£90m traffic signs 'waste of money'

HAULIERS last night branded Government plans to install £90million worth of traffic warning signs to improve congestion on the A14 as a “waste of time and money”.

Danielle Nuttall

HAULIERS last night branded Government plans to install £90million worth of traffic warning signs to improve congestion on the A14 as a “waste of time”.

The Department for Transport unveiled an £89.5m project yesterday to provide road users on the A14 with electronic journey information, warnings of upcoming congestion and advice on alternative routes.

The technology, which includes incident detection sensors in the road surface that provide real-time traffic updates to electronic signs above the road, will be installed along a 62-mile stretch of the A14 from the M1 to Felixstowe.

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But the move failed to impress Suffolk's hauliers last night who said it would fail to address traffic problems. They said the money needed to be spent improving the road.

Peter Butler, senior manager of the Road Haulage Association's southern and eastern areas, said: “The signs only allow the driver to tell the office they're going to be held up. I think £90m for a couple of electronic signs seems a lot of money.

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“They're not effective. A haulier doesn't want to be going on a back road - they need to stick to the main roads where they're not using as much fuel as every time you change gear you lose fuel. If you get diverted it's a single lane A road and you're braking all the time.

“This money could be better spent. They could have spent the money on getting the improvements already planned started early.”

Ben Cowan, managing director of Ben Cowan Haulage in Martlesham, added: “I would rather the Government spent the money on other things - the price of fuel for a start. It's a waste of time.

“They need to do lane improvements more than anything. My view is it shouldn't be a dual carriageway it should be three lanes from the moment you leave Felixstowe to the junction of the M1. It should be a motorway.”

The Department for Transport said the incident detection sensors would allow traffic to be re-routed after road accidents to give drivers a better choice of routes, help them escape jams and reduce secondary collisions.

But Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer said last night hauliers already had a system whereby they received real-time updates on collisions and congestion - the radio.

“We are becoming covered with notices and explanations and what we need is the improvements,” he said.

“Every haulier has got a system whereby the radio provides them with information and if they feel they have to go off route because of a big accident they find out immediately.

“This £90m would be much better spent on some extra improvements to make the road better. It seems to me it's not a sensible use of money.

“There are several places where the A14 could be improved without environmental damage. I would much prefer that work done on this essential road.”

As part of the project, incident monitoring cameras will be installed on the A14 to allow Highways Agency traffic officers to respond more quickly to accidents, help cut road closure times and improve safety.

Work will begin by February next year and will be completed by 2010.

Ongoing work to upgrade the A14 from two to three lanes in each direction between Ellington and Fen Ditton means that that stretch of the road will not be included in the technology scheme.

Announcing the project yesterday, Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said: “The A14 is a crucial link between the Port of Felixstowe and industrial centres in the Midlands - making it both a key route both for East Anglia and for the wider economy.

“This £89.5m of Government investment reflects both our commitment to assisting economic growth and to improving safety and reliability for drivers on our major roads.”

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