A66 Northern Trans-Pennine


It is eight different schemes in one Development Consent Order (DCO) planning application to dual the remaining 30km of single carriageway sections of the A66 between M6 (J40) at Penrith and the A1(M) (J53) at Scotch Corner. Some sections are new junction schemes, some are online dualling, and some are entirely new roads.


  • Goes through part of the North Pennines National Landscape (the new name for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and will increase traffic and noise within it, reducing tranquillity.
  • Increases carbon emissions by 2.7 million tonnes (over its 60 year lifespan).
  • Directly impacts on two Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), which are the UK’s most precious habitats: the River Eden SAC and the North Pennine Moors SAC.
  • The SACs are crossed by three enormous concrete viaducts (one 14 metres high[1], and another 400 metres long[2]), industrialising and degrading these beautiful landscapes and fragile habitats.
  • Increases air pollution which would harm blanket bog, an endangered habitat.
  • Up to 18,255 trees would be felled, covering an area the size of 53 football pitches, including 4 veteran and notable trees and 5 protected trees.
  • Increases road traffic into the Lake District National Park and World Heritage Site (WHS), which National Highways are claiming is a ‘benefit’!


National Highways estimate that the scheme would cost £1.49 billion[3]. This is one of the largest roads in the RIS2 roads programme, and would divert scarce funds away from much needed sustainable transport solutions.


Although the scheme is mostly justified on economic grounds (providing a route for increased HGV traffic), National Highways also claim the scheme would reduce collisions. The safety information provided was presented in a confusing manner so we have focussed on casualties.

Overall there would be a “net saving of 9 fatalities and 83 serious injuries”[4] over a 60 year appraisal period on the A66. The new sections of the A66 would see 15 fatalities and 123 serious casualties saved, but slight casualties would increase by 41[5]. However, safety on the existing dual carriageways will worsen (due to the increases in traffic) with an extra 6 fatalities and 40 serious casualties. It’s also worth noting that the A1(M) Junction 53 Scotch Corner changes would result in safety getting worse there[6].

Overall, across the wider road network (including the A66), National Highways claim that the scheme would save 14 casualties, 148 serious casualties and 368 slight casualties[7].

The Decision Letter states “that the existing A66 has average casualties 50% higher than the average across the Strategic Road Network[8] (SRN)“. However this is not comparing the A66 to equivalent roads as the entire SRN includes motorways which are generally the safest roads. From 2019, the average casualty rate for Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) across the whole of the SRN was 2.19 KSI per hundred million vehicle miles (phmvm)[9]. Combining these figures gives a KSI rate for the current A66 as 3.29 phmvm[10].

However, the average KSI for all dual and single carriageway roads on the SRN in 2019 was 3.69 phmvm. This means that the A66 is actually safer than the average for comparable roads on the SRN.

The reality is that the scheme is being pursued to increase HGV numbers, not to increase safety. If National Highways was genuinely interested in increasing safety, it would have implemented the low cost solutions outlined below many years ago and it would also be aiming to reduce HGV numbers.


Better junctions, better road markings and signage, better lighting (where appropriate), safer crossings for local traffic, lower speed limits, increased speed enforcement with more average speed cameras, more police patrols, and speed awareness campaigns. Many of these could have been implemented years ago at little cost and fairly quickly.

Where a 40mph limit has been enforced by average speed cameras on a single carriageway section at Kirkby Thore, collisions have been significantly reduced. However, the average speed cameras only cover a tiny part of just one single carriageway section, with the collisions occurring when drivers exit the average speed section, and speed up on the remaining single carriageway. If the average speed camera zones were extended to cover all the single carriageway sections, safety would be increased, collisions would be reduced, lives saved, and at a fraction of the cost of the £1.5 billion A66 project.

Unfortunately, National Highways have never investigated cheaper, non-road building safety-focused alternatives like these. Instead they have only looked at expensive, over-engineered road building proposals, offering only various different routes for the same ‘solution’.


Despite the scheme being justified as being important for economic growth in the north, the scheme is actually assessed as “poor” value for money according to the Government’s own guidelines. When all the benefits such as economic growth, journey time savings, and reduced collisions are monetised and then weighed up against the costs (such as the cost of the construction and the increased carbon), the costs outweigh the benefits. For every £1 spent on the scheme it will only deliver 92p of benefits. This is called the Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR), which is just 0.92.

The route carries high levels of freight, with 25% of the traffic being heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), more than twice the national average for a road of this nature. More needs to be done to shift freight from the roads onto rail.


