Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is set to visit Whitehaven today as consultation on developing the A595 is launched.

Highways England will lead public discussions on a proposal to expand the crucial road around the town, with construction planned to begin in the early 2020s.

The government say the road will benefit from major investment, which will cut congestion, reduce rat-running and improve safety for drivers.

"Investing in Cumbria's vital transport routes cuts congestion, ensures drivers enjoy faster, safer journeys, and increases the freight capacity needed to drive forward jobs and economic growth," said Mr Grayling.

"This shows our cast-iron commitment to Cumbria, as we deliver the investment needed to provide businesses and commuters with more reliable and resilient journeys."

The Secretary of State added that discussions are ongoing with local partners about progressing a programme of upgrades on the Cumbrian coast rail line.

He said these would support expected major investments in West Cumbria and the creation of new jobs.

Mr Grayling's visit follows a previous trip to the area in May last year when he talked about proposals for a Whitehaven relief road.

He met Copeland MP Trudy Harrison and told Highways England to look at the next stage of development.

At the time, he said: "Trudy has been biting my ankles for the last six weeks since she was first elected about the A595. I have been back here once to commit to a number of smaller projects.

"But today, we are saying we will move to the next stage of development of a relief road for Whitehaven as part of what I think needs to be an ongoing rolling programme of improvements to the A595."

In July 2017, the Transport Secretary promised Copeland residents would have a chance to have their say on any road plan.

Last month, the government announced plans to provide much-needed cash for the A595 at Grizebeck.

The road, which runs from Dalton to Whitehaven and is a vital link between Millom and Barrow, forces drivers to pass through a farmyard pinch point at Dove Ford in Grizebeck.

Mr Grayling told the Conservative Party Conference: "Today I am able to announce the details of the first schemes in that programme which will now start in development – the infamous farm yard bottleneck, literally a main road through a farm yard, at Grizebeck bypass near Barrow."

That announcement came following years of pressure from the A595 Action Group, Cumbria County Council, Barrow Council and MPs.

The Department for Transport says the scheme at Whitehaven is part of its commitment to spending over £13bn in the north between now and 2020.