A14 congestion - invest in rail instead

I NOTE that Cambridgeshire County Council recently held a meeting with ‘stakeholders’ to discuss options for the A14 in response to the DfT’s ‘A14 challenge’ and that Cambridgeshire councillors are again seeking privately-funded new roads and road tolls despite existing evidence of financial loss and failure to reduce congestion (M6 toll road) plus increased carbon emissions.

Questions in the A14 Challenge response form were posed in relation to the DfT A14 study report issued in December 2011. This ‘multi-modal’ study once again appears biased in favour of road solutions and plays down the carbon reduction advantage of rail.

It reiterates out-dated arguments in favour of the cancelled A14 scheme and ignores detailed information and alternative solutions put forward to the A14 public inquiry in 2010.

The cancelled A14 scheme was not only costly (over �50 million per mile) but also deeply flawed. It would not have reduced traffic congestion owing to the widely-recognised phenomenon of ‘induced travel demand’ and didn’t even comply with government transport, environment or climate change policy, including legally-binding carbon budgets.

I had hoped that the A14 study reports would be based on a rigorous evaluation of the alternative proposals submitted to the public inquiry using updated Highways Agency modelling techniques, including the revised and updated New Approach To Transport Appraisal (NATA Refresh), and that the impact on carbon budgets would be properly quantified.

I also expected the cumulative impact of the use of new technology (ITS, ramp-metering and active traffic management) to be properly assessed and that minor road measures such as junction improvements plus reduction of access points and lay-bys to minimise traffic conflict would be evaluated.

Similarly, I can find no evidence that the potential of ‘smarter choices’ (walking, cycling, public transport, travel plans, car clubs/car share etc) to reduce car traffic has been assessed and taken into account.

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Sadly, none of these quantified assessments appears to have been made and we are no nearer to finding a properly-evaluated solution to the problem of A14 congestion. In fact, this report represents a huge step backwards instead of a leap forward.

In my view, a package of smaller, less-costly improvements (including ‘smarter choices’) would be the best way forward in the short-term. However, I firmly believe that investing in rail is the best long-term solution to reduce road traffic congestion – and carbon emissions.

Since 2007 Brampton Campaign Group has advocated significantly increased capacity on the Felixstowe-Nuneaton rail freight route as part of our alternative A14 scheme. This rail alternative is effectively an eastern bypass of the A14 and is also a TEN-T freight route.

I am delighted that the Secretary of State for Transport endorses the strategic importance of rail freight, and investment in this particular route, in the Railways Command Paper published on March 8.


Brampton A14 Campaign Group

Centenary Way