In total, the scheme would increase carbon emissions by 2.7 million tonnes over its lifetime. National Highways calculate the increased traffic building this road would cause would create an extra 2,190,452 tonnes of carbon. Its construction would also increase emissions by at least an additional 518,562 tonnes. These emissions would occur within the critical fourth carbon budget when we need to achieve 68% reductions in UK carbon emissions by 2030 to meet our legally binding commitments under the Paris Agreement.


National Highways claim that, due to the mitigation they propose (tree planting, relocating endangered species etc), there will be no net loss to biodiversity. Unfortunately the Examining Authority and the DfT accepted this claim. However, the scheme would destroy the habitats of many endangered species including barn owls, red squirrels, brown hares and otters. Whether the proposed mitigation will work cannot be guaranteed. National Highways do not have a good track record with mitigation, with many of their compensation projects failing due to lack of maintenance.


In their DCO planning application National Highways did not include an Arboricultural Impact Assessment (AIA), and only produced a tree survey half way through the examination. The scheme would require up to 18,255 trees to be felled, including 4 veteran and notable trees and 5 protected trees[11]. In total 53 hectares of trees would be lost. In compensation, National Highways propose to plant 166 hectares of woodland – 35,500 trees. Of course these will be saplings, which cannot replace veteran trees, and will take decades to mature, if they survive our increasingly severe and erratic weather patterns. NH also has a poor track record for maintaining the saplings they plant. On the A14 in Cambridgeshire, three-quarters of the saplings planted, totalling over half a million trees, died within three years[12].


The scheme impacts on the North Pennines National Landscape (the new name for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The impact is not just on the land itself (the part of the scheme within the landscape is actually quite short, with the remainder running along its boundary), but also from the increased noise due to higher traffic and road speeds. The scheme will also increase traffic and noise on other sections of the A66 that are not being changed, but run through the North Pennines landscape, thus blighting a far wider area.

There are three enormous concrete flyovers proposed which cross rivers that supposedly have the highest protections in the UK. The scheme would also increase road traffic in the Lake District National Park and World Heritage Site. Astonishingly, National Highways claim this is a ‘benefit’ of the scheme.


The road scheme would result in the permanent loss of 80 hectares of Grade 2 soil and 64 hectares of Grade 3a soil[13]. In addition, some other fields may no longer be viable to farm due to fragmentation.


The road would destroy the site of the Brough Hill horse fair that was granted by Royal Charter in 1330. National Highways have offered an adjacent alternative site for the fair, which the gypsy community say is unsuitable and dangerous, as it is next to a farmyard and a concrete batching plant / haulage business.


Our legal challenge has six grounds that the Secretary of State for Transport has not lawfully considered the impact on the North Pennines and the blanket bog, not properly assessed the poor economic case for the scheme, and did not properly consider the significance of the carbon emissions from the scheme. We are firstly seeking permission to bring the case, and are crowdfunding to pay the legal costs.


To find out more about this scheme, the following are helpful:

Examining Authority’s Recommendations Report
Secretary of State’s Decision Letter
TAN’s representations to the DCO examination
Friends of the Lake District’s representations to the DCO examination on landscape
Dr Andrew Boswell’s representations to the DCO examination on climate change


[1] Examining Authority’s Recommendations Report, December 2023, paragraph 4.9.14

[2] Examining Authority’s Recommendations Report, December 2023, paragraph 4.9.13

[3] A66 Northern Trans-Pennine Funding Statement, National Highways, June 2022, paragraph 2.1.1

[4] Examining Authority’s Recommendations Report, December 2023, paragraph 4.4.40

[5] A66 Northern Trans-Pennine Project, 3.7 Transport Assessment (Rev2) Clean, National Highways, January 2023, Table 9-9

[6] A66 Northern Trans-Pennine Project, 3.7 Transport Assessment (Rev2) Clean, National Highways, January 2023, Table 9-7

[7] A66 Northern Trans-Pennine Project, 3.7 Transport Assessment (Rev2) Clean, National Highways, January 2023, Table 9-5 and paragraph 9.4.11

[8] Decision Letter for A66 Northern Trans-Pennine, Department for Transport, 7 March, 2024, paragraph 224

[9] 2021 Road safety performance overview, National Highways, 2023, Table 2

[10] 2021 Road safety performance overview, National Highways, 2023, Table 2

[11] Examining Authority’s Recommendations Report, December 2023, paragraph 4.8.23

[12] https://news.sky.com/story/half-a-million-trees-have-died-next-to-one-21-mile-stretch-of-road-national-highways-admits-12836768

[13] Examining Authority’s Recommendations Report, December 2023, paragraph 6.2.9