Cambs: cancelling A14 a false economy

CANCELLING the proposed �1.2billion upgrade of the A14 through Cambridgeshire would cost more than it saved, coalition Ministers have been warned.

CANCELLING the proposed �1.2billion upgrade of the A14 through Cambridgeshire would cost more than it saved, coalition Ministers have been warned.

Every principal local authority in Cambridgeshire – with the exception of Cambridge City Council, which is out of step on the issue – and key regional business leaders are behind a letter sent by county council leader Jill Tuck to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond demanding the 22-mile widening and road-building scheme is reinstated.

The project was shelved while the Government carried out a comprehensive review of its spending commitments and plans.

Cllr Tuck told Mr Hammond, an accountant, that the proposed road would generate more than double its cost in short-term benefits (reduced congestion and accidents, increased productivity and reliability), as well as providing more than a further �billion in increased revenue to the Treasury.

She wrote: “The A14 serves a European, national, regional and local function and is vital at all levels. Locally, it provides one of the main accesses into Cambridge and Huntingdon, supporting businesses in the area.

“The long term economic benefits of the scheme to the region are estimated to be more than double its cost. Improvement to the road is also necessary to allow development of the proposed new town of Northstowe, as well as major developments in the north of Cambridge and in Huntingdon. These will provide much-needed housing to support our local economy.”

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She asserted: “Regionally and nationally, the road is a key artery for people and freight from the east coast ports to the Midlands and beyond and is a Trans-European Network route. As such, it is vital for the national economy and delays here have significant knock-on impacts.

“There are also a range of other issues that the proposed improvements to the A14 will address, particularly around safety and the environmental implications of traffic diverting off the trunk road to less suitable local roads and the resulting effects on our local communities,” she added.

“Given the current financial crisis, we fully understand the need to review all spending decisions critically and particularly those as large as the A14.

“We do, however, believe that this scheme represents a special case that the country can’t afford to shelve.

“Cambridgeshire, with its high value-added economy, has the potential to lead the country out of recession and towards renewed prosperity, but investment in infrastructure is a necessary part of that, and nowhere more so than on the A14.

“We therefore urge you to move towards a quick decision on the funding for the scheme and prioritise improvements for the benefit of the country as a whole.”

Cllr Tuck’s letter followed discussions with district council leaders and key business interests in the county.

She explained: “Stopping this scheme does not add up in the terms of the cost to lives, communities, businesses and the environment. But, crucially for the Treasury and Cambridgeshire, the cost of improving the A14 stacks up in terms of financial benefits, beyond its current price tag.

“Now is not the time to tinker with the A14. Too many lives have been lost, too many communities have suffered and too many businesses are paying for the consequences of congestion.

“This is a locally, nationally and internationally important scheme that benefits the economy of Cambridgeshire, the eastern region and the UK.”