A14 road safety work put on hold

LONG awaited improvements on a notorious stretch of road could be scrapped because the Government's need to plough more cash into the nation's rail network.

LONG awaited improvements on a notorious stretch of road could be scrapped because the Government's need to plough more cash into the nation's rail network.

The Highways Agency was due to start major improvement works on the Rookery Crossroad section of the A14 at Rougham, near Bury St Edmunds, this current financial year.

Campaigners have fought for safety works on the route, where there has been around 70 accidents, several fatal, in the past five years.

But the scheme is among 10 nationwide that could be postponed after it was revealed the Government needs to divert more cash then it expected to improve the country's rail network.

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The Highways Agency says it may now be forced to revise its business plan, and freeze schemes included on its priority list. The Rookery Crossroads scheme is now dependent on the outcome of a Treasury spending review, the results of which will be known in July.

A Highways Agency spokesman said: "The scheme is dependent on the outcome of the spending review being carried by the Treasury. There is no contractual commitment for the Rookery Crossroads scheme, so we can't say until we know the results of the review if it is definitely going ahead.

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"The work was listed in our business plans issued last week and we expect tenders to go out in the not so distant future and we hope the scheme will still go ahead."

Since the 2000 Hatfield disaster the Treasury has ploughed around £4 billion a year to improve the nation's rail network, which is twice as much as it expected.

If the plans on the west Suffolk route are postponed it will be a bitter blow for campaigners who have fought tirelessly to get the scheme off the ground.

Since 1998 there has been at least 18 people killed or seriously injured at the blackspot. Consultations over the route stretch back to 1994 and recent surveys showed that 31,500 vehicles use the A14 everyday and that the number of people killed or seriously injured on the section between Bury St Edmunds and Beyton is 10% higher than the national average.

Possible improvements being considered by the Highways Agency have included building a bridge serving the A14 over the minor U8005 and U6321. Other works being considered are a road-straightening scheme at Two Mile Spinney, a central reservation gap and the junction with the U8003 being closed off. In 1993 the agency estimated the improvements around £5.5m.

St Edmundsbury borough councillor for Rougham Sara Mildmay-White said: "The work is due to start in June or July so it will be a devastating blow for everybody in the area if it is delayed now.

"Everybody knows how dangerous the road is, but everybody in the area has to use it. We have campaigned for improvements for years and it would be a disaster if it all falls through at the last minute. I hope the Highways Agency does everything it can to keep the scheme on track."

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