, previously estimated to be in excess of £250 million, will have gone up," said Mr Harrington.

"We can't tell for sure though because this Conservative administration will not release the full Aecom report on ERiC, bizarrely.

"There is no strategic business case for the western crossing and there is very little likelihood of one being successfully produced when you consider the parameters and conditions any government is going to be likely to insist on being met for any new major infrastructure projects." 

However, one person who is a supporter of a western route is Terry James, the group leader of the Liberal Democrats.

"The more viable option has always been the west," he said.

"They're not going to put a bypass around the meadows - both the Conservative and Labour governments have said no. 

"No national government will authorise the council to go east. You've got to face facts - it's not going to happen."

A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said: “Our draft Local Plan outlines how we plan to grow the county’s economy and local communities over the next twenty years.

"There are government requirements to build thousands of new homes during this time, and alongside this we need opportunities for businesses and employment to develop and grow. It is vital we put the infrastructure in place to support this.

"The road strategy for Hereford will be an important component of this and Cabinet will be discussing the options and making a decision, at its meeting in March.”