A14 plan is at risk’

THE A14 Ellington-Fen Ditton improvements, including a new southern bypass for Huntingdon, could be shelved because the cost has doubled to £1billion, business leaders fear. When the preferred route for the scheme was revealed by the Highways Agency just

THE A14 Ellington-Fen Ditton improvements, including a new southern bypass for Huntingdon, could be shelved because the cost has doubled to £1billion, business leaders fear.

When the preferred route for the scheme was revealed by the Highways Agency just last month, its cost was estimated at £639million. But the price tag still attached to it in Whitehall is the original estimate of £490million that was published on All Fools' Day 2003.

At that time, the whole scheme was due for completion by 2010. Now it is unlikely to start before late that year, according to a regional spokesman for the agency.

But John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, fears the £1billion cost re-evaluation could give a cash-strapped Government an excuse to ditch the scheme completely.


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"When they want to save money, they always go for the big one," he told The Hunts Post.

The agency has been reviewing its cost estimates following a report by management consultants the Nichols Group, which criticised poor predictions of the price tags of major road schemes.

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"That's why I believe the whole project is being delayed," Mr Bridge added. "They have to find some savings.

"The growth agenda for Cambridgeshire is absolutely hinging on the A14 project."

The regional Highways Agency spokesman said the contract for the scheme would be awarded to a contractor early in 2008.

She added: "The cost of the Orange route presented at the most recent public consultation was estimated at £639m. We can't be precise about the costs of this scheme until we have had further discussions with the tenderers and further design work has been completed. But we are working to identify and manage cost increases.

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