ROAD users should not have to pay tolls to use an improved A14, Cambridgeshire business leaders said yesterday (Tuesday). But they do approve of some private-sector funding for the upgrade of Britain’s busiest non-motorway trunk road.

The board of the county's chambers of commerce is attracted by 'shadow tolling', such as exists on the A1(M) in Cambridgeshire, which was built with private cash and where the Government pays an annual traffic volume-related toll to repay the cost.

Long-standing A14 campaigner John Bridge, who is chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, said yesterday: "Finding funding is always going to be difficult, and we accept that we must be innovative in terms of where the money is going to come from.

"We support the combined use of national government funding, local funding and private sector funding to make these much-needed improvements a reality. It just shouldn't come from the individuals.

"Private investment such as a shadow toll has been proven to work for the A1(M) between Huntingdon and Peterborough - due to the complexities of the road network, tolling the public in this instance would undoubtedly create more problems than it would solve.

"Where there is a need for private finance to be raised then that should be paid back over time from the public purse as shadow tolls, not charges set upon individual road users," he added.

"The Government publicly recognises that the A14 corridor faces severe congestion, and is a critical element of the national infrastructure and its effective operation is key to the UK economy and local growth potential.

"In the same breath, it cancelled the Ellington-Fen Ditton scheme as part of the comprehensive spending review," he fumed.

"Now, almost 18 months later, the Government must see this as an investment in a vital route of international, national, regional and local importance, not just a cost."

The chambers' comments come after Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, responded to the A14 Challenge in support of the Ellington-Fen Ditton scheme being reinstated.

"Despite being a known advocate of toll roads, Professor Glaister wrote to the Government urging the Department for Transport to stick to more conventional funding streams for the A14," the chambers said.

"He warns that considering innovative funding mechanisms such as public tolls would cause further delay to the scheme that the RAC Foundation agrees would meet an urgent national need."

Mr Bridge continued: "We very much welcome the RAC Foundation's comments and agree wholeheartedly with Professor Glaister's assertion that further delay is damaging to the growth agenda.

"But what we desperately need is a scheme that meets the needs of business without penalising the individuals who use the route. Investment is needed from the government, not from the pockets of the people who use the A14 on an all too regular basis."