A14 plans stay the same despite the scrapping of a toll

 

The plans for the A14 improvements will hardly change as a result of the decision to drop the toll. A spokesman said there may be "a few tweaks" to the plans which were published in the summer "but nothing serious".

The Highways Agency will publish the results of its consultation into the toll road plans before Christmas. Early in the new year it will publish its "slightly tweaked" plans for the road, which will then go out to consultation again. The intention is for no delays and that work will start as planned in 2016.

How times have changed. It was only weeks ago that the Prime Minister told us categorically that there wasn't the money to go ahead with the A14 upgrade without a toll. Now it seems, there is.

Start Quote

I cannot be more plain, when you're living in difficult economic circumstances and you want roads to be built, on occasion it's right to make people make a contribution”

End Quote David Cameron September 2013

Plans to charge people to use a new section of the A14 to the south of Huntingdon have officially been abandoned and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said the whole of the cost would be picked up by the government.

We asked David Cameron in September whether, if the consultation showed a lot of opposition, he would think again.

"It's a consultation so we have to listen but I cannot be more plain. When you're living in difficult economic circumstances and you want roads to be built, on occasion it's right to make people make a contribution," he told us.

Campaign against the toll

The plans met with almost universal criticism. The business community voiced concerns from the start, chambers of commerce from Norfolk and Suffolk and the counties' Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) entered the fray - calling it a tax on jobs.

Suffolk MP David Ruffley went further: "It's A-road apartheid", he claimed, while fellow MP Therese Coffey doggedly questioned why the area was being unfairly picked on. In other places there was no talk of a toll, she warned darkly: "What we shouldn't be doing is taxing areas that are successful already."

So what's brought about the change of heart? Apparently the penny finally dropped that demolishing the flyover at Huntingdon would leave no choice but to use the new toll road.

Well, better late than never and with not so much as a blush of embarrassment, we have the new plans unveiled.

The Conservatives and the Lib Dems say it shows they listen. Labour says the government has gone back to the plans they had in place before the 2010 general election and we've now had three years of "faffing about".

Even though it's an outcome most will welcome, it's hardly an episode that covers the government in glory.

 
Deborah McGurran Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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