East Anglia: Toll on A14 will help fund �1.5 billion improvements

A TOLL will be used to pay for �1.5 billion improvements to the A14 corridor, according to Government proposals.

The Department of Transport (DoT) yesterday unveiled plans for major investment and improvements along the dual carriageway between Cambridge and the A1 at Huntingdon in a bid to cut congestion and boost capacity.

Funding for the work, which includes the widening and “enhancing” of 20 miles of the A14 and the building of two new parallel roads immediately north of Cambridge for local traffic, would be provided in part by the introduction of a toll.

Last night MPs described the plans on the strategic route to Felixstowe as “long overdue” but added they would work hard to make sure the Suffolk economy and hauliers - who have already expressed concern about a toll - are not put at a disadvantage.

The exact details of the toll, including what length the tolled section would be, how users pay and what the tariff should be, has not yet been decided. The question of whether the existing A14 route or newly built roads will be affected also remaims unanswered.

The package, which has been priced between �1billion and �1.5billion, includes a new bypass to replace the existing road around Huntingdon and upgrades along the A14 as far east as Milton.

The existing A14 carriageway, will be upgraded through the removal of accesses and junctions, and improvements to junctions at the northern and southern ends.

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With agreement from local authorities and pending decisions at the next Spending Review, work on the A14 corridor could begin by 2018.

Matthew Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, said: “For a long time people have needed a solution to the bottlnecks that occur on the A14 north of Cambridge. But everyone is very realistic that there’s no money around.

“I have to say I am very enthusiastic about innovative ways to finance – if that means a toll road next to the existing one to give a faster route, then so be it.”

Mr Hancock added he would prefer not to see a toll on the existing A14 route but said: “I think we need to explore every option and get the job done.”

Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, said it was good that work was finally going to take place after decades of problems.

Addressing the toll, he added: “I am determined that any decision made will benefit the economy of Ipswich and Suffolk and doesn’t place an unfair tax on people living in this part of the world.”

Councillor Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Roads and Transport, said he was concerned about a toll would mean that the people of Suffolk would end up paying for problems caused by Cambridge commuters.

A spokesman for the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said they hoped a toll would be avoided on the main A14 road.

He said: “We support new infrastructure. We know there’s lots of traffics down that route and that pinch points need to be improved. But we are totally against tolls. There is no way that haulage companies can absorb the costs, so the end user will have to pay. It is not good for operators or users of the end product.”

The spokesman added: “In a way they’ve got a captive market, it’s the only route from the Midlands to Felixstowe. If it’s the only road we have, it’s the only way to travel, you could say they are being held to ransom. What choice have they got?”

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: “The A14 is a crucial strategic route for the east of England, vital not only for international road traffic using the port of Felixstowe but everyone who relies on it daily.

“This is why my department has been working hard to generate innovative and imaginative solutions to tackling long term congestion and I am pleased to be able to unveil what we believe to be the best option for people living locally as well as those who see it as a lifeline to international markets.

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