Felixstowe: Tolling proposal splits users

Paul Dawson of Deben Transport

Paul Dawson of Deben Transport

Proposals to upgrade the A14 with a toll road are likely to split road users – especially those who travel on the road for a living.

Proposals to upgrade the A14 with a toll are likely to split users – especially those who travel on the road for a living.

The delays and congestion between Cambridge and Huntingdon are notorious, especially during rush-hours.

And the need to carry out major improvements to the road is believed to be getting more crucial because of the age of the elevated section of the A14 through Huntingdon itself.

Some road users are thought to believe a toll would be worth paying to avoid travelling very slowly, or even sitting in stationary traffic for more than half an hour – some hauliers estimate that the cost of a stationary lorry with its engine running in congestion is between £10-£15 for 30 minutes, which would be more than the likely toll fee.

However Paul Dawson from Deben Transport, which is based at the Port of Felixstowe, rejected any proposal to impose tolls on the A14.

He said: “Our vehicles do not use toll roads. We pay a huge amount in road tax and in fuel duty. We are not going to pay more to use a particular road.

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“The M6 toll road is getting less and less use – so much so that the government is considering absorbing it into the normal road network, but that does have an alternative road. We use that.

“The only circumstance in which we would use the toll road would be if a customer had a particularly time-sensitive load and was prepared to pay the toll themselves.”

Mr Dawson said his vehicles were timed to use the A14 at less busy times, especially overnight, to take loads from Felixstowe to Alconbury, near the A1 junction.

“We have two lorries making two return journeys each on that route between 6pm and 4am every night,” he said. “If there was a toll in operation, that would cost £88 a day. We can’t afford that extra cost.”

The CBI in the East of England welcomed the news that the A14 upgrade was likely to be included in the Chancellor’s list of likely new projects.

However the employers’ organisation called for a change in the way roads are funded across the country, and warned that a toll road similar to that on the M6 in the West Midlands would not be good for the local economy.

If an acceptable tolling scheme could be drawn up, private money could be a successful way of getting major new roads built.

The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said improvements to the road were badly needed, but members are concerned that a toll would hit drivers from the county disproportionately.

Chief executive John Dugmore said: “A toll would be a geographically-specific tax on Suffolk’s people and businesses; including the Haven Ports, and their ancillary sector services, placing Suffolk at a competitive disadvantage to other British ports and business communities.

“If private finance is the way forward for our roads then it has to be part of a national policy.”