December 10 2013 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Correspondent
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has launched a staunch defence of the Government’s toll road strategy, describing plans to charge people to use a new stretch of the A14 as a “sign of the times”.
At the Liberal Democrat party conference in Glasgow he told the East Anglian Daily Times that the burden of the cost should be spread at a time when people were feeling a squeeze on their weekly budgets.
He dismissed the concerns of haulage companies about paying a charge saying they would be hit while sitting in stationary traffic.
It emerged earlier this month that the cost of using the new road between Cambridge and Huntingdon was likely to be between £1 and £3 – depending on the size of the vehicle.
He said: “I think we have been very up front with people that at the end of the day someone has to pay for the work when you build a new road or you entirely expand increased or existing capacity.
“What we are saying is if you expect all other taxpayers to pay for it, well fine, but at a time when a lot of people are feeling a squeeze on their weekly or personal budgets we thought that actually it might be worth trying the spread the burden.
“Yes you ask for a contribution from the taxpayer through traditional government spending, but you also ask for a contribution from those people who benefit from the A14 most, namely those people who use it.”
The principle of road tolls is still not accepted by many 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.
But Mr Clegg said: “When you hear a haulage company saying it will ‘hit us quite hard’, of course it hits haulage companies to be sitting in stationary traffic on the A14 going nowhere.
“It is one of those difficult dilemmas that we face about how you continue to invest in infrastructure when there is less money to go around and this is one solution that is appropriate for the A14.
“Much though I understand that people think that the traditional building of roads was free, it is not free. Someone is paying for it.
“I am saying that for those people who object to tolling; I understand why. We just need to consider there is a fair distribution of costs between British taxpayers who never use that road and those who benefit from the road the most.”