Calls for answers over shelving of �1.3bn A14 upgrade

A BUSINESS leader is calling for answers and openness over the �1.3billion A14 upgrade as the Government announces less money will be available for new roads.

IT’S time for A14 action.

That’s the message to the Government after another day of accidents, delays and gridlock on the Huntingdonshire stretch of the A14 - delays that spread across the district causing congestion in towns and villages.

Two crashes at Godmanchester on Friday, in which one person died and three others were injured, were to blame.

Both accidents were the same stretch of the carriageway between Godmanchester and Spittals within a five hour period and both demonstrated the A14’s inability to cope.

But the building of a new �1.3billion A14, which has been put on hold, looks increasingly unlikely as the Transport Secretary said at the weekend that any available funding would be used for improving existing road networks.

Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Philip Hammond said there would be spending cuts of between 25 and 40 per cent: “There is going to be much, much less money available for new roads.”

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He added: “We are going to have to prioritise aggressively.”

While Mr Hammond said he wanted to protect big infrastructure projects that could help economic recovery, the A14 project is the costliest road scheme on the Government’s funding list and would mean spending a large chunk off its available money in just one area of the country.

The idea of a toll road has been put forward, as reported by The Hunts Post, and schemes that include moving HGV freight onto the railways. Both would require large amounts of funding.

A Department for Transport spokesman said the A14 project was on hold pending a spending review.

“As part of the Government’s plan to eliminate the bulk of the budget deficit over the course of this Parliament, a full spending review is underway and will report in the autumn.

“Once the spending review is completed, the department will be in a position to determine whether funding can be provided for the A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton scheme from within the budget agreed for the department.”

He added that the A14 was one of the most expensive schemes.

But until the Government takes some action, Huntingdonshire will regularly grind to a halt.

On Friday motorists were seen abandoning their cars in Godmanchester such was the level of congestion caused by the A14 accidents.

Emergency services were called to the first crash on the westbound carriageway just after 10.30am.

Kenneth Dale, 64, of Sage’s Lane, Peterborough, died at the scene of the accident after his car hit the central reservation in the single-vehicle collision.

Both carriageways remained closed until 12.45pm while the queues stretched back to the M11, through Godmanchester, St Ives and Huntingdon.

There was further turmoil for drivers a few hours later when at 3.40pm a four-vehicle crash blocked both carriageways at Godmanchester and three people suffered minor injuries.

John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce, told The Hunts Post that doing nothing would lead to traffic paralysis.

“I think we need some honesty and openness about what’s happening. I don’t think the politicians are aware of the potential difficulties on an international route.”

Mr Bridge blamed the Highways Agency for its failure to press ahead with the scheme, which was first announced in April 2003 with earmarked funding and which should have opened this year.

Last year former Prime Minister John Major said the A14 improvement scheme should be a priority for any Government. He said: “The A14 is a big problem and I hope it will receive priority.

“It is in need of improvement: there is no conceivable doubt about that. It is important and needs improving even if the Government is short of money.”

Many users of the A14 would seem to agree, although there has been vocal opposition to the plans.

One comment left on The Hunts Post website described the stretch of road between Cambridge and Huntingdon as “impossible”. It added: “I already use alternative ‘rat-run’ routes. I see that a lot of lorries are doing the same - and of course, that will only grow year by year.”

INFORMATION: Anyone with information about the collisions is asked to contact police on 0345 4564564.