The Spending Review in the East

  • 28 June 2013
  • From the section England
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Traffic on the A14
Image caption BBC East understands about £1bn will be invested in the A14

A toll road and lots of money for science. Those were the Chancellor's gifts to the region in his spending review.

We will also benefit from the extra money for flood defences, repairing pot holes and grants to local enterprise partnerships (although they're not getting as much as they'd been hoping for) but it will be users of the A14 and members of the science community who'll be the most happy.

The campaign for a new stretch of road to ease congestion between Huntingdon and Cambridge has been going on for the last 16 years - it featured in Andrew Lansley's maiden speech when he became MP.

Now the £1.5bn scheme has been "guaranteed" by the government, with the start date brought forward by two years to 2016.

"It is one of the most important and clogged up arteries in Britain," said Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the treasury, as he announced the funding.

Toll Road

His announcement was short on detail but we understand that the government is expecting to put about a billion pounds towards the scheme, with the toll road contributing between £300 and £400m.

Local councils and enterprise partnerships have already raised £100m to put into the pot.

The Department of Transport is expected to start the search for someone to run the road within the next year.

The new road will be tolled - but the existing stretch will not - giving motorists a choice about whether to pay to use the road.

Controversially there is talk of placing weight restrictions on the surrounding roads so that hauliers, who have complained about the cost of a toll, will have to use it.

"It is a very tight timetable to get all the planning done in time," said Jonathan Djanogly, Conservative MP for Huntingdon. "But you can be reassured that the county's MPs will be keeping up the pressure."

Science investment

A lot of the money not going on roads is going to research and development.

The science budget has been frozen (and that's good in the present climate) while the capital budget for science will be increased to more than a billion pounds.

Already we are being told that some of that will go to the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge and the Norwich Research Park. We also understand there will be a big announcement in July about agri-science which will heavily involve the region.

"It's quite a substantial increase in capital," said Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.

"That's very good news for our region, particularly the Cambridge cluster. A lot of that money will find its way to creating jobs and creating growth so it's a very sensible investment."

On the down side there were dozens of road and rail schemes which received no funding at all, the most obvious omission is the plan to improve the A47 in Norfolk.

Campaigners have said they will keep pushing for improvements, but the reality is that the road and rail budgets have now been allocated for the rest of the decade.

The East will have the A11 and the A14 improved. Anything else is now a long way off.

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