THE St Ives park-and-ride site for the guided busway could be twice the size by the autumn of 2012 as part of the Government’s plans to spend £20million on short-term measures to relieve congestion on the A14.

Cambridgeshire County Council is set to bid for 10-15 per cent of the budget, announced by the Chancellor last autumn, to expand the St Ives car park from 500 spaces to 1,000 and to put five advance 'variable-message' warning signs (VMS) on county roads on approaches to the A14.

The signs would warn of potential congestion ahead, enabling users to find alternative routes rather than join queues on the trunk road.

The Highways Agency, which is directly responsible for the road, is currently costing a variety of measures, particularly at the Spittals interchange in Huntingdon and the Girton interchange just outside Cambridge.

At Spittals the agency owns land that would enable it to provide a dedicated eastbound access from the southbound A141, so left-turning traffic would not need to use the light-controlled overbridges. It also owns unused land on the westbound side, though its use to relieve the junction could be limited by emergency services access and car parking at the Huntingdon Marriott Hotel.

County council director Graham Hughes said he was confident that the Government's £20m short-term money would cover all the identified improvements, though not all could be delivered in the two-year time-frame envisaged, and any remedy that was pursued would have to offer demonstrable value for taxpayers' money.

"The park-and-ride expansion is largely designed already, though there's still a bit of detail needed, so it could be delivered in six to eight months from now," he told The Hunts Post yesterday (Tuesday). "And we have identified sites for five VMSs. We believe the two projects could be delivered for between £2m and £3m."

Other proposed measures include a free 'Minute Man' rapid recovery service provided by a local company to remove broken down vehicles that obstruct the carriageway and cause rubber-necking delays in the opposite direction, and a 'tiger-tail' arrangement at Girton to separate traffic from the eastbound A428 from vehicles remaining on the eastbound A14.

The idea, which would be comparatively inexpensive, would help to reduce the length of queues that often extend as far west as Bar Hill in the morning peak - even without accidents.

But this will not solve the problem, as most people now agree. "We know we need a major engineering scheme to deal with the capacity issue," Mr Hughes said.