Deputy Prime Minister weighs in on A14 debate

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg at Sunflower Nursery, Cambridge.

Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg at Sunflower Nursery, Cambridge. - Credit: Archant

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg admitted it would be very difficult to predict the effect tolling the A14 would have on traffic using Huntingdonshire’s villages and towns as rat-runs.

But he was adamant he would not “deviate from the view of tolling”.

Instead, he pledged to listen to reaction to the proposals for the £1.5billion project to upgrade of the road and said the price of the toll would be the key to keeping traffic on the new A14 and off residential streets.

Mr Clegg, on a whistlestop visit to Cambridgeshire, on Thursday, said: “We will listen to people, of course we will. I am just asking people, in return, to not rigidly dismiss tolling out of hand.

“Where we need to expand in road capacity perhaps we need to share that cost with taxpayers at large and people who actually use the road.

“Clearly, we need to deal with huge bottlenecks that cost the economy so much and whether we think it should be borne by all taxpayers generally or by those that use them.”

Mr Clegg said the country was still paying off “a huge, huge national deficit which we inherited and we have to work on some ways of paying it off. That is why we should not dismiss tolling out of hand.

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“Simply to say no to a toll is not necessarily the best way of finding the money for the A14.”

He insisted he was “not deaf to the controversy surrounding this issue” and said consultation was still ongoing.

“I wouldn’t support the idea that a toll should pay for the whole cost of the A14 upgrade – the idea is that tolling pays for some part of it,” he said.

Responding to questioning about widespread opposition to the toll – that included dockers at Felixstowe to residents worried about Cambridgeshire side roads being a “rat-run” – he said much would depend on the price at which the toll was fixed.

“It depends on what level you set the toll and exactly whether people get used to a toll rate when it is set. It is very difficult to predict the effect on neighbouring roads.”

Mr Clegg was visiting a nursery in Cambridge to look at improved childcare provision in action.

“There is no point in the Government making announcements that include new entitlements for children if you don’t go and take a look for yourself,” he said.

Proposals for the A14 include a new Huntingdon bypass, new junctions and the demolition of the Huntingdon railway viaduct. The upgraded section of the A14 would be tolled.