THE cost of providing a new stretch of the A14 in Huntingdonshire is nearing the £1billion mark - the figure which business leaders feared the Government would take fright and abandon the scheme. According to Roads Minister Tom Harris, the cost of the A14 Ellington-Fen Ditton improvements has risen sharply once again to £944million. When the project was first announced on All Fools' Day 2003, the cost was estimated at £490million. Even as recently as two years ago Highways Agency officials were assuring The Hunts Post that the 22-mile project, which includes a new Huntingdon southern bypass, could still be built for that money. A year ago the agency admitted costs had risen - the chosen Orange route would cost £640million. However, last week's announcement adds nearly a further 50 per cent to a cost that was regarded as robust barely a year ago. A spokesman for the Highways Agency said the revised estimate followed the Nichols review of cost estimation for major strategic roads schemes - they have historically been seriously underestimated. However, the agency also blames high inflation in the construction industry.