A14 road tolls idea opposed by MPs

TWO Suffolk MPs last night voiced their concern over speculation that the county’s busiest road could be transferred to the private sector and funded by tolls.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond was reported to be considering transferring the whole 127-mile road from Leicestershire to Felixstowe to the private sector.

The move would allow a new operator to upgrade the road to near motorway standard – in return for being able to charge tolls. Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey had heard nothing about the proposal until we contacted her – but she would be concerned if the A14 was the only road in the country to have tolls introduced.

She said: “Normally we would be told, as constituency MPs, if the Government is looking at any changes to our area.

“I would fight this very hard if it put this area at a disadvantage, if motorists in this area were the only ones who had to pay the toll.

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“There is a toll motorway which is a by-pass to the M6 in the West Midlands, but that is a by-pass and people can use the M6 without paying.”

The Department of Transport would not comment on the proposal which emerged in a Sunday newspaper article – saying it would only provide “emergency” information at weekends.

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However, junior transport minister Mike Penning did say that the government was looking at introducing “managed motorways” as an alternative to major spending programmes.

This could lead to some hard shoulders being opened to traffic in an attempt to ease congestion.

He said: “We want to deliver infrastructure projects which improve journeys and help economic growth. Our plans for 11 more managed motorway schemes will provide much-needed additional capacity – easing congestion and making journey times more reliable for drivers whether they are travelling for business or for leisure.”

Mr Hammond was reported to be considering turning all or part of the A14 into a toll road.

A �1billion proposal to remodel the A14/A428 junction at Girton just outside Cambridge and build a new stretch of A14 to link up with the existing road west of Huntingdon was scrapped by the new government last year as being too expensive.

However, it is possible that such a new road could be financed by collecting tolls because traffic could continue to use the existing A14 as a slower alternative at that point.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Daniel Poulter, whose constituency includes growing villages that are by-passed by the A14, was concerned that the proposal could lead to an increase in rat-running.

He said: “I know [South Suffolk MP] Tim Yeo has been looking at road pricing as an alternative to the road tax. However, I would not like to see it brought in to just one road like this.

“My concern is that it would lead to local traffic that uses the A14 for short journeys like from Ipswich to Stowmarket going back to using local roads like the old A45 through Claydon and Barham.

“If you are going to introduce tolls there needs to be a lot of care taken. And I have heard nothing from the department about this at all.”

The debate about the future of the A14 comes just as the government is completing a �70million project, begun by the last government, to install high-tech signs along the road.

And last week it emerged that overnight reconstruction work at Woolpit would lead to a 37-mile diversion being set up for traffic, sending lorries up to the Norfolk border at Diss before returning them to the main road.


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