Suffolk: ‘No toll tax’: Firms’ fury at A14 upgrade funding

Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore, left, and Stephen Britt, who chairs the chamber's tran

Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore, left, and Stephen Britt, who chairs the chamber's transport group, by the A14. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk business leaders have launched a campaign against plans to toll part of the A14, claiming it will be a tax on the county.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s “No Toll Tax on Suffolk” campaign is launched today.

It hits out at Government proposals to upgrade the A14 in Cambridgeshire and fund the work through tolls, which it is estimated will cost the Suffolk economy £5.7million a year, even at the minimum level proposed for the tolls.

It has been backed by Suffolk County Council’s roads and transport cabinet member Graham Newman, who branded it an “unfair tax”.

“The Government must listen to the voice of business and rethink their tolling,” he said.

Chamber representatives and supporters will be lobbying MPs and other stakeholders on the detrimental effect that tolling will have on the country.

Although the Chamber welcomes the scheme to improve the key east-west route around Cambridge and Huntingdon, a hotspot for congestion and accidents, it believes the plan to cover around a fifth of the £1.5billion cost through tolling will hit Suffolk unfairly.

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“For many years, Suffolk Chamber, our members and firms across the county have been calling for improvements to this major part of our economic infrastructure,” said chamber chief executive John Dugmore.

“However, this must not be at the expense of tolling. There is no doubt though that the proposals put forward by the Department for Transport will be damaging to our economy and tolling of the A14 will have a detrimental impact on business and Suffolk.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) proposals involve widening and improving junctions on the existing A14 to the north of Cambridge and building a new dual carriageway south of Huntingdon.

The plans include the demolition of part of the existing A14 close to the centre of Huntingdon, leaving heavy goods vehicles with little choice but to pay the toll, as the alternative will be a lengthy detour, partly on single carriageway roads.

The DfT’s consultation document suggests a toll of £1 to £1.50 for cars and £2 to £3 for lorries, but has given no guarantee over what prices may be charged when the new road opens in perhaps eight years’ time.

Paul Dawson, managing director of Felixstowe-based Deben Transport, says that tolls could could cost his company alone £200,000 a year.

n See pages 6 and 7 for the full story and for comments from business leaders