A14 scheme could be brought forward but Huntingdonshire businesses could be asked to help with funds

A14 signs STOCK

A14 signs STOCK - Credit: Archant

CONSTRUCTION work on a new A14 could be brought forward by “a year or two” – and Cambridgeshire businesses will be invited to help pay for the scheme.

Option for upgrading/developing the A14

Option for upgrading/developing the A14 - Credit: Archant

In the week that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the Coalition Government had been too hasty cutting capital spending when it came into office in 2010, Roads Minister Stephen Hammond was in Cambridge to look at how one of those abandoned projects could be cajoled along.

Cllr Nick Clarke.

Cllr Nick Clarke. - Credit: Archant

Despite scrapping original plans for the A14 and wasting £37million in the process, Mr Hammond said the road was one of the Government’s “top priorities”.

He stressed there was a joint commitment from London and Cambridgeshire County Council to deliver the £1.5billion project within a “shortened time frame”.

The minister was at Shire Hall last Thursday for talks with county council leader Councillor Nick Clarke.

Both men described the meeting as “very positive” after discussing speeding up the project and forming a funding package, the majority of the cost would be borne by Government with contributions from local authorities, the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and motorists, through tolls.

Mr Hammond told The Hunts Post: “East Anglia and Cambridgeshire is a huge powerhouse for growth and it’s important to build a 21st century infrastructure to accommodate it. This Government recognises that. It is committed to the scheme and it will be delivered.”

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The Government has, so far, not put forward a financial package for the A14 scheme and last week, it became clear it is still very much work in progress.

Mr Hammond said that, given the cost of congestion to businesses in the county, he was confident of “local contributions” from businesses.

“If congestion costs are taken out of the A14, the benefit to business will be so great that local businesses may want to think about what contribution they can make themselves,” he said.

The plans include a new bypass to replace the existing road around Huntingdon and a 20-mile toll road between Ellington and Girton widened widening of part of the existing A14 to the north of Cambridge, was unlikely to begin until 2018, but that could all change.

The proposals are intended to ease congestion issues on the A14, which runs from the Midlands to Felixstowe port in Suffolk.

Cllr Clarke said that by “combining processes” – such as running the detailed design of the scheme in parallel with the statutory planning process – up to one or two years could be shaved off the start date.

“The processes involved usually start one after the other,” he said.

“We’re looking at how we can run a number of these processes at the same time and that will make quite big savings to the start date.”

An announcement on the timescale of the scheme is expected later this year.

However, until there is a financial commitment, then one long-term A14 campaigner will not be convinced the scheme will move quicker than a Monday morning queue of A14 traffic.

Business leaders have been crying out for an upgrade to the congestion-stricken road for years, but Chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce and long-standing A14 campaigner John Bridge told The Hunts Post he was yet to see any financial commitment from the government.

“The most important thing is having financial certainty to deliver the project, and currently the Government will not commit,” he explained.

“I was told in a letter from the Department of Transport that the issue of funding was a decision for the future.

“But why should local authorities and LEPs agree to commit money when the Ggovernment won’t make such a commitment?

“There are a lot of words but no substance and we’re further back now than we were when the Ggovernment cancelled the £1.2 billion scheme in 2010.”

The council is holding a high level funding summit with local authorities and LEPsS on February 7 to explore forming an ‘A14 “consortium’” to help deliver the project.