East Anglia: Victory confirmed in battle against A14 toll

A stretch of the A14 at Huntingdon, which could be tolled

A stretch of the A14 at Huntingdon, which could be tolled - Credit: Archant

Businesses and road users were today celebrating after the government confirmed it is dropping controversial plans for a toll on the A14 – delivering a win-win for the region’s motorists.

Business groups, politicians and motorists came together to mount a strong campaign against the proposed toll after it was first proposed by the government during the summer.

And today, as revealed in later editions of yesterday’s EADT, the Treasury officially confirmed that there would be no toll and work on the new road should start in 2016.

The news was immediately welcomed by everyone who had campaigned against the toll.

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey led the county’s MPs in their campaign against the toll.

She said: “I am absolutely thrilled. Businesses and MPs from Suffolk have come together to oppose this toll proposal – and have made a compelling case without getting hysterical.

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“In meetings with the Prime Minister and Chancellor we have made the case and I am delighted our message seems to have got across.”

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley said: “This is a massive victory for Suffolk – for its businesses and its motorists.”

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He said that when the campaign started the message was that the toll for the road was non-negotiable, but by taking their case to the very top of the government the tide had turned.

“In meeting the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Transport Secretary, we persuaded them that Suffolk would be uniquely put at a disadvantage by this toll.

“The tax on Suffolk would have been seen as our reward for pushing ahead and helping to drag the country out of recession.”

There was also delight from business leaders – led by Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore.

He said: “The Government have said this morning that plans to toll the A14 have been scrapped which is good news for business, good news for the economy and good news for Suffolk

“The reason that No Toll Tax on Suffolk has been successful is because business, LEPs, local authorities and other groups have been joined up in their message that action is needed on this fundamental piece of infrastructure but taxing traffic coming in and out of Suffolk is not the answer.”

The government first revealed the toll would be imposed as part of its announcement about the A14 upgrade in June.

The £1.5billion scheme was brought forward from a 2018 start to a 2016 start. The earlier date will remain even though the toll plan has been dropped.

Andy Wood, chair of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The upgrading of the A14 is essential for the local economy, but a toll would have a very negative impact on businesses.

“The campaign led by the Chamber of Commerce brought together businesses and political leaders to speak with a single voice that united our area in opposition to a tax that would have unfairly targeted our area, at a time when we are leading the country’s return to growth.”

Labour shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said the government’s U-turn meant the situation was now the same as it was when the coalition took power three-and-a-half years ago.

She said: “This chaotic story tells you everything you need to know about this out-of-touch Government’s approach to infrastructure.

“Incompetent ministers delayed Labour’s plans for a new road in 2010 and wasted three years on their failed toll scheme. As a result costs have shot up by £200million and local people and businesses are still waiting for work to begin on this vital new road.”

Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee was very happy about the decision.

He said: “Suffolk businesses, councils and MPs have been vocal in opposition to proposals to toll parts of the A14 and today that hard work and determination has been rewarded.

“We’re fully behind plans to improve the A14 as a key route for our county and strategic link between this country and the continent.”

St Edmundsbury Borough Council leader John Griffiths added: “I am delighted the Government has listened to the concerns expressed by our residents, businesses and councils not to disadvantage the county by tolling the A14 while supporting the earliest possible improvements.”

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