NEW Chancellor Philip Hammond has been urged to publicly reaffirm the Government's backing for the £2 billion pound improvement project for the A358 and the A303.

The scheme was announced by former Chancellor George Osborne during his Autumn Statement in 2014, as he pledged to boost the south west's economy and help out beleaguered motorists.

The A358 from Taunton to Ilminster, and the A303 in both directions from Southfields roundabout, are two of Somerset's busiest roads and were two of the key routes in the plan.

An estimated 27,000 vehicles use the A358 road every day, nearly 10 million a year, with 32,000 vehicles using the A303, and the roads have been branded a "traffic nightmare" by residents.

Plans to make the road a dual carriageway were first mooted in 2004, and a series of consultations have been held by Highways England to discuss possible plans, which include dualling the A358 from M5 Junction 25 to Southfields Roundabout, and dualling the A303.

This does not include the proposed M5 Junction 25 improvements currently being discussed by Somerset County Council as this is a separate scheme, but the two projects would be linked.

It is hoped that the £2 billion pound proposal, which was initially part of Mr Osborne's £15 billion road improvement scheme, would help create thousands of jobs and help unlock a potential business boom for the local economy.

However, the A358 scheme appears to have stalled following the EU Referendum and the subsequent changes at the top-level of government.

Two Somerset MPs, Rebecca Pow for Taunton Deane and Marcus Fysh for South Somerset, have now asked the new Chancellor directly to back the project following his appointment.

Ms Pow said: "Securing the funding for the upgrade of the A358, the busiest road in Somerset, together with improvements to Junction 25 of the M5 have been my top priorities since my election.

"It is essential that this congested road is improved and in the light of the recent cabinet re-shuffle I am applying added pressure on government to ensure progress continues on this.

"With this in mind last week I asked the Government to stand by its commitment to upgrade the A358 during Treasury Questions in the chamber and I received a positive response from Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Gaulke.

"Although much has changed in politics over the last month, I would like to assure residents of my constituency that I will be doing everything in my power as the MP for Taunton Deane, to keep up the pressure on the projects.

"To this end I have also reiterated my calls in writing to the Chancellor and to Roads Minister Andrew Jones.

"It is important that infrastructure improvements in particular come to fruition as these have a direct affect not only on improving the lives of locals but also on attracting business to the area and ultimately improving productivity.

"I look forward to watching Taunton Deane grow further and will continue to work to achieve the best for the area within our changed circumstances."

South Somerset MP Marcus Fysh has also called on Mr Hammond to publicly back the scheme.

Mr Fysh said: "I see this as a chance to press for an acceleration of the programme and have already used Treasury Questions to formally ask for a meeting to discuss this.

"I have been pressing for the A358 dualling too, as it is an integral part of the A303 corridor and is a vital link between Taunton, Bridgwater, Bristol and the Yeovil constituency, and key to networking up our major employment centres.

"Improving the roads is a cornerstone of our package for growth and opportunities across the South West and I will keep the pressure on the Government and Highways England to make sure they get it right."

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said that talks were ongoing regarding the project. The spokesman said: "We are forging ahead with the biggest investment in our roads for a generation. We have committed to invest £15 billion in the 112 improvement projects in our Roads Investment Strategy, which will ease traffic, improve journeys for people across the country and boost the economy.

“This includes investing £2 billion in vital upgrades to the A303/A30/A358 corridor which will create a new expressway to the South West. Work to develop this scheme is ongoing.”

Jeremy Damrel, Highways England group leader, said the agency was committed in helping develop the project, and would be returning with more consultations at the end of the year.

He added: “The A303/A30/A358 corridor provides a vital connection between the South West and South East, as well as connecting communities along the route. Its effectiveness is of importance to current users and to those anticipated through growth in housing and employment.

“Progress on the A358 Taunton to Southfields scheme is continuing, with the next stage of public consultation earmarked to take place by the end of 2016.”