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Call for 'unified' voice to secure A120 upgrade funding

PUBLISHED: 14:40 02 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:40 02 June 2019

Witham MP Priti Patel Picture: PA

Witham MP Priti Patel Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

A clarion call is being made to Essex businesses and communities to unite in support of an "urgent" upgrade of the A120.

A120 at Marks Farm junction in Braintree Picture: PAGEPIX LTD/HAVEN GATEWAY PARTNERSHIPA120 at Marks Farm junction in Braintree Picture: PAGEPIX LTD/HAVEN GATEWAY PARTNERSHIP

Dualling the A120 along a new route between Braintree and the A12 could bring a £2.2 billion economic boost to the region.

The campaign to secure the investment needed to improve the road was reignited on Friday at a major stakeholder meeting at County Hall, Chelmsford, headed by Witham MP Priti Patel and Essex County Council deputy leader Kevin Bentley.

READ MORE: EADT joins campaign to have the A120 dualled between Colchester and Braintree

With the Government set to make key decisions in the autumn on future investment in major roads, Ms Patel is calling on all communities, businesses, elected representatives and local councils to come together and send a strong unified message in support of the A120.

The scheme, to replace the current single-carriageway stretch, would also dramatically improve safety and reduce journey times during rush hour by an estimated 19 minutes, she said.

Ms Patel, who has campaigned to dual the A120 since being elected, said: "The A120 is a major economic corridor connecting businesses to towns and international hubs but for years it has been unsafe and the cause of accidents, congestion and delays.

"For too long the stretch between Braintree and the A12 has not been fit for purpose and we now have a once in a generation opportunity to secure investment to upgrade this road."

Simon Huggett is a committee member of the Business Cafe business club based in Great Tey, north Essex.

He said dualling this stretch or road was an "urgent" issue for their business members, adding it was needed "sooner rather than later".

He said: "It's absolutely needed. It can be an absolute nightmare going the A120 and it's getting slower every week."

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Mr Huggett, who works in local exhaust ventilation, said he clocks 12,000 miles a year around East Anglia so the upgrade would save him time "and potentially I could take on more business".

Ms Patel said: "Ten years ago, the then Government scrapped a dualling scheme but there is now a new pot of money available from central Government which we can bid for.

"A strong case has been put forward but with competition from across the country we need to campaign hard to secure Government funding.

"This means harnessing support from businesses and communities and presenting to the Government a unified voice from across the region.

"I have been pressing the case for the A120 to Government ministers in meetings and in the House of Commons so they know how important this road is and this campaign is one we should all back."

Speaking at the meeting, Kevin Bentley, Essex County Council cabinet member for infrastructure, said the opportunity to upgrade "this woefully inadequate road" is "too good to miss".

"With the current A120 we have the only single-carriageway road in the UK with a major airport at one end and a major international seaport at the other.

"Our proposed dual carriageway will address this and unlock economic growth and other benefits to businesses and local communities equating to £4.5 million for every £1 million spent.

"Therefore, we should all get behind this scheme and ensure those making decisions about funding are in no doubt about its importance."

Because of the importance and popularity of the project, the Department for Transport and Highways England are being urged to provide funding for the scheme through the Road Investment Strategy programme.

If this is agreed in the autumn, it is hoped construction, which would take three years, could start as soon as 2023.

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