A MAJOR project to tackle congestion at one of the gateways into Blackburn and Darwen has signed up a contractor.

Senior councillors will this week be asked to sign off Balfour Beatty as the borough's partner for the M65 junction five overhaul bid as part of the £30m Blackburn Growth Axis Transport (South East) scheme.

And the council's executive is also expected to endorse WSP as their colleagues for a raft of cycling and walking network upgrades.

The announcements come after the council secured £20m from the government's Levelling Up Fund in January to address transport issues in an area serving the Royal Blackburn Hospital, the EG Group's headquarters, Evolution Park and Shadsworth Industrial Estate, and new housing.

Cllr Quesir Mahmood, the council's growth boss, said in a report: "Capacity improvements at M65 junction 5 to tackle congestion, address safety concerns and drive prosperity across East Lancashire by releasing the potential for growth."

The M65 southbound exit slip would be widened from two lanes to three and the entry slips in each direction would also be widened to allow for segregated left turn lanes for traffic entering the motorway.

And the Grane Road and A6077 Haslingden Road, either side of the junction, would be widened to allow for similar left turns lane for northbound and southbound M65 traffic.

The roundabout would be expanded from two lanes to three with 'intelligent' traffic signals deployed, alongside bus priority detection equipment.

Cllr Mahmood, for the cycling and walking route upgrades, has told councillors he hopes the initiative will "give residents better access to local amenities and opportunities, increase levels of physical activity and reduce the number of vehicular trips on the local road network".

The project builds on the existing Weavers Wheel cycle network and involves the Leeds Liverpool Canal towpath, already part of the National Cycle Network.

Routes such as Blackburn town centre to both Guide via Haslingden Road and Walker Park via Queens Park, will benefit, alongside pathways linking the Royal Blackburn Hospital with West Blackburn, the Leeds Liverpool Canal and Hollins Bank. The link from Haslingden Road to the Weavers Wheel via the Arran Trail is also included.

The executive, which meets on Thursday, has heard that £500,000 will be set aside to appoint consultants and contractors along the way and undertake the necessary survey work.