EXPECT longer delays on the A14 as plans are being pushed through to cut the number of highways officers by 70 per cent.

Construction union UCATT has warned that the Highways Agency's plans to change its incident support unit (ISU) contract will dramatically affect the safety of road users and increase delays on the A14, as well as the M11, A12 and A120.

The HA had a contract with Atkins to provide 70 ISU employees who patrol East Anglia's major roads clearing debris, attending accidents and ensuring roads are safe.

But the 70-strong workforce is due to be replaced with 20 'multi-skilled workers' who will be based in one location, still to be decided.

The current contract ISU teams must respond to accidents within 20 minutes, but according to UCATT, the response target times will also be abolished along with 50 jobs.

Brian Rye, UCATT eastern regional secretary, said: “This is economic madness. For the sake of a very small saving, the key roads in eastern England will become more dangerous and journey times will massively increase as delays become longer – directly as a result of these cuts.”

A Highways Agency spokesman said: “The new contracts will ensure motorways and major 'A' roads continue to be maintained to high standards while delivering substantial savings and contribute towards reducing the national budget deficit.”

A spokesman for Atkins said that 70 jobs were at risk.

“As a result of changes to the way the strategic road network needs to be managed, we have entered into a redundancy consultation with colleagues in our UK highways and transportation business working on this contract,” he said.

“This is regrettable, but as a responsible company we have to respond to the needs of our client in the best way possible, making sure that our staffing levels match expected workloads.”

The first round of redundancies were arranged for July 2 but have been delayed until September.