§ Mr. Watts
I have instructed the Highways Agency to proceed as rapidly as possible with trunk road schemes which support the channel tunnel rail link. A number of key decisions have been taken. These includeFollowing approval by Royal Assent of the £170 million A2-M2 widening between Cobham and M2 junction 4, work is to proceed on preparation of the contract documentation with the aim to invite tenders for a design and build contract in the spring of 1998 with a view to a start of works in 1999.Work is to begin on the next stage of developing the £70 million A2 widening scheme between Bean and Cobham, which will comprise two phases, with the Highways Agency launching the selection process for the design agent(s).In association with the Bluewater development, work started last November on widening the eastbound carriageway of A2 between A296, Watling street and A2260 Pepperhill. Tenders have been received for the second stage of those works— adding two replacement slip roads and upgrading the third to the B255 Bean junction—programmed to start later this spring. Both contracts together will cost some £5 million and are being funded almost entirely by the developer.761WWork is to proceed on the next stage of the £34 million A2-A282 Dartford improvement, with the Highways Agency starting the selection process for the Design Agent.The Highways Agency has also identified a number of small-scale measures to improve safety, such as improved signing, white lining and merge areas on junctions between Pepperhill and Cobham, which will be introduced in the shorter term at a cost of about £30,000. Work on some of these has already begun.The Highways Agency expects to announce the successful design agents for the A2 schemes later this year. This will allow the Agency to continue work on these important schemes which, will remove congestion and traffic delays that can occur, particularly during peak periods and in the summer.