Still waiting, two years' on

A £500million scheme to upgrade the main road linking Suffolk and north Essex with London is still on the drawing board two years after it was announced by the Government, it has emerged.

By Graham Dines

A £500million scheme to upgrade the main road linking Suffolk and north Essex with London is still on the drawing board two years after it was announced by the Government, it has emerged.

The plans to modernise the A12 are awaiting approval by a regional transport board that has yet to be appointed.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling gave details of the improvements in July 2003 plan as part of his £7billion package "to keep the traffic flowing on some of Britain's most congested roads."


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The A12 modernisation comprises three sections – improving the junction with the M25 at Brook Street, Brentwood, costing £26m; upgrading to dual three lanes between the M25 and the Chelmsford by-pass, at a cost of £246m; and a £239m upgrade from the Chelmsford by-pass to the Ardleigh interchange on the Essex-Suffolk border.

Other major schemes announced by Mr Darling at the same time were the £203m dualling of the A120 from Braintree to Marks Tey, which is at the public consultation stage; widening to dual three lanes the M11 from Stansted airport to the A14 junction at Cambridge; and converting the M25 in Essex from the M11 to the River Thames crossing at Dartford into dual four lanes.

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However, as part of the Government's English devolution agenda, the A12 schemes from Brentwood to Colchester now have to take their chances when a priority list of road schemes to be drawn up by the Eastern Regional Transport Board – a body which exists in name only because no members have been appointed to it.

The A12 will have to compete with the A11 dual1ing north of Newmarket, upgrades on the A1 in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, the Dunstable northern by-pass linking the A5 to the M1, and dualling eight miles of the A421 between Bedford and the M1.

The M25-to-Chelmsford upgrade was given top billing by the Transport Secretary two years ago, as he said: "This new investment in our major transport corridors will deliver real improvements for people and businesses across the country.

"The package will add significant capacity to Britain's strategic road network and improve safety as well as tackling the worst congestion hotspots."

However, a spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) conceded that the road was now subject to a regional priority programme.

"Following the Government's announcement on July 21 this year on regional funding allocations, decisions on the entry of the M25-to-Chelmsford and Chelmsford-to-Colchester widening schemes into the targeted programme of improvements will be made following advice from the region on their priorities for major transport schemes."

Further north, the A12 passes through the Dedham Vale area of outstanding natural beauty before reaching Copdock interchange at Ipswich.

The spokesman said the DfT was "conscious of possible sensitive environmental issues" of any realignment which meant the scheme had been shunted into the long term.

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