WITH the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review imminent, I read with interest that the Roads Minister Mike Penning has revealed that he is unable to afford the A14 improvement scheme.
WITH the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review imminent, I read with interest that the Roads Minister Mike Penning has revealed that he is unable to afford the A14 improvement scheme but would consider proposals for private investment in toll roads (The Hunts Post, October 13).
However, I also note in the Motor Transport magazine report, that the Roads Minister also stated that “the M6 toll road has not been a success”.
When the nation faces Government austerity measures, surely it’s time to face reality. The public purse can no longer finance costly road schemes – particularly if, as in the case of the flawed A14 scheme, they do not reduce congestion and also fail to meet legally-binding transport sector carbon budgets.
First, may I say that not everyone supports the A14 scheme – estimated cost some £1.2 billion. I suspect many will greet news of its possible demise with relief, including Brampton A14 Campaign Group who have been highlighting the flaws in the Highways Agency’s scheme for almost four years and advocating less-costly alternatives.
Secondly, may I recommend that any local business consortium considering investing in a toll road to replace the A14 scheme read the recent report ‘Counting the Cost of Congestion Relief’ by the Campaign for Better Transport? This is a cautionary tale for the Department for Transport and business investors alike.
Not only has the M6 toll road failed to reduce congestion on the M6 significantly, but Midland Expressway Ltd, the toll’s operator, has lost tens of millions of pounds each year. The likelihood of finding private investors to finance other toll roads would appear slim given this track record.
Furthermore, the Highways Agency is planning to spend half a billion pounds (spending review permitting) on the very congestion relief that the M6 Toll was supposed to provide.
Fortunately, as advocated by Brampton A14 Campaign Group, the EU Transport Commissioner provided some €20million last year towards upgrading the Felixstowe to Nuneaton rail freight route and installing active traffic management systems from Felixstowe to the M1 on the existing A14.
Both improvements are already under way and should help to ease congestion problems along the whole length of the A14 – not just from Cambridge to Huntingdon. And one day maybe even the guided bus will be able to contribute to reducing car journeys on the A14.Who knows?
It seems to me that the best way forward would be for everyone to draw a line under the old A14 scheme and work together in the public interest to produce a much less costly alternative that also meets sustainable development criteria.
Brampton A14 Campaign Group submitted comprehensive alternative proposals to the public inquiry the Inspector asked the Highways Agency to develop. These proposals also included a (low carbon) railfreight element, which the rail sector is keen to explore. Perhaps this might be of interest to business investors?
Councillor EILEEN COLLIER