A14 plans 'show environmental devastation'

I NOTE with interest (The Hunts Post, December 10) that John Bridge is planning to ask the next Conservative Government to provide the funding (currently £1.2billion) for the A14 improvement scheme which, if given the go-ahead, is due to start constru

I NOTE with interest (The Hunts Post, December 10) that John Bridge is planning to ask the "next Conservative Government" to provide the funding (currently £1.2billion) for the A14 'improvement' scheme which, if given the go-ahead, is due to start construction in late 2010.

The computer simulation of this scheme, displayed at the recent Highways Agency exhibition, while technically excellent, revealed environmental devastation. The multiple strands of road surfaces snaking over green fields, curling into convoluted coils at elevated interchanges and joining together to produce 10 lanes of traffic close to housing at Brampton, bore little resemblance to the innocuous multi-coloured lines showing the different route options in the Highways Agency's consultation document for the 'new A14'.

As a member of the original CHUMMS team, which devised the scheme (and, I believe - though I may be wrong - the ill-fated guided bus), Mr Bridge has fought steadfastly to push this monstrous road forward, despite its obvious threat to the environment. But he should note that the Conservative Party has at last displayed a glimpse of green credentials.

Given the Government's ambitious, and legally binding, carbon emissions reduction targets, David Cameron is right to promise investment in high speed rail infrastructure rather than airport expansion. The Liberal Democrats are right in that they have always supported the environment - especially investment in rail - and the Government is also right to task Lord Adonis to review transport infrastructure projects to determine which should go ahead.

The problem with the A14 is not the road - it is the high volume of port freight traffic (double the national average) that uses it. Since March 2007, I have been advocating a multi-modal alternative to the CHUMMS scheme. This is based on retaining and upgrading existing roads and rail freight routes, plus significant Government investment in the strategic ports rail freight network to reduce the volume of HGVs on the A14 - though this is also likely to occur during the current economic downturn.

As passenger and freight rail services share the same tracks, presumably both would benefit from further investment in freight routes. Road transport is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions in the UK, and over 3,000 people die in road accidents every year, whereas rail is much less polluting and a vastly safer mode of transport.

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Upgrading existing routes would be better value for money and bring the required improvements into service more quickly, while modal shift of port freight to rail would help improve road safety and help to meet carbon emissions reduction targets.

I will continue to urge the Government (whoever is in power) to lead the battle against climate change, to provide the investment required to achieve the planned modal shift of transport from road to rail and to deliver the 21st century rail network that this country needs and deserves.


Centenary Way