�500 million A120 upgrade abandoned

MOTORISTS using one of the region's most heavily congested roads face decades of misery following the decision to abandon the upgrade of the A120 in Essex.

Graham Dines

MOTORISTS using one of the region's most heavily congested roads face decades of misery following the decision to abandon the upgrade of the A120 in Essex.

Plans to construct a completely new stretch of dual carriageway from Braintree to the junction of the A12 near Marks Tey would have cost �500million, dubbed “simply unaffordable” by regional transport bosses.

However, one MP described the decision as “totally illogical”.

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The existing road is one of the few east-west links serving the East of England. It regularly suffers from severe congestion around Marks Tey and is used by travellers heading for Stansted airport from north Essex and Suffolk and heavy lorries as a rat run from the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich to the M11, western England and south Wales.

A section of the road from the M11 to Braintree, by-passing Takeley and Great Dunmow, has already been dualled. The new road would have by-passed Bradley and Coggeshall.

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A spokesperson for both the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) and East of England Development Agency (EEDA) said the decision to recommend the Government not to proceed with any more design work on the upgrade had been reached unanimously by partners from across the region after an eight month period of consultation and evidence-based analysis by both local councillors and independent transport experts.

They had decided the dualling of the A120 from Braintree to Marks Tey should not be prioritised for funding from the limited Department for Transport pot for the region.

“This particular scheme suffers from the 'whale in the pond' syndrome and is simply unaffordable given the current levels of funding for transport the region receives from central government.

“To dual the A120 would commit over one third of the total regional funding pot for the next ten years, currently �1.2bn, to a single project. This would leave very little for the rest of the region - the six counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex.”

Both organisations said regional spending was set for a massive downturn. “The East of England continues to suffer due to the insufficient amount of money allocated for regional transport improvements from central government.

“We are working collectively to lobby for more money to ease congestion across the region, which it is estimated will cost the national economy �2 billion by 2021.

“In the meantime, EERA and EEDA are working with regional partners such as the Regional Transport Forum and the Highways Agency, as well as with local authorities and Essex County Council to identify other more cost-effective solutions to the congestion problems associated with this stretch of the A120.”

Essex North MP Bernard Jenkin said the vital scheme had fallen victim to the squeeze on public spending ordered by the Government as a result of the recession.

“Ministers have put the onus on regional spending priorities in the hands of the unelected East of England Regional Assembly. This project is too important to be judged just a regional road.

“The Department for Transport should not have handed over responsibility for what is a national trunk road to the region. The A120 should be funded from national road building funds, not from a smaller pot which has to pay for all road schemes across six counties.

“It looks to me as if the regional assembly has let the Government off the hook,” said Mr Jenkin. “There will have been huge relief in Whitehall when this recommendation came in from the regional assembly and the development agency.

“It is totally illogical. We are left with a dual carriageway that stops halfway down.

“The A120 is one of the worst roads in the country but also one of the life-blood arteries of Essex.”

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