DRIVERS will benefit from a £3.4million investment to ease congestion and improve safety at Junction 17 of the M6.

Work is expected to start on improvements to the junction – known as one of the most congested stretches of the M6 in Britain – in 2014.

Cheshire East Clr Jamie Macrae said: “This is outstandingly good news for Cheshire East and marks the end of 12 months hard work with the Highways Agency to find an immediate solution to the current congestion at this key motorway junction.

“It was necessary to create a scheme which not only addressed this problem but avoided costly work that involved the gas line, which runs next to the M6.”

Junction 17 improvements will include the conversion of the existing slip road junctions to a roundabout on the Sandbach side and installation of traffic signals on the Congleton side.

The junction was one of 57 vital road improvements costing £170 million announced by Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin.

“Our continued efforts to access funding for our road networks and transport issues has really paid off in the last 12 months,” said Clr Macrae.

Last month, it was announced the council has submitted a bid for £6.15million to the Regional Growth Fund for the Congleton Link Road connecting Macclesfield Road with Sandbach Road, passing through countryside to the north of Congleton.

The bid proposed a £5.85 million contribution by Cheshire East Council and a further £2.8 million from development contributions.

Speaking after the M6 announcement, a spokesman for the Highways Agency said: “We do of course plan all improvement work with the aim of minimising disruption to drivers’ journeys during any roadworks.”

Fiona Bruce MP, who has been pressing for action since being elected, said: “I am delighted that with this announcement over two years of hard work has paid off.

“I am delighted that the Government has reviewed the criteria to which the Highways Agency can work when funds are allocated for major highways works like J17 and that £3.4million is being provided directly by Government to improve the junction, the work to be completed by March 2015 – a swift timescale for delivery of such a major project.

“These improvement works will make a huge difference to the daily lives of literally thousands of my constituents, as well as further supporting business growth throughout the Congleton constituency and beyond.

“This is tremendous news for everyone living and working in the whole area.

“I pay tribute to everybody who has worked towards this, particularly the hard working Sandbach area councillors Barry Moran, Gill Merry and Rhoda Bailey, to Cheshire East Council – both cabinet members and traffic officers, staff at the Highways Agency and at the Ministry of Transport – this shows what can be done when people work effectively together in the best interests of the local community.”