Major upgrades to a northern Trans-Pennine route are a step closer with the official preferred route announced for the £1 billion A66 upgrade.

The announcement reveals a list of improvements Highway England wants to now take into construction.

The A66 is an important road linking the M6 at Penrith with the A1(M) at Scotch Corner as well as a key regional route.

As well as benefitting local people, the upgrade will support tourism and freight traffic, improving connections between ports in Scotland and Northern Ireland and those in England at Hull and Felixstowe.

Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: "As we gradually reopen our society, we want to ensure communities across the North are able to benefit from smoother, safe, better connected journeys. Upgrading this vital national link will not only level up infrastructure in the region but will deliver benefits up and down the country - supporting tourism and movement between our key ports."

The proposals announced on Saturday include five new bypasses, key junction improvements and an underpass at Kemplay Bank roudabout, Penrith.

A dual carriageway bypass at Kirkby Thore and dualling in-situ option at Warcop , both between Penrith and Brough, will help speed up journeys along the 50 mile route.

Highways England's senior project manager, Matt Townsend, said: "We are delighted more than 92 per cent of people backed the idea of completing the dualling of the A66. Since the consultation ended ten months ago, we have carefully considered all the public responses. We have revisited issues such as the environmental impact of each option, how we can re-connect communities currently separated by the existing road and how to improve the route for pedestrians and cyclists."

As well as choosing the underpass instead of a fly-over at Kemplay Bank, Highways England is proposing the following options:

n A northern bypass of a three-mile section between Penrith and Temple Sowerby

n The northern bypass option for Kirkby Thore

n The most northerly of two options bypassing Crackenthorpe

n Taking forward the single option to dual a five-mile section between Appleby and Brough alongside the existing section of single carriageway

n Similarly, converting a 1.9-mile section of the route north of Bowes – the current, single carriageway Bowes bypass - into a dual carriageway

Further information on the project can be found on the project webpage: