April 17 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
A controversial proposal to toll a stretch of the A14 looks set to be scrapped - with the Government poised to give the go-ahead to a £1.5bn project to expand the vital road
According to strong national reports Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander will announce plans to upgrade the route – without the need for a charge.
It is expected to be confirmed when the government outlines its infrastructure projects tomorrow lunchtime.
The coalition leadership had been lobbied hard by Suffolk Conservative MPs – including Suffolk Coastal’s Therese Coffey and Bury St Edmunds’ David Ruffley – and local businesses to abandon the proposal.
The route is vital for lorries carrying freight from the port of Felixstowe to the Midlands and many feared a charge would have a devastating impact on the county’s economy.
Dr Coffey said the reports appeared to be well-sourced: “If they are true then I am absolutely thrilled.
“Businesses and MPs from Suffolk have come together to oppose this toll proposal – and have made a compelling case without getting hysterical.
“In meetings with the Prime Minister and Chancellor we have made the case and I am delighted that our message seems to have got across.”
Mr Ruffley said he had detected a change in attitude from the government over the last three months.
He said: “When we first started talking about the toll, the message was pretty clear – no toll, no road.
“As we have been pressing the point and stressing the unfairness to the part of the country that is driving the recovery it is clear the Prime Minister, Chancellor and other ministers have been listening.”
Mr Ruffley said the improved economic conditions, with more money coming into the Treasury, meant the government might be able to say it could fund the road without a toll.
He said: “The toll element of this road is about a £300million. That’s a big sum, but the government spends £750billion a year and this money could be found.”
Mr Ruffley and Dr Coffey organised a meeting with business leaders from Suffolk and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin last week – after which they were further convinced that the government was listening to their concerns.
The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has been leading the calls for the toll proposals to be abandoned, and is planning to make the point again on Thursday morning as Mr Osborne is putting the final touches to his statement.
Chamber chief executive John Dugmore said: “This is an important week for the ‘No Toll Tax for Suffolk’ campaign, with the Autumn Statement providing an opportunity for the Government to show they are listening clearly to businesses in the county and around the UK.
“There is no doubt that support continues to grow to stop this tax on Suffolk.
“We have been encouraged in our discussions with the Chancellor and with the Secretary of State for Transport that they are aware of the reasons why this proposal would have a detrimental effect on our economy and it is for that reason we hope to hear an announcement later this week.”
Support for the “No Toll Tax” campaign grows outside Suffolk – see the front of today’s business supplement.