A MULTI-MILLION pound improvement scheme on notoriously congested road in Worcester is to begin in earnest next week.

Work on the plan to improve and dual the entire length of one of the busiest routes in Worcestershire - the A4440 Southern Link in Worcester - will step up a gear.

An £8million scheme, which will upgrade the Ketch roundabout and dual-track the carriageway towards the Norton roundabout over the next 12 months to cut congestion and journey times, began a few weeks ago with preparatory works but more extensive works are set to start on Sunday (April 27).

Excavation, removal and surfacing of the current roundabout and splitter islands will be taking place over the next few weeks. Existing lighting columns will also be replaced with new tower lights, which are being positioned to reduce any impact to neighbouring properties.

Whilst this work takes place the width of lanes will be reduced with every effort being made to keep any disruption to motorists to a minimum.

Originally built in the 1980s, the Southern Link Road is one of the most heavily used in the county and the predicted growth in travel (particularly by car) is expected to result in a 30 to 40 per cent increase in journey times if nothing was done through the Powick to Whittington section of the route by 2026, which currently takes around 13-and-a-half minutes during the morning rush-hour periods.

The longer term vision, identified in the Worcestershire's Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), which is now with Central Government under consideration for funding would see the entire length of the route dual-tracked from Powick island through to the Whittington Roundabout, including the Carrington Bridge section.

Cllr Simon Geraghty, county council deputy leader and cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure, said: "The Southern Link Road is one of the busiest routes in Worcestershire and improving it is a key priority, which has now also been identified through the county's strategic economic plan submitted to central Government.

"With more than 30,000 vehicles using the A4440 each weekday and data showing a worsening situation over the coming years, sitting back and doing nothing is simply not an option if we want to ensure Worcestershire is 'Open for Business'. We have a clear longer-term vision to dual-track the entire length of the route up to the Whittington Roundabout and this important first stage will bring immediate benefits when finished, whilst also forming part of the wider plan.

"Whilst the improvements works take place everything will be done to keep any disruption to motorists and residents to a minimum, however it's inevitable that some inconvenience will be experienced as things progress. "I'd like to thank people in advance for their patience and understanding whilst this work takes place."

Following discussions with residents and a 12-week engagement exercise undertaken earlier this year a number of mitigation measures have been agreed to minimise any impact for those living nearby. These include earth bunds, acoustic fencing to reduce noise and tree planting.

Anyone looking for further information can log on to www.worcestershire.gov.uk/ketch.