A12 inquiry cost tax payers nearly £50K

A COUNCIL-led inquiry into the state of the A12 cost the tax payer nearly £50,000, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.

Elliot Furniss

A COUNCIL-led inquiry into the state of the A12 cost the tax payer nearly £50,000, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.

Essex County Council held the high-profile investigation into the troubled dual-carriageway and recruited top traffic experts to sit on the panel.

However, they have only been able to make a series of recommendations on how best to improve the A12 and there is no guarantee they will get the go-ahead.

The details emerged in a statement from the council following a request by the EADT under the Freedom of Information Act.

Although the authority was unable to confirm a final amount for the cost of the project - as many invoices had yet to be received - it was estimated at £48,000.

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In the statement it was confirmed that £39,500 of the total cost would go to the four-strong panel, which was chaired by former permanent secretary for the Department of Transport, Sir David Rowlands.

This figure includes travel expenses and the remaining £8,500 covers other costs such as video and audio recording, printing and publishing of the report and the hire of meeting and interview venues.

With the panel interviewing 36 witnesses and representatives from 24 organisations, the council has estimated that its four members spent 310 hours working on the inquiry, which produced 29 recommendations for a variety of bodies at both regional and national level.

Council leader Lord Hanningfield said that with the authority looking to spend between £50million and £100million on the road in the next few years, the cost of the inquiry was “peanuts” in comparison.

He said: “We need to spend billions on it so £48,000 is nothing. It wouldn't have mattered if it had cost £100,000 or £200,000. It's the most desperate road in the country and we need to find solutions.

“I'm going to make some big announcements on September 16 to follow up the inquiry. We'll be spending money on it and I hope to push it on.”

Lord Hanningfield said money had already been set aside to make some immediate changes and he was working on allocating more to the project.

Last year there were 842 collisions on the A12 leading to closure or delay and congestion on the road is thought to cost the Essex economy more than £100million each year.

Among the recommendations made by the panel was an overtaking ban for lorries, gates in the central reservation to clear congestion after serious accidents and an overall upgrade of the road.