A14 toll road: MPs tell Westminster plans are "unfair"
Plans for a toll road on part of the A14 are "arbitrary and unfair" and threaten to damage the East region's economic growth, MPs have said.
The proposal for a new road to the north of Cambridge has been widely criticised by hauliers, motoring organisations and business groups.
Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said the government had "singled out" users of the A14 for tolling.
Transport minister Robert Goodwill said doing "nothing" was "not an option".
In a debate in Westminster, Conservative MP Ms Coffey said she accepted the upgrade as a "national priority".
But she said to apply a toll "effectively amounts to a tax on business in East Anglia, which is bad news for one of the leading growth areas for UK plc".
"The perception in Suffolk is that East Anglia business will end up paying to ease the congestion of Cambridge's commuters," she said.
The Highways Agency is proposing to charge motorists on a new stretch of the A14, which links the Port of Felixstowe, in Suffolk, with the Midlands via Northamptonshire.
Lorries could be charged £3 and cars between £1 and £1.50 for using the 12-mile (19km) stretch of toll road, which would be south of Huntingdon. Overnight trips would be toll free.
David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, said the plans could lead to a "road apartheid".
He said there could be "discrimination against business users and travellers" in the "golden triangle of Norwich, Ipswich and Cambridge, which is one of the engine rooms of growth in the whole of this nation".'Negative impact'
MPs also said they were "very disappointed" the Highway's Agency "refused to hold a consultation meeting in Suffolk" about the A14 proposals and that the consultation document "talks about effectively forcing HGVs onto the trunk road".
Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney, added the toll proposals would have a "significant negative impact on the Suffolk economy".
He said if a toll road was approved there must be a "realistic alterative".
In reply to the MPs, Mr Goodwill said the case for improving the A14 was "overwhelming" and the proposed £1.5bn scheme, a tenth of the Highways Agency's entire capital budget until the end of the decade, would bring "significant" transport and economic benefits to the region.
He said: "To do nothing to improve this over-crowded section of our trunk road network is not an option.
"Without improvement, traffic will worsen and will constrain economic growth in the wider east of England for decades to come."