Action urged to cut A12 congestion

By Jonathan BarnesPLANNING bosses and an MP have told the Government to "put their money where their mouth is" over a major scheme to cut congestion and tackle tailbacks on the A12.

By Jonathan Barnes

PLANNING bosses and an MP have told the Government to "put their money where their mouth is" over a major scheme to cut congestion and tackle tailbacks on the A12.

The East of England Local Government Conference (EELGC) pledged yesterday its support to the London to Ipswich (LOIS) transport study, which has proposed £225 million of improvements.

They include widening the A12 to three lanes between Colchester and the M25, in each direction, and dualling the A120 in the stretch leading to Harwich.

Transport Secretary Alastair Darling will now make the final decision whether to give the plans, which cover the next 30 years, the go-ahead.

Tim Yeo, the Conservative MP for South Suffolk, joined the EELGC's region planning panel yesterday in urging the Government to make the schemes a reality.

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"There has been a lot said about improving transport links and not a lot of action to follow. Now, it is up to the Department of Transport to put their money where their mouth is," he said.

Mr Yeo, the shadow trade and industry secretary, said he welcomed the recommendations of the LOIS study and hoped to see improvements to the A12 "as quickly as possible".

Roy Davis, chairman of the EELGC's regional planning panel, added: "We will be urging the Government to ensure that this work can be funded and pressing local authorities to tackle these public transport needs quickly and energetically."

Following three months of consultation, the EELGC has urged the Highways Agency and the Strategic Rail Authority to carry out the proposed road and rail projects.

The LOIS report, which was published in December, was designed to solve transport problems around the area served by the A12 in Essex and Suffolk.

In the longer term, £85m of improvements could be carried out between Ipswich and Colchester.

The EELGC has supported a number of schemes, including improvements to the First Great Eastern rail line, dualling the A120, widening a section of the A12 to three lanes, new bus and coach corridors and a number of capacity and safety modifications.

It comes as a boost to the East Anglian Daily Times' Action for the A120 campaign, which is calling for improvements to the road, particularly between Harwich and Little Bromley.

The group, made up of prominent county councillors, has also urged the Government to look into the possibility of "area-wide road user charging" – possibly similar to London's congestion charge – in an effort to cut the level of traffic on the A12.

Mr Davis called the package "ambitious" and said: "If the Government implements it in full, it should make a big improvement to conditions on the railways and in congestion and safety on the roads.

"We are particularly pleased that this study looked so thoroughly at the possible contribution of bus and rail options and that it has recommended such a comprehensive package of schemes.

"We will now submit our recommendations to the Secretary of State for Transport and ask him to require the Highways Agency and Strategic Rail Authority to include these schemes in their programmes as quickly as possible."

John Pitchford, strategic policy manager at Suffolk County Council, said it welcomed the principles of the LOIS study, but thought arguments for widening the A12 to three lanes between Ipswich and London – one of the longer term options – were not justified at this stage because of environmental concerns.

Essex County Council has welcomed the major investment in the county's major transport systems.

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