Suffolk: Transport Secretary to meet with opponents of A14 toll plans

Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore by the A14.

Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore by the A14. - Credit: Archant

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has agreed to meet a delegation from the “No Toll Tax on Suffolk” campaign to discuss concerns over the potential impact of A14 tolls on the county’s economy.

Government plans for upgrading the heavily congested stetch of the A14 in Cambridgeshire include a new Huntingdon bypass which motorists would have to pay to use, with part of the existing route through the town being demolished.

With the Port of Felixstowe ranking as the UK’s biggest container port, many business organisations believe that forcing hauliers to pay the tolls ? or face a lengthy, and costly, diversion ? will have a disproportionate impact on Suffolk firms.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce launched the “No Toll Tax on Suffolk” campaign two weeks ago, and other organisations including the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and local branches of the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors have also indicated their concern over the toll proposal.

The campaign argues that, in the absence of any wider policy on road charging, the impact of A14 tolls on Suffolk will be uniquely severe as there are no other tolled trunk routes in Britain, apart from the M6 Toll which drivers can avoid by using the original non-toll route instead.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, who has also signalled opposition to tolls, met with representatives from Mr McLoughlin’s office at the Department for Transport during last week’s Conservative party conference in Manchester.

And the outcome was an agreement to meet a delegation from the county to discuss the potential impact of A14 tolls on the economy of Suffolk.

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“There is no doubt that tolling of the A14 will have a detrimental impact on business and the economy of Suffolk.” said John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber. “Tolls on the A14 would be discriminatory, adding costs to businesses in Suffolk that are not faced by businesses elsewhere.

“The ‘No Toll Tax on Suffolk’ campaign is being heard loud and clear and because of that we are encouraged that Patrick McLoughlin has agreed to meet with us to hear the real and deep concerns business has.”

Dr Coffey added: “I am pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to meet a delegation from No Toll Tax on Suffolk.

“This means we can continue to press the case on the A14. This stretch of road should not be singled out as the only improvement scheme to be tolled and we will do all we can to try and persuade the Government to remove it.”

According to the Department for Transport’s consultation document on its plans for the A14, charges for the tolled section would probably be in the range of £1 to £1.50 for cars and £2 to £3 for lorries, with a toll-free period overnight, from 10pm to 6am.

However, it has given no guarantee over the level of charges when the new road eventually opens or for how many years the tolls would remain in place.