Need for A14 improvement has not gone away
WHEN the A14 project was cancelled last year, some hailed this as a victory for common sense, and others as an example of successful local action.
Both these claims are far from the truth – the A14 was cancelled simply because the Government had to cut spending in order to manage a major recession.
In some ways this was the correct decision in the short term, since another effect of that recession was to reduce economic activity, including the number of car and lorry journeys on this stretch of road for a period.
However, this hasty decision did nothing to address the underlying and still major problems with the Cambridgeshire A14, but merely to discount economic damage further into the future.
Neither has it addressed the utterly practical underlying structural problems with the viaduct over the railway, which is living on borrowed time. Traffic volumes are again on the increase, as are the incidence of accidents, delays and injuries on the A14.
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As we pull out of recession, hopefully aided by our plans for a major logistics centre at Alconbury, the A14 defects will increasingly become a brake on that prosperity, on our health and, in many cases, our lives.
A replacement road cannot be conjured up at no-notice when the bridge crumbles, when operators shun Alconbury, or when industry in the Midlands comes to a standstill for want of supplies locked in another traffic jam around Fenstanton or Spittals roundabout.
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Furthermore, while the alternative idea of putting lorries and loads onto the railways is both logical and laudable, the Beeching axe put paid to that as a practical option many decades ago – one cannot even get from Huntingdon to Bedford by rail except via London.
Consequently, planning for a permanent A14 solution must begin again in earnest, in order to avoid the major catastrophe that is only a few years away. This solution might have to be staged to spread out the cost, or funded via some form of private/public partnership with tolls attached, but the future of our region and local – if not national – prosperity depends on the political will to create a new route and free up through traffic.
How many politicians are out there prepared to face up to this reality?