MPs divided over A14 upgrade to a compulsory toll road
- 11 September 2013
- From the section Norfolk
The government has finally announced its plans to upgrade the A14 - and the future is going to be costly.
It's to be a compulsory toll road. The current A14 will be "de-trunked" and the Huntingdon flyover will be demolished, leaving little or no alternative for drivers.
Costing £1.5 billion, it's the biggest single project by the Highways Agency until 2020 and in the first move of its kind, there will be no alternative free route.
The A14 is used by 85,000 vehicles every single day. One in four of is an HGV - more than twice the national average, as lorries travel from Felixstowe to the Midlands.
The existing road goes northwest from Cambridge to Huntingdon. The new route will go from Swavesey to Ellington but because the bridge carrying the A14 through Huntingdon is to be removed, drivers will be forced on to the new toll road.
It's said the toll is to be set at £1 to £1.50 for cars and double that for lorries.
Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly welcomed the move: "I think it's good news for the whole region because by 2025 we're expecting 25% more traffic on the A14 than already exists. It's just going to get impossible. We have to have a solution."
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey has expressed concern that the toll could adversely affect the Port of Felixstowe but many other Conservative MPs have remained tight-lipped about the prospect of the country's first compulsory toll.
Northampton's Brian Binley was a notable exception.
"After all, the taxpayers paid for this road, they paid for the infrastructure and I don't think we can take it away on what is seen as a ruse to get people on to a toll road," he said.
It is a sentiment echoed by some hauliers who said that they'd already paid for the road and there shouldn't be another tax at their expense. Others though, said the hold-ups were costing them more that tolls ever would.
Cambridge's Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert also thought it was the wrong solution.
"I don't think it's the right way to go. I think we need to do much more work, firstly, to control the costs of this project.
"We can deliver improvements on what we currently have but also to make sure we do more work to take freight off the roads and on to the railways."
Despite promises that there would be an alternative route, the plan to demolish the flyover at Huntingdon means there isn't.
Transport Minister Stephen Hammond said: "This is tolling for infrastructure gain. There are alternatives for local people and I think that's important. There is an alternative along the A428 and out on to the A1."
So motorists will have the choice of crawling through St Neots or crawling through Huntingdon.
The consultation on the plans finishes this October and work should begin in 2016.
It should take three to four years to complete the new A14 and from then on people will have to put their hands in their pockets.