Suffolk: Chancellor warned over toll road threat to county’s economy

A14, huntingdon

A14, huntingdon - Credit: Archant

The government could be putting the future prosperity of Suffolk at risk by insisting on creating a toll road between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

That’s the warning in a letter from the Suffolk Chamber to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the government considers whether to use tolls to pay for an upgrade to the A14.

The letter, signed by Chamber chief executive John Dugmore, says that the government’s tolling plans would put businesses using the road at a disadvantage to other road users.

It says: “The government will be asking the economy of Suffolk to contribute disproportionately to the cost of the project (the A14 upgrade).

“In doing so it also has an adverse effect upon the competitiveness of the county’s major commercial centres, particularly the ports.”

The letter points out that the government says there would be free alternatives for “local” users heading to Cambridge – but there is no mention of a free alternative for long distance strategic traffic, especially lorries heading to and from Felixstowe.

Mr Dugmore says that while more freight will be shifted to rail with the upgrade of the route from Felixstowe to Nuneaton, the main artery for goods will continue to be the A14.

Most Read

He adds: “If all these businesses face a toll charge every time they pass through Cambridgeshire it will be, in effect, a tax on Suffolk’s business base.

“Furthermore it is a tax on Suffolk that undermines our firms’ competitiveness in comparison to rivals elsewhere in the UK who remain unfettered by a toll on major routes.”

The letter was written on the day that we revealed that the Chancellor could include the upgrade of the A14 in Cambridgeshire – so long it is partially financed by tolling.

The Chamber has an ally in Ipswich MP Ben Gummer who said he would be taking their concerns to the Chancellor George Osborne.

He said: “I am in favour of tolling, but only if it is fairly applied across the country – and only if there is a free alternative.

“There is neither in this case. Traffic from Suffolk would have no alternative to pay – and traffic from other ports would not have to pay a toll.”

Mr Gummer pointed out that the government had backed electrification schemes for rail links to the ports of Southampton and Thames Gateway.

“Those ports are getting a government boost while traffic to and from Felixstowe is facing a new charge.

That is not fair for this part of the world and I shall point that out to the Chancellor,” he added.

The Chamber’s letter concludes with a plea for the county.

It says: “We ask you to give urgent reconsideration to any impending tolls to toll the A14 in Cambridgeshire to ensure that any final solution does not damage an economy that might otherwise be expected to be in the vanguard of the return to robust economic growth that we are all working so hard to achieve.”