IMPROVING the A14 was yesterday (Tuesday) named a Government priority by the Chancellor – with £20million for “immediate improvements” and a report on the road’s future by early 2012.

IMPROVING the A14 was yesterday (Tuesday) named a Government priority by the Chancellor - with £20million for "immediate improvements" and a report on the road's future by early 2012.

Chancellor George Osborne, presenting his Autumn Statement in Parliament, said money would be released for safety work and announced a study to find a long-term solution for the road.

The immediate funding will pay for junction upgrades at the Girton and Spittals interchanges and additional signage for drivers, while an all-options engagement programme, labelled 'The A14 Challenge', will give the public, businesses and local authorities their say.

The study will examine the potential of the previously-scrapped Fen Ditton to Ellington upgrade, assess other methods of reducing congestion - by improving freight alternatives and public transport - and the options for financing the project, possibly through a toll road.

The study will be ready for publication in spring 2012, while the £20m improvements, with no fixed start date, are expected to take two years.

The news has been welcomed by the region's MPs and business leaders - but they warned that the work to secure an A14 solution was only just beginning.

Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly, who along with North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara is backing The Hunts Post A14 Upgrade campaign, said: "I am very pleased that the Government has recognised the critical need to upgrade the A14 and the Chancellor has now provided a strong signal of commitment for improvements. He added: "This is not the definitive answer to all our problems - but it is showing the Government's intention to lead on a way forward.

"Local MPs, councils, business leaders and the local enterprise partnership now need to maintain our campaign for a better A14."

Mr Djanogly said he would remain "at the forefront" of the campaign to ensure A14 improvements were delivered in full.

John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce and a long-time A14 campaigner, said the only "practical solution" remained a full upgrade.

"While there is understandable enthusiasm for the announcement, we have been in this situation so many times before. In April 2003, we had a plan that the Highways Agency was told to implement, and yet we are still here."

The cash for short-term improvements dealt with "the effects, not the cause" and could not mask the fact that the road is not fit for purpose, he added.

"The key thing is that we get the proper investment to fully deal with the cause of the problem - which is that there are more cars using the road than it has capacity for."

The Department for Transport said the fine detail of the investment was yet to be finalised and would be announced in due course.

The leaders of Huntingdonshire District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council, two authorities that have been putting the case for an A14 upgrade, gave their backing to the Chancellor's announcement.

HDC executive leader Cllr Jason Ablewhite said the project could be "a win-win situation" if conducted properly, adding that he would continue "seeking a sustainable solution that will meet the needs of our district as a whole for many years to come."

Cllr Nick Clarke, leader of CCC, said speedy progress was essential to "turn talk to tarmac".

Neville Reyner, chair of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, agreed, saying any improvements would "ease congestion and improve safety, and enhance the attractiveness of our area as a place to live, work, invest and do business."