December 10 2013 Latest news:
Paul Geater and Richard Cornwell
Monday, September 9, 2013
The route for the new £1.5 billion A14 toll road between Cambridge and Huntingdon has been published today by the Highways Agency.
And the cost of using the road is likely to be between £1 and £3 – depending on the size of the vehicle.
Exhibitions showing the route of the proposed road have started today in Cambridgeshire – but it is drivers from Suffolk, especially transport companies operating from Felixstowe, which are likely to be most affected by the toll road.
The existing A14 which passes Huntingdon over a flyover will be demolished, so there will be no clear alternative for through traffic to using the toll road.
The main alternative is to use the A428 to St Neots and then up the A1 – but that is 10 miles longer and would see vehicles use considerably more fuel.
The work planned for the A14 includes an upgrade to the Cambridge northern by-pass and a new junction at Girton.
The toll road would start at Swavesey, mid-way between Cambridge and Huntingdon, and would go as far as Ellington, including a junction with the A1.
The Highways Agency does not envisage having toll booths, vehicles will have their number plates recorded and drivers will either have to pay once they have used it, or pay directly from their bank account if they use the road regularly using similar technology to that which enforces the London congestion charge.
The tolls would only apply between 6am and 10pm.
The principle of road tolls is still not accepted by Suffolk businesses and politicians – who feel that the move puts this county, and particularly the Port of Felixstowe – at a disadvantage in comparison with other parts of the country.
John Dugmore Chief Executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said: “While the Chamber and business community welcome improvements and investment in the A14, we have always advocated that this must not be to the cost of Suffolk plc.
“Therefore on first reading we have grave concerns regarding the Highways Agency consultation documentation.”
Ipswich MP Ben Gummer is in favour in principle of road pricing – but feels that the A14 tolling puts this county at a commercial disadvantage.
Mr Gummer said: “I remain concerned that this is the only part of the country to face this kind of toll.
“However at the level of tolls being suggested, it will still be cheaper to use that road than the alternative – and you do wonder how often lorries currently waste £3 in fuel sitting in congestion on the existing A14.”
He felt it was wrong that road users from Suffolk were being forced to pay for a problem caused by the population growth in the Cambridge area.
“I’m delighted that Cambridge is so successful, but I don’t see why businesses and other motorists from Suffolk should have to pay for that success when the people who actually live in the area have alternative routes to use,” he added.
Haulage company boss Paul Dawson forecast job losses if the government persists with its proposal for an A14 toll and called for a rethink on the project.
He said: “This is all happening because Cambridge is demanding relief for its roads – if they need that relief they should pay for it and not the businesses of Suffolk. It is totally unfair to put that burden on us.
“This whole scheme needs a rethink and businesses in Suffolk, and all people who use that stretch of road, need to put pressure on the government and stand up and be counted.
“For smaller owner-driver companies it could cause huge problems. We could see people lose their jobs.
“These tolls don’t work – it doesn’t work at Birmingham, and it won’t work here in Suffolk.”
He would be visiting the exhibition and also contacting Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey to urge her to campaign against the proposals.
Suffolk County Council cabinet member for transport Graham Newman represents Felixstowe on the authority, and said he would continue to campaign against the toll.
He said: “The level of toll they are talking about is not a surprise, the government got its fingers burned by having too high a toll on the M6.
“But it all comes down to the principle of the issue. Lorries using the London Gateway won’t have to pay it. Lorries using other east coast ports won’t have to pay it. It is a toll uniquely on traffic from Felixstowe – and that is an unfair tax on Suffolk.”