Tolling still on the agenda for A14

Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, and Matthew Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, visiting the A

Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, and Matthew Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, visiting the A11 project with transport minister Patrick McLoughlin, centre. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Tolling any new section of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon remains likely as engineers look at possible new routes for the £1bn-plus new road.

That was the message from Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin during his two-day visit to the region.

Mr McLoughlin saw for himself the work on the new A11 in west Suffolk – but warned that the larger scheme to replace the A14 west of Cambridge would need new ways of funding.

He said: “We have said we will not put a toll on existing roads, but this is such a large project we have to look at different ways of funding it.

“Nothing has been decided yet but when you are looking at a scheme costing more than £1 billion then tolling has to be an option.”

Hauliers are concerned because the initial plans for the new road would see a section of the existing A14 around Huntingdon removed – an elevated section is not expected to be able to continue in use indefinitely.

There are worries that a toll section on the A14 could hit Suffolk’s economy, and especially the haulage industry carrying goods to and from Felixstowe, uniquely hard.

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Traffic from no other ports will rely on a toll road for their distribution routes – and business leaders who met Mr McLoughlin raised their fears with him.

While the A14 upgrade is still several years away, work is well under way on improving the A11 – and Mr McLoughlin joined local MPs Matthew Hancock and Elizabeth Truss to see what was happening.

He said: “One of the things that has put people off coming to this area in the past is bad road infrastructure and East Anglia has been very badly served in the past.

“I am very impressed with the work here on the A11 that has been done and I think it will make a tremendous difference once completed.

A Highways Agency spokesman said the scheme was on schedule to finish by December 2014 and coming in slightly below budget.

He said the good weather and support of local stakeholders had enabled the project to move forward smoothly.