Highways England insists it has contingency plans for the delivery of the A14 after the collapse of building firm Carillion - one of the partners in the vital £1.5 billion project.

The A14 Huntingdon to Cambridge improvement scheme. Picture: ARCHANTThe A14 Huntingdon to Cambridge improvement scheme. Picture: ARCHANT

The failure of the construction giant came after days of speculation over its future as it battled a £1.5billion debt and a pensions shortfall of £587 million.

Carillion is one of the partners, with Costain, Balfour Beatty and Skanska, in the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon upgrade which is scheduled to open to traffic by the end of 2020.

But a spokesman for Highways England said: “We have been monitoring the situation for some time and Carillion has kept us informed throughout.

“This has enabled us to develop contingency plans to ensure the continued safe delivery of any schemes that Carillion is involved in on behalf of Highways England.”

Carillion employs about 20,000 in the UK on a diverse range of construction projects and services, many of which are on the behalf of the government. It includes the management of Littlehey prison, in Perry, one of seven prisons across the region which had contracts with Carillion for cleaning plumbing and electrical work.

The government has said it would maintain funding for Carillion’s work in the public sector.

The A14 Huntingdon to Cambridge improvement scheme. Picture: ARCHANTThe A14 Huntingdon to Cambridge improvement scheme. Picture: ARCHANT

Malcolm Lyons, chairman of the Huntingdonshire branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, was concerned about the impact on sub-contractors working for Carillion.

“People at the bottom end of the chain are usually the ones who lose out because of bad management when a big company fails,” he said. “There have got to be questions asked, especially how Carillion continued to be awarded contracts, and I hope our local MPs will be asking them.”

Work on the long-awaited A14, one of the UK’s biggest road projects, started just over a year ago and construction has been running to schedule so far.

The scheme involves the upgrading of 21 miles of the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge, including the completion of a 17-mile bypass around the south of Huntingdon and a new A1 junction near Brampton.

Much of the road will be upgraded to three lanes in each direction for much of the route and there will be four lanes in each direction between Bar Hill and Girton.

Around 2,200 people are employed on the project and have completed more than a quarter of the main construction work, including shifting 2.5 million cubic metres of soil.

The A14 Huntingdon to Cambridge improvement scheme. Picture: ARCHANTThe A14 Huntingdon to Cambridge improvement scheme. Picture: ARCHANT

Thirty-four bridges and other structures are being built, including the new 750m River Great Ouse viaduct near Offord.

The project is designed to add extra capacity to the congested route, boost the local and national economies and shave up to 20 minutes from journey times.