A14 congestion 'costs economy �80m'

ACCIDENTS and congestion on Suffolk's roads cost the county's economy about �80million a year, it has been claimed.

Simon Tomlinson

ACCIDENTS and congestion on Suffolk's roads cost the county's economy about �80million a year, it has been claimed.

The shock figure has prompted renewed calls to improve the transport network as the county fights the recession.

The study by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) predicts that figure could double by 2021 unless action is taken.

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Across the region, problems on the roads are thought to the cost the local economy �1billion, a figure which is also set to rise.

Hauliers estimate the price tag for their business can sometimes reach �1million a day if the A14 is closed.

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The dual carriageway has been singled out as one of the main culprits as it regularly sees serious accidents and struggles to cope with high numbers of lorries.

Up to 30% of traffic on the A14 is freight - compared to a national average of 10% - and this figure is only expected to increase once the Port of Felixstowe expansion takes effect.

Steve Cox, executive director of spatial economy at EEDA, said: “Transport investment has to keep pace with the rate of growth.

“The A14 'corridor' experiences significant transport congestion, such as key pinch-points where congestion and accidents create delays and costs for business.”

His demands have fallen short of calling for the dual carriageway be converted into a motorway, instead favouring a more widespread answer involving organisations including the Highways Agency (HA), county councils and central government.

Mr Cox added: “New transport solutions must also be delivered that contribute to economic growth and tackle climate change.

“For example pursuing improvements to the Felixstowe to Nuneaton rail route will allow freight containers to travel by rail as a viable alternative to the A14.”

The Department of Transport has released nearly �90million to the HA towards jam-busting technology on the A14.

This will include work to improve the congestion pinch point at the Orwell Bridge and the junction with the A12.

Following the launch of the scheme, new transport minister and Ipswich MP Chris Mole said: “This investment reflects our commitment to improving safety and reliability for drivers on our major roads and will deliver benefits to the wider economy.”

But the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has urged even more to be done after it revealed only 9% of its businesses felt transport infrastructure met their needs.

President Cathy Arbon said: “The alarming shortfalls speak for themselves.

“Suffolk Chamber urges the government to bring forward public spending proposals on infrastructure projects that can quickly release capacity on to our transport network.”

DELAYS can affect businesses in a number of ways, although the following example highlights one aspect.

After an accident on the A14, one of the vehicles caught in the queue is a van delivering parts for a 'just-in-time delivery' to a manufacturing firm in Ipswich.

The firm is relying on these parts to service a contract on time, but the delay means the company fails to meet its agreement and is slapped with a penalty or risks losing the deal altogether.

Peter Butler, Ipswich officer of the Road Haulage Association, said: “An accident on the A14 which results in the road being closed could cost up to �1million a day to the industry.”

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