HUNTINGDONSHIRE road users are expected be benefit from three road schemes announced at the Conservative Party conference this week by new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
They are part of a £217million ‘pinch point’ road improvement package to remove bottlenecks from parts of the strategic road network.
Of significance to Huntingdonshire will be a £7.7m project to widen the A14 between Girton and Histon (junctions 31 and 32) during 2014, and install three sign gantries across the width of the carriageway.
The scheme will include adding a lane for eastbound A14 traffic at the Girton interchange, where it is currently restricted to a single lane funnel, leading to long queues back towards Bar Hill.
The Highways Agency says the scheme will support the first phase of the Northstowe development, which will create 582 jobs and 1,480 new homes, as well as the gateways of Felixstowe and Harwich ports and the creation of 580 jobs and 3,500 homes by 2020.
It is in addition to the £20m A14 improvement package announced by the Chancellor in last year’s Autumn Statement, which will fund short-term improvements at the Spittals and Girton interchanges, in Huntingdon and Cambridge respectively.
Also just over the Huntingdonshire borders are a £6.4m scheme to improve the Black Cat interchange of the A1 and A421, including part-time signals and widening the roundabout and the A1 approach roads, in 2014, and a £60,000 A1/A47 Wansford junction improvement scheme to be implemented next year.
County Councillor Ian Bates, whose cabinet portfolio includes transport, said: “The A14 was completely off the agenda until we led a charge with local MPs and partner councils to get much-needed improvements on this congestion-blighted road.
“I am delighted that the Government has not only listened to us but has been working with us to bring forward improvements.”
But South Cambridgeshire District Council’s leader, Cllr Ray Manning, warned: “This funding will certainly boost our economy and help deliver some of the much-needed homes at Northstowe.
“For the whole town to be built a major upgrade is still needed and we are committed to working with our partners to keep the pressure up on the Government for delivery as early as possible.”
John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce and a long-term advocate of a full upgrade for the A14, fears the new measures north of Cambridge will simply move the congestion.
“What concerns me is that they are saying they can put more houses at Northstowe now that this announcement has been made. If we are going to have to wait until 2014 to do this sticking-plaster job, what hope do we have for the big scheme? he asked.
“It will just move the queues from one location to another. It does not address the volume-versus-capacity problem.”