THE six-week A14 Challenge public consultation into how to improve the A14 without spending the “unaffordable” £1.2billion that the abandoned 22-mile improvement scheme would have cost ended yesterday (Tuesday).

The Department for Transport challenged the development industry, financiers, Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, the businesses community, the public and road-users to suggest affordable alternatives.

"The challenge is to identify long term improvements that are affordable, good value for money, and most importantly support the economy of the country by making journeys more reliable and quicker - and of course achieve this within our carbon budget and with improvements to safety and value to local communities and the environment," the DfT said when it launched the consultation in December.

Outline options will be published later this month, with recommendations following in the summer.

The department has said there is no question of tolling the existing A14, but user-contributions will be considered as one way of paying for an improved road.

In the meantime, the Highways Agency has £20m to spend to improve flows on the existing road over the next couple of years. That is likely to include free-flow lanes at Spittals interchange in Huntingdon and remodelling of Girton interchange, near Cambridge. It should also pay for variable-message signs on the approach to A14 junctions.