New cash pledge for A12

ESSEX County Council could redirect existing funds or borrow millions of pounds to pay for improvements to the “nightmare” A12, its leader has said.

Elliot Furniss

ESSEX County Council could redirect existing funds or borrow millions of pounds to pay for improvements to the “nightmare” A12, its leader has said.

Lord Hanningfield, who launched a ground-breaking independent study into the problems facing the over-loaded trunk road last week, said he would act if the Government continued to drag its heals on the matter.

It was possible as much as £12million could be found for A12 enhancements next year, he said.

Sir David Rowlands, who recently retired from the Department for Transport, will head the inquiry - the first time a local authority has ordered an investigation into an existing road.

The hearings begin this week when Sir David and his team will hear from witnesses who will explain what the causes of congestion on the road are.

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At the end of the inquiry a series of recommendations will be put before the Government on how to better the road, which runs the entire length of the county.

Lord Hanningfield told the EADT he would not shy away from borrowing the millions of pounds needed if the final report, expected later in the year, identifies possible improvements.

He said: “We spend, in Essex, over £160million a year on roads and have total capital programme of £250million.

“If the inquiry comes up with good recommendations we can do right away then I will use some of the money I would be using for other things on the A12.”

He said money could also be borrowed in order to fund any feasible recommendations put forward by Sir David, such as better slip roads, access points or extra lay-bys.

He said: “I couldn't borrow enough money to make it three lanes or anything like that, but we could come up with improvements.

“There are capital programs, loans or the redirecting of money - the A12 is really important and it's taking £200million out of our economy every year.

“It really is the worst road in the UK and we have to do something about it. We found £12million this year - next year I might find £12million for the A12.”

The road is maintained by the Highways Agency but Lord Hanningfield said he was hopeful that it would work with the council to make any improvements it offered to pay for.

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