The prospect of the 'vital' Darlington relief road becoming a reality has taken another step closer today with a £250m investment package put forward for a vote.

Calls to finally build the new link from the A66 northwards have finally been answered.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) has been looking at potential routes for the road and the ways in which they might be affected by developments in Darlington.

After the cancellation of HS2's Birmingham to Manchester leg £1bn of funding has been redistributed to the Tees Valley.

The Northern Echo: Potential Darlington Relief Road routes

Now that the funding is available Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, hopes that there will be spades in the ground within two years.

The project will rely upon a vote by Tees Valley Combined Authority leaders at a cabinet meeting on January 26.

Lord Houchen said: "We have already done a lot of work on the link road over the past few years.

"We have been trying to get money from government for some time now.

"But what we did in 2017 and 2018 was spend money we got devolved doing the public consultation and economic impact studies.

"If the local authorities vote for it then the next stage is to go into compulsory purchase of the land and start the formal planning application.

"That will all take somewhere between 12 and 18 months.

"In just over two years we should see spades in the ground.

"This will complete the jigsaw of high roads. It's going to massively relieve pressure from the freeport.

"It also takes pressure away from Darlington town centre.

"Everybody wants this vital project, if the council leaders vote against this project I'm not sure what they are in their jobs for."

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The TVCA cabinet will also be voting on another project which could benefit from £1m of HS2 money - exploring possibilities for a new tunnel under the River Tees.

Chris McEwan, Labour candidate for the Tees Valley Mayor, said: "Our region desperately needs connecting, and investing in our roads, rail and bus networks will always be welcome and something I'll prioritise as Mayor.

"However, given it took Lord Houchen two weeks to get a single pothole filled in Darlington, I think there needs to be serious consideration about how this money is spent.

"We need a strategy that will deliver all across the Tees Valley, not just gimmicks in the run up to an election."

Darlington MP Peter Gibson has spent his time in office pushing for the relief road to be built.

In October, he called on the Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, for advice getting HS2 funding used for the project.

He said: "I am over the moon that we are making progress on the relief road. From day one I have lobbied ministers, the mayor, the council and National Highways.

"I’ve debated it in Parliament, I’ve met everyone one the roads ministers in this Parliament on it and I run multiple petitions on. This piece of infrastructure is essential to our town to alleviate congestion, emissions and make traffic flow much easier. 

"Ben has clearly heard my calls for this road and by planning this road at Great Burdon lifts a great burden for our town!"

Paul Howell, Conservative MP for Sedgefield, said: "As someone whose parents lived in Whinfield for over 40  years I have seen how the continual growth of traffic has blighted that part of Darlington and as MP for Sedgefield I see the frustrations of the businesses in Newton Aycliffe and elsewhere trying to import or export through Teesport.

"The need for this relief road is clear and obvious and I am delighted to see progress